The Anatomy of an Advertisement

In a £19m research study conducted by Ipsos MediaCT and MGE Data in Feb 2013, it was revealed that the average Londoner will make eye contact with 27 roadside posters and 14 bus ads per day, and every time London commuters make a tube journey they will encounter an average of 74 ads.  While people in rural areas avoid being exposed to as many banners and tube posters, city-dwellers skew towards the higher range of ad exposure. With the innovation of smart phones and a whole host of other gadgets, it is becoming easier and easier for advertisers to reach their target audiences with stunning accuracy. 

In the midst of all this advertising noise, some people would think that the general masses are becoming more immune to ads and product placement. However, researchers have continually shown that children as young as 5 begin to retain information they see in advertisements and allow it to affect their decision making. As marketers, we understand that advertisements have become ingrained into everyday life, and they certainly are not leaving anytime soon.

In order to create an effective advertisement, it only makes sense to look a little deeper into what makes them work. Here are the basic tenants that comprise any ad.

The Tease


Otherwise known as the headline, this line of text is the largest in the ad and sets the tone of the messaging. From “Just Do It” to “Got Milk?”, the best advertising teases often become embedded in to popular culture and stick around for much longer than the actual ad campaigns. Teases may or may not have anything to do with the actual product or service being offered, but instead they are designed to somehow intrigue you as a viewer.

The Eye-Candy


Traditionally, imagery in advertisements followed the “Say dog, see dog” adage, Ads for shoe polish would feature a picture of wingtips while Coca-Cola promos showed a glass full of bubbly liquid. Today, however, rule-bending advertisers will put a seemingly innocuous headline with a controversial image to maximise shock value. Possibly best known for this tactic if the international clothing maverick United Colors of Benetton, whose shocking ads in the 80s and 90s pushed boundaries in race and sexuality

The Tagline


After dragging your eye away from the main imagery and text, you’ll notice a second line of text, essentially a subhead in the ad. This text’s purpose is to really bring home the message of the ad, that consumers will have stuck in their minds the next time they are in the consumer decision making process. Quite frequently, the tagline is where advertisers insert a “call to action”, a simple, fool-proof line that tells viewers what they are supposed to do with this new information. “Call us today” or “Make your next car a Ford” are all forms of a call to action.

The Details


If you’ve taken in the initial ad text and are still looking at the advertisement (assuming you haven’t already passed the billboard on a highway or turned the page in your magazine) you’ll see an otherwise unassuming paragraph sitting somewhere towards the bottom of the image. This is usually where advertisers dump all of the information about themselves and the product that they hope viewers will take the time to read, but assume they won’t. If the headline and image have done their job, a viewer has already formed an opinion about the product or service long before they wade through minute details.

The Sponsor


Tucked away somewhere on the ad you are almost guaranteed to find the advertiser’s logo. Even ads that are engaging and controversial and well-executed don’t drive brand awareness if there is no brand indicated on the page. When consumers imagine Michael Jordan, advertisers want to ensure they imagine him wearing Nikes and Hanes, not Adidas and Fruit of the Loom. Adding a logo or some kind of corporate branding to the ad helps ensure that, at least subliminally, consumers will recall the company associated with a given image or catch-phrase.

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