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Non-Fiction Page 2


DEVELOPMENTS IN
ADVERTISING CULTURE

by

Lawrence R. Dagstine


For hundreds of years there have been individuals who have tried to persuade others to buy the goods they have produced or the services they can perform.  But mass production and distribution of goods resulting from the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century made person-to-person selling less efficient.  However, a growth in mass communication occurred at the turn of the 20th century (first newspapers and magazines, then radio and television) that made mass selling possible.  In retrospect to the culture itself, marketing professionals eventually realized that advertising was merely a form of selling, functioning in the paid space or time of a mass communication media.  
The objective of any advertisement is to convince the public that it is in their best interest to take an action toward what the advertiser is prescribing.  The action may be to purchase a product, go to a showroom to try out a product, use a service, vote for a political candidate, or even to join the Army (for example: "The U.S. Army wants you").
For it to be an action, it must first start out as an idea, then a strategy, to incorporate the idea into something worth taking action over.  Most advertising professionals write strategic proposals that form a target market to which they must direct their message.  With these strategies as a guide, the idea can take the form of an unexpected set of words, such as "Eat a bowl of cereal and live longer," or the famous "Got milk?" slogan.  It can take the form of a graphic symbol or cartoon character (Uncle Sam or Tony the Tiger).  It can also be a combination of words and graphics, and even music.  An idea works best when it is a totally unexpected yet thoroughly fitting fulfillment of the original advertising strategy.  The stage that follows thereafter is the execution of the idea.  This means turning the idea into some form of communication that a prospect or consumer can see or hear.  It is then up to the consumer whether they want to take action or not.
Advertising as a business has developed most rapidly in the United States and Japan.  Almost every company in the U.S. that manufactures a product, or that sells one through franchises or retail outlets, uses advertising.  In the early 80's Sears, Roebuck & Company--one time the largest advertiser in the United States--spent close to one-billion dollars in communication media.  In second place came Procter & Gamble, spending almost 700 million dollars.  Coming in at a not-too-far off third was General Foods, spending almost 400 million dollars, and primarily in national media.  By the end of 1989, advertising expenditures in the U.S. exceeded 80 billion dollars.  And while advertising brings the economies of mass selling to the manufacturer, it produces benefits for the consumer as well.  Those economies are usually passed along to the consumer so that the cost of certain products sold primarily through advertising is far less than the ones sold through personal salespeople.
Still, despite all the developmental thinking and planning and despite all the market research, no one can predict how effective an advertisement will be.  Most experts agree, however, that an ad that involves its prospect in a special way, that is there to offer a benefit important in that prospect's life, and that does this simply and memorably will be successful.
At the same time advertising is being developed, there are specialists at work determining where that advertisement should be placed in order to fulfill the advertiser's main objectives, both effectively and economically.  Magazines and local newspapers are good for reaching prospects with specific interests or lifestyles.  In those countries in which it can be used, radio offers the promoter a geographically defined audience and, at the same time, a choice among certain kinds of audiences.  
Television is still, by far, the most popular of these mediums.  It carries more national advertising than any other medium in the United States.  The chief reason for the popularity of  U.S. television among advertisers is that it can be seen and heard by as many as 30 million viewers.  While a commercial on network television can cost well over 100,000 dollars, the advertiser must make prospects aware of the product in the 30 to 60 second time frame available, and convince them of its benefits immediately.  In many other countries the amount of commercial time is so limited that only a few can employ it.
As advertising has grown, new developments and all, it has also become more complex.  In addition to the kind of advertising directed toward consumers for products and services through the media already described, some other varieties have developed: business-to-business publications (wholesale order catalogs or trade journals), and the Yellow Pages are prime examples; so is "direct response".
And now with computers in charge of the industry, advertising software and the Internet have broadened the field.  Where a thirty-second commercial can reach millions, a small, well-executed ad on the Web can reach billions, making a product or offer (whatever it may be) stand out and virtually become an overnight success.
The differences in media affect how a person feels about a product or the advertising in them.  That is where the culture stands out.  It affects a person by where they live, how they live, who they are, and what they are interested in: messages intended for one kind of viewer are likely to be of importance and leave behind something of great meaning.
And that, sometimes, can come in handy more than the product itself.


                                           END