Advertising: Sense and Non-Sense


Away from billboards and commercials advertising is part of life.

The practice of advertising is one of those activities that is easily taken for granted in daily communications. If you were to categorise communications into profit and non-profit the act of advertising and sales pitches and/or presentations would in most scenarios be profit oriented. When the communicator is an N.G.O. or charity advertising is non-profit or a bit in between. Usually when you mention advertising people think of posters, the media and printed media. There are two sides to advertising, namely sense and non-sense.


My reason for writing about this topic is that advertising is part of life. I grew up in the 1990-ties with television and discovered the internet in the 21st century. After 2009 I banned television from my home as I prefer to read and learn about news and topics without being disturbed by loudness and images. I ditched Internet Explorer 6 for Google Chrome because MSN chaos on my start page annoyed me a lot. For some websites AdBlock is necessary to render them accessible and quick to load. I continue to recommend AdBlock until advertisers learn that pop-ups and blinking banners are not pleasant.

On my blog the WordPress advertisements are still present. There is the option to have your WordPress website ad-free but I consider it an acceptable trade-off. The advertisements WordPress has in place are not disturbing to the extent of being unpleasant. Add that WordPress also needs its revenues so I can accept this situation as is.

Advertising is best described as communicating that people should consider your product, service or experience you are providing to them. It make sense because when you do not communicate your new market offering no one will go A.I.D.A. or show attention, interest, desire and action to purchase and/or consume what you have. When you make your living  from a certain product, service or experience the A.I.D.A. model is vital to your business, profit and non-profit.

Advertisers and investors for that matter care about one thing when you launch your business, its business model and your market offering. This thing is the conversion rate or more specifically the conversion ratio of your target customers and/or audience that from amount X, amount Y of people purchase your market offering which leads to revenues and return on investment (in short R.O.I.). Conversion rate and R.O.I. are key factors in business. When the R.O.I. is too low the risk of investing, that includes sponsoring is not worth it. For every Dollar you put in you want more than a Dollar in return. How “more” is measured depends.

Advertising Sense

Sensible advertising is like a good conversation. The people involved get it. That means that advertisers have to connect with the right audience, more specifically the right market segment of potential customers. The core message is the basic “purchase my thingy”, whatever market offering it may be. Delivering the message with the effect that the targeted market segment is connecting thus purchasing can be tricky. Presentation of the message is vital.

This presentation makes or breaks the potential for (sales) revenues. Each audience might have certain preferences and when you say and/or show the wrong things they associate the advertisement with the market offering. A negative association works against sales. It can become even worse when advertisers turn society against them with a message that goes against core values and secondary beliefs. Think of commercials that were too stereotypical, hinted at discrimination and racism.

Advertising Non-Sense

Non-sense in advertisements only works in comedy. Think of parodies of commercials for the sake of comedy and satire. That being written the serious non-sense follows.

Then there are the commercials that are too loud, (feel) too long, disturb the mood (say film night) and whatever makes you say “fuck it, I am going to do something else.” That last sentence defines me in a nutshell when I was fed up with television because the commercials were part of the reason for me to leave the medium television.

On the internet certain websites were so terrible that a wrong click could lead to accessing a website followed by a cookie and the installation of software that affected using your computer. I can say that as a kid discovering the internet I learnt that “free” could mean no financial cost but also dangerous and/or embarrassing. So websites with aggressive pop-up advertisements, one-click activated banners and overly present advertisements I avoid. The New York Times website now has this pop-up advertisement but is it not too annoying. At worst the advertisements occupy more space than the content of the website.

One of the worst things in advertising and sales pitches for me is the “hard sell.” I know how to do it but avoid it because it becomes very annoying very fast. It reminds me of preachers who skip breathing to pound the message in. The best metaphor is the hammer that is aimed at a nail but even when the nail is hit or completely missed the hammer keeps pounding. When advertisers pound their message as if to brainwash the audience I want nothing of it.

The Jargon

I have learnt about marketing and advertising as a kid watching television, listening to the radio and discovering the internet. During studies I had to learn from Philip Kotler’s book. I detested learning about marketing and advertising because it reminded me of church and brainwashing. In my opinion, at the core the advertised message is intended to mentally program you to decide to purchase.

Here comes the tricky bit though, before “marketing” was even a word it was called “advertising.” The verbs to advertise and to market basically mean the same thing. According to Kotler though advertising emphasises the communication part more and marketing adds value throughout the product-life-cycle. Value can mean many things, specific and unspecific and it is best to think about added value through case studies and compare similar market offerings. Think of fast food hamburgers to keep things simple.


If you think this is much, think again. I had to go through marketing, management and communication books to learn new words, concepts and models which were so detailed it made you dizzy. In the end you only use a snippet of at least hundreds of pages about how to run a business successfully. Advertising is an essential part of running that business.

Advertising, more specifically communicating with your target customers to convince them to purchase and consume your market offering is a complex activity that is made to look easy. Sometimes it looks so easy that people think “I can do that!” until they learn about the details.

Advertising can make sense or be non-sense. There are many factors involved and the right connection with the right people has to be made. A good film with a bad poster can lead to less cinema visitors. A good poster can attract more cinema visitors even when the film is not that good.

Advertising is influential…