The Guide to Advertising: A Basic Primer

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, advertising is defined as:

“the action of calling something to the attention of the public especially by paid announcements.”

However, this somewhat outdated definition fails to capture the complexity of what has become a billion-dollar global online and offline industry. 

Advertising has become an industrial-sized machine designed to captivate hearts and minds, enticing consumers to explore, consider, and, ultimately, choose the products and services that enrich their lives. Yet, advertising is not a single organism; it’s a dynamic ecosystem teeming with different ‘species’. From the digital strains of social media, native advertising, PPC, and CTV, to traditional print, broadcast, and OOH (out-of-home) advertising, you will see that there are many ways to advertise, each with its own costs and benefits. Welcome to the world of advertising in all its diversity.

Advertising: An Ancient Industry

Advertising finds its roots in ancient civilizations, where town criers and visual symbols were used to announce goods and services.

The first step toward modern advertising came with the development of printing in the 15th and 16th centuries. In the 17th century, weekly newspapers in London began to carry advertisements, and by the 18th century such advertising was flourishing.

It wasn’t until the late 19th and early 20th centuries that advertising took on a modern form with the rise of newspapers and magazines. The concept is obvious: People can’t buy your product if they don’t know it exists. However, with the advent of capitalism and consumer competition, the game changed. Product awareness was no longer enough in a world of fierce economic competition. The resulting era witnessed the birth of iconic ad agencies and slogans that still resonate today. 

The advent of radio and television provided unconsidered and unexploited mediums for advertising. They transformed how products were promoted, shaping, and being shaped by, pop culture in the process. The digital age of the late 20th century and early 21st century brought about a grand transformation ushering in the era of online advertising with data-driven targeting and social media influencers. This process continues until today, and advertising continues to evolve, now with the help of AI and machine learning, blending creativity with technology, a mix of art and science, to capture the hearts (and wallets) of consumers in an ever-connected world. And throughout its history, the question at the center of the concept of advertising has not changed: How do you capture consumer attention?

Types of Advertising: A Complete List

Given this historical context, now let’s take a look at the most common forms of advertising that are used today:

Traditional advertising:

  • Television advertising: Commercials on broadcast and cable TV.
  • Radio advertising: Advertisements on AM/FM and digital radio stations.
  • Print advertising: Includes newspaper and magazine ads.
  • Outdoor advertising: Billboards, posters, transit ads, and signage.
  • Direct mail: Physical promotional materials sent via postal mail.
  • Yellow pages and directories (Ask your parents!): Advertising in printed or online directories.

Digital advertising:

  • Search Engine Advertising (SEA): SEA involves placing paid ads on search engines like Google. These ads appear above or alongside organic search results when users search for specific keywords. Advertisers bid on keywords relevant to their products or services, and they pay when users click on their ads. It’s an effective way to capture user intent and drive targeted traffic to websites.
  • Display advertising: Display ads appear on websites, apps, or social media platforms. They can include banners, images, videos, and interactive elements. Display advertising is used for brand awareness and reaching a broader audience across the internet.
  • Social media advertising: Social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn offer paid advertising options. Advertisers can target specific demographics, interests, and behaviors, making it an ideal choice for reaching niche audiences and promoting engagement.
  • Video advertising: Video ads are short video clips that can be displayed on platforms like YouTube, Outbrain, or within streaming services. They are effective for storytelling and engaging users with visual content. Video advertising can be skippable or non-skippable.
  • Email advertising: Email marketing involves sending promotional messages or newsletters to a subscriber list. It’s used to nurture leads, retain customers, and promote products or services. Effective email marketing relies on segmentation and personalization.
  • Native advertising: Native ads blend seamlessly with the content surrounding them, making them less intrusive and more engaging. They match the format and style of the platform or website where they appear, providing a non-disruptive user experience.
  • Affiliate marketing: In affiliate marketing, businesses partner with affiliates (publishers or influencers) who promote their products or services. Affiliates earn commissions for driving traffic or sales to the business through unique affiliate links.

Content marketing:

  • Blogging: Creating and promoting informative and engaging blog content.
  • Infographics: Visual representations of data or information.
  • E-books and whitepapers: In-depth content often used for lead generation.
  • Podcast advertising: Sponsorship or placement of ads within podcasts.
  • Webinars: Online seminars used for educational and promotional purposes.

Event and experiential advertising:

  • Trade Shows and exhibitions: Participation in industry-specific events.
  • Sponsorship: Supporting events or organizations in exchange for visibility.
  • Guerrilla marketing: Unconventional and interactive marketing tactics in public spaces.

Influencer advertising:

  • Collaborating with individuals or influencers with a strong online presence to promote products or services. This has become increasingly popular in the advertising industry as the rise of social networks and online brand building has displaced some of the more traditional advertising approaches.

Mobile advertising:

  • In-app advertising: Ads within mobile apps (often for other apps).
  • Mobile banner ads: Display ads on mobile websites.
  • SMS marketing: Promotions delivered via text messages.
  • In-game advertising: Placing ads within video games or gaming apps.

Interactive advertising:

  • Augmented Reality (AR) advertising: Incorporating AR elements into campaigns.
  • Virtual Reality (VR) advertising: Creating immersive experiences for users.

Other advertising categories:

  • Product placement: Integrating products or brands into TV shows, movies, or other media content.
  • Remarketing and retargeting: Showing ads to users who have previously interacted with a brand’s website or app. 
  • Programmatic advertising: Automated buying and placement of ads based on data and algorithms.
  • Location-based advertising: Targeting users based on their physical location using technologies like GPS.
  • User-Generated Content (UGC) Campaigns: Encouraging customers to create and share content related to a brand.
  • Public Relations (PR): Managing a brand’s public image through press releases, media coverage, and crisis communication.
  • Telemarketing: Outbound phone calls to promote products or services.
  • Environmental advertising: Ads placed in eco-friendly or unconventional settings to convey a brand’s commitment to sustainability.
  • Podium advertising: Advertising during live events or conferences, often through signage or presentations.
  • Content syndication: Distributing content to multiple platforms and publishers for wider exposure.
  • Employee advocacy: Encouraging employees to promote the brand on their personal social media channels.

Digital Advertising Rules

Marketing attempts to create meaningful connections between businesses and their audiences. Advertising, as a distinct subset of marketing, is the strategic communication of persuasive messages through various mediums and channels to promote products, services, or ideas to a targeted audience, with the ultimate goal of influencing consumer behavior and achieving business objectives.

In a world with over 3.5 billion searches a day, it makes sense that digital advertising holds powerful sway over the market. The terrain for marketers to navigate is dynamic, varied, and sometimes even pockmarked, but the destination undoubtedly still holds gold for those willing to seek it.

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