Does advertising actually work?

Posted: November 20, 2013 in General
Tags: , ,

We’re inundated with advertisements every single day. Between television, the internet, and billboards, on average I’d say most of us see hundreds of different ads daily.

Or do we?

I don’t know about you, but I tend to block out most advertisements. I don’t see them on the computer anymore, unless they pop up and take over my screen. (I hate when they do that!) I walk away from the television during commercial breaks, and billboards along the road become background noise.

I feel like I’m becoming blind to advertising unless the ad is about something I’m already interested in, or it’s so over the top I can’t help but notice it. (And that’s a completely different discussion. Ads these days are cray-zay.)

It got me thinking about advertising in general. How much do companies spend on ads and how much do they actually profit from them? Advertising is one of those things that’s sort of built into the game. Companies are expected to advertise and we expect to be advertised to. Nobody questions that, and nobody seems to question the process, either.

It seems woefully inefficient to me. Maybe someone should question the process because it seems as if something gets lost in the middle. I don’t know about you, but I oftentimes remember commercials for their ridiculousness, but I can’t for the life of me recall what the product actually was. Or even if I do, just because the ad was funny or eye-catching doesn’t mean that I’m going to go out and buy that product.

I realize that advertising is about spreading the name of a certain brand or a certain product. Maybe the commercial or billboard won’t make you race to the nearest Wal-Mart to pick up that item, but if the name is in your head, then more than likely you’ll pick up that particular one when you find yourself in the market for that product.

And, yeah, I guess that works. But I still feel like something is missing. I’d sooner take the word of a friend than the word of a really well done commercial.

Naturally, this makes me think about writers and trying to spread the word about our books. Word of mouth is an excellent way to do just that, but it’s a slower process than paying for Facebook or Google to do your marketing for you. But does that mean it’s a less productive way of advertising?

I don’t have the answers to any of these questions. In the end, I think advertising helps to generate the word-of-mouth phenomenon. It gets the ball rolling, and that’s usually what we need as writers. But what about big companies? Why does Coca-Cola still advertise as heavily as they do? Everyone knows who Coca-Cola is (yes, I’m generalizing, and yes, I’m coming at this as an American), so why do they need to have Super Bowl advertisements that cost millions of dollars?

The system seems archaic to me, and I’d love to know what you think and if you have any solutions. This feels like a topic that needs to be discussed, not just for the bigger companies, but for us as writers as well.

  1. ddog13 says:

    I feel like advertising is more about putting an icon to a product. The Dos Equis guy. The Geico lizard. Perhaps its intended to sell the IDEA of Geico or the IDEA of Dos Equis. I’m obviously too young to drink but I hadn’t heard of Dos Equis until the commercials. I would assume that it was a nameless beer on the shelves until these ads. Maybe there is a subconscious element to it as well. Maybe advertisements do work, though we feel like we don’t. Regardless, interesting topic today.

    • Karen Rought says:

      I think there’s a lot of subliminal messages in advertising. Some of them really do work, and I think the Dos Equis guy is a perfect example. But sometimes I wonder why companies even bother anymore.

  2. Yeah, I agree with ddog13. I used to feel so superior to advertising as I thought they had absolutely no effect on me and the companies were wasting their money. But then when I realized I could recall the jingles and catchphrases for so many large corporations, I felt a little brainwashed…

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