What Is Advertising?


Leo Burnett, the creator of such brand icons as Tony the Tiger and the Pillsbury Doughboy, said that an effective advertising message tells people, "Here's what we've got. Here's what it will do for you. Here's how to get it." In general, advertising calls attention to a business, to sell products or services through the use of different forms of media, according to Entrepreneur's Small Business Encyclopedia.

A Wide Range of Ad Ways

Advertising in its many forms include:

  • Display ads and classifieds in newspapers and magazines, printed brochures, direct mail, phone books, directories, programs and flyers.
  • Commercials on broadcast, satellite and cable TV, and radio "spots." Infomercials, too, are paid advertising -- in case you were too annoyed to notice.
  • Downloadable apps, social media content, and search engine marketing and optimization can all be employed to reach people.
  • Product placement is a subtle form of advertising, with businesses paying for their wares to appear as props in movies and TV shows.  
  • Coupons, sales circulars, point-of -purchase displays, sponsored content on TVs at the checkout counter and music piped through the sound system interspersed with store commercials.
  • Specialty items like pens, clocks, calculators, calendars, fridge magnets, and other items decorated with company logos or slogans.
  • Publicity stunts generating media coverage can also be considered a form of advertising. For example, a Japanese sports drink manufacturer in 2015 plans to deposit a time capsule containing its signature brand on the moon.

Budget and Demographics Determine Approach

The ad campaign a company decides to use -- such as a free pen, a $4.5 million Super Bowl commercial debuting before the big game on television or YouTube, or both -- is routinely determined by the company's budget and the type of customer the company wants to attract. Companies use research such as demographic information -- statistical information about population such as age, gender, income, education and occupation -- to develop advertising that can effectively speak to a particular audience.


  • Advertisers want their messages to be in front of customers who are ready, willing and able to buy -- and they use demographics to find them and put their ads in front of them.

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