In the United States, we are exposed to some form of advertising nearly every hour of our waking day. Advertising pervades all media from printed periodicals, to websites, to outdoor billboards, to in-store displays, just to name a few. It appears on our televisions, mobile phones, computers, etc. and we hear it on the radio, through in-store announcements, and more. We are amused by advertisements and annoyed by them. And, most of us go about our daily business mostly ignorant about how they work. Now for the general public that may not be a concern, but for us illustrators, who must create advertising visuals, it can be a great help in our work to know how advertising works, particularly when it comes to the kind of messages ads impart.
All advertising can be broken down into a finite list of techniques, and advertisers rely on them not only to help structure an approach to an advertisement or campaign, but also to sell the creative concept underlying it to a client. Advertisements can utilize one isolated technique or can combine more than one to present a concept.
Always a very popular and entertaining technique, animation is used to bring life to inanimate, static products and subjects. It is also used to interject a visual narrative to an advertising concept. The animation technique applies another meaning to a subject by exaggerating, adding to, or enlivening the physical characteristics of a product or subject by altering its form, setting it in motion, or bringing it to life.
Purpose: To create an entertaining, attention getting, advertisement by emphasizing something that is out of the realm of ordinary experience.
Example: The use of Pillsbury's animated Doughboy, and the Eveready bunny.
|"Whatever life breaks up." Client: BiC Bond. Agency: BorghiErh.|
|"Dog training lessons." Client: Coaching Canine. Agency: CB Grey Paris.|
|"Gripping performance." Client: Toyo Tires. Agency: Gmasco Agency.|
"Aloe Vera Butter." Client: Aloe Cholestop Bioenergy Nutrition. Agency:
Effective at drawing a viewer’s attention, analogy is a conspicuous technique that is called upon for products and subjects. Although it most commonly accomplished by way of visual appearance, it can also be conveyed through conceptual content. The technique is achieved by presenting a comparison between two or more objects, or subjects that are similar.
Purpose: To create a situation in an advertisement where the superior aspects of the one product, subject, or opinion can be brought out by comparison to another like product or subject.
Example: Wendy’s ad comparing the Bacon Cheeseburger Deluxe to an unnamed inferior burger sandwich.
|"Say no to anorexia." Client: Star Models. Agency: Revolution Brazil.|
|"Much more for less." Client: Buenos Aires Zoo. Agency Saatchi & Saatchi.|
|"Rome Film Festival." Client: Mini Cooper. Agency: Butler, Shine, Stern|
Celebrities are always able to grasp the attention of the general public, so using them to endorse advertisements is only natural. Products and subjects can benefit greatly by tapping into the influence celebrities possess among audiences. The celebrity sponsorship technique uses a famous figure such as an actor, politician, athlete, media person, etc., to present, or pledge support for a product or subject.
Purpose: To affect the transfer of trust and admiration the audience has for a celebrity to the product or subject within an advertisement.
Example: Using Neil Patrick Harris to endorse Heineken Light, Rhianna to endorse Puma, and Sofia Vergara for Head and Shoulders Shampoo.
|"Slam dunk." Client: LiNing Shoes. Agency: Leo Burnett Worldwide.|
|"Nobody is immune to breast cancer." Client: MFW. Agency: DDB|
|"Got milk? Jessica Sparks." Client: MilkPEP. Agency: Deutsch; Lowe|
Similar in visual appearance to the analogy technique, the contrast technique is actually the opposite. It presents a comparison between objects or subjects that are dissimilar. The contrast technique can also closely relate to the symbolism technique except that it presents the comparison by showing two or more objects, or subjects, whereas symbolism usually presents itself visually as a single subject or object.
Purpose: To create a situation where the characteristics of a dissimilar object can either be associated with, or juxtaposed to, a product or subject.
Example: Advertising that compares dog and cat food to human food.
|"Gun sense in America." Client: Moms Demand Action. Agency: Grey|
|"Lego." Client Lego. Agency: Blattner Brunner.|
|"Off/on". Client: Play Doh. Agency: Grey Advertising.|
More of a content classification than a technique, corporate responsibility presents information about the social interests of a corporation as opposed to the products or services it provides. Corporate responsibility advertisements are meant to gain and reinforce pubic support for acts of goodness, or to counteract public condemnation for unpopular business practices or occurrences.
Purpose: To present a corporation in a favorable light by informing the public about corporate activities that are beneficial in some way to a society.
Example: Domino's Pizza ads about funding highway repair in local communities. Proctor and Gamble ads about supporting sustainability.
|"Keep the ocean clean." Client: Ondazul. Agency: Que Advertising.|
|"Pizza not global warning." Client: Pizza & Love. Agency: Contrapunto|
|"Think global. Eat Local." Client: Bund. Agency: McCann Erickson|
Traditionally a person-to-person way of marketing, a demonstration presents a tutorial on a product or service. Now in either a broadcast or published advertising venue, the demonstration technique shows an audience how to use a product or subject to emphasize its advantages, or to explain how a product works.
Purpose: To increase audience understanding of the subject and sell the ease of use of a product.
Example: Showing how Oxyclean Detergent get out stains and brightens laundry and how Bounty Paper Towel absorb liquids.
|"One story, two points." Client: BiC Sharpie. Agency: DraftFCB.|
|"Bold." Client: Proctor and Gamble. Agency: Grey Advertising Chile.|
|"Chain." Client: Loctite Glue. Agency DDB Italy.|
The diagrammatic technique presents information about a product or subject in a visual diagrammatic structure. The content of the diagram can be in the form of pictorial elements, an index, or word call outs, that define an idea or an existing visual. When a graphical organization of material is presented, it is sometimes known as a scientific technique. The purpose of the technique is to organizationally define the product or subject directly and analytically.
Purpose: To present an outlined or systematized display of aspects of a product or subject in an advertisement to educate a viewer.
Example: Pharmaceutical product ads that show and label aspects of cutaway views of organs.
|"Eat out restaurant awards." Client: Prudential Managers. Agency: Singh|
|"Our business is motorcycles." Client: Yamaha Bank. Agency: FAM|
|"Experience Britain." Client British Airways. Agency: BBH Singapore.|
The familiar technique attempts to seek a comfort level within a viewer by presenting concepts and content they are already familiar with to foster an affinity with a product or service. The technique presents an object, phrase, or situation that is familiar to an audience for the purpose of association with a product or subject.
Purpose: To create an empathy and familiarity with a product or subject to foster the idea of friendship within an advertisement.
Example: Commercials that use phrases such as "like Mom's apple pie”; “like mom used to make"; "in the beginning God created heaven and earth", and any allusion to Elvis.
|"Best coverage worldwide." Client: AT&T. Agency BBDO.|
|"Wake up." Client: Pilao Coffee. Agency: Talent São Paulo.|
|"Saves every big meal." Client: Tadiran AEG. Agency McCann Erickson|
|"Delicious gets the good in." Client: Vital Juice. Agency: DraftFCB|
Memories can reflect many happy and enjoyable experiences, and the nostalgia technique makes the most of these emotional associations within a viewer’s memory. Also used to educate, the nostalgia technique can also be a presentation of historical information about a product or subject. It uses an object, phrase, situation, or information from the past to promote an association to a subject or product for a viewer.
Purpose: Same as the familiar approach, but mainly to force positive associations with the subject through memories of past occurrences or history.
Example: Adobe's "Joy of Sketching" ad using an actor to play Bob Ross.
|"Guts glory." Client: Dodge Ram Trucks. Agency: The Richards Group|
|"Everything ages fast." Client: Maxi Media. Agency MoMa.|
|"Big ideas begin with pizza." Client: Dominos. Agency: McCann Erickson.|
|"Builders of tomorrow." Client: Lego. Agency: Serviceplan Munich.|
An old salesperson’s technique was to get the customer physically involved with a product or subject, allowing them to hold a product, feel its sturdiness, etc. Although the sales person is no longer present, an advertisement can create a similar effect by utilizing a participation technique to directly involve the viewer in the ad concept. This technique creates a situation that requires the viewer to perform some kind of a physical task.
Purpose: To get an audience physically involved with the product or subject. The time required to complete the task becomes valuable selling time by producing more exposure to the ad content.
Example: Coupon ads, direct mail, picture puzzle ads, rub-offs, peal-ups, etc., that necessitate some physical activity on the part of the viewer.
|"A burst of sunshine." Client: Fanta Beverages. Agency: OgilvyOne Dubai.|
|"Chevy game time app." Client: Chevrolet. Agency: Goodby, Silverstein|
"Put yourself in my place." Client: Weingart Homeless Center. Agency:
David & Goliath.
Similar in emphasis to a testimonial, the personalization technique relies on a person or group of people to engage, i.e., be presented to a viewer directly, or by way of a dialogue. The technique works by relating a product or subject to a viewer’s personal experience by making eye contact or by talking directly to the viewer about an experience.
Purpose: To capture the audiences attention by speaking directly to a viewer, eye to eye, so to speak. The advertisement can also to appeal to a viewer by relating an experience in a personal manner.
Example: Banks and Investment firms like Edward Jones where a broker addresses the viewer directly.
"Talk to your kids about art school." Client: College for Creative Studies.
Agency: Team Detroit.
"Talk to your kids about art school." Client: College for Creative Studies.
Agency: Team Detroit.
|"So give them the best." Client: Air Optix Night Day. Agency: Norton|
More of a cinematic technique in television commercials, and a photo album approach to print advertising, sequences present a collection of snippets that build up to a single overall impression about a subject or product. Sequences show a series of images that present different aspects of a subject or product, randomly, systematically, or in progression.
Purpose: To give the audience a general overview of a product or subject or its use, or showing an environment associated with it.
Example: Dyson Vacuums, Wait Disney World, Movie Previews, Taco Bell, Budweiser, Coors where there are multiple views of products, subjects, and/or situations.
|"A BiC idea". Client: BiC. Agency: Publicis Spain.|
|"A book can change your life." Client: Penguin Books. Agency: Y&R Bejing.|
|"Above and beyond." Client: Land Rover. Agency: Greekvertising Athens.|
|"A little goes a long way." Client: Sunlight, Sun Products. Agency: Lowe,|
|"Irresistible." Client: Routan Globus. Agency: Ogilvy & Mather.|
Slice of Life
Slice of life is a technique used by advertisers to present an actual real life event. As the name suggests, it takes an interesting moment out of a person’s life and cuts it into an ad or commercial, something an audience can relate to through life's experiences. The original intent of slice of life was to use a real event to support an association with a product or subject. It is also now referred to as a reality TV approach, although it exists in print advertising, as well as TV. Additionally, fictitious versions or recreations of real life experiences are also used.
Purpose: This method of advertising more than any other is meant to convey an emotion to the audience.
Example: Advertisements that take an impromptu, cinema verité, or reality TV approach to a product or subject.
|"Pedigree." Client: Pedigree Dog Food. Agency: Savaglio\tbwa Argentina.|
|"Because music doesn't judge". Client: Spotify. Agency: Droga5.|
"Karate for kids." Client: Ninseikan Karate School. Agency: Y&R Tokyo.
Symbolism can improve the speed and comprehension of a complex or difficult concept by using objects to symbolize concepts. The symbolism technique presents a kind of visual shorthand that takes advantage of something that is already in a viewer’s consciousness to explain something else that is not. The objects may or may not show a direct relationship to a subject or product.
Purpose: To reinforce associations to a product or subject through associations with the symbolic object.
Example: The famous advertisement "This is your brain on drugs," with a frying egg used to simulate drug abuse.
|"Driven by history." Client: Harley Davidson. Agency: JANDL Bratislava.|
|"World food day." Client: Unicef. Agency: Saatchi & Saatchi Switzerland.|
|"Switchboard." Client: Multiple Sclerosis Society. Agency: Saatchi & Saatchi.|
|"A car you can believe in." Client: Volvo Ford. Agency: Dentsu Y&R,|
Simulating “word of mouth” advertising, a testimonial is a recommendation in the form of a statement by a customer, subject expert, or a participant. It can also be presented in the form of a testing or sampling situation, made on the behalf of a product or subject. Usually done with non-actors, or existing product or service users, the testimonial can be in the form of a “man on the street” type of impromptu interview.
Purpose: To reinforce honesty in advertising, also to increase trust in the subject or product.
Example: A satisfied customer endorsing the effectiveness of Excedrin.
" The View From Onandaga." Client: Onandaga Community College.
Agency: Latona Paul & McCann Advertising.
|"Justin is Proactive." Client: Proactive. Agency: CI-Group.|
"Munroe Regional is my hospital." Client:MRCC Agency: Brown, Parker
Unique Selling Proposition
Although not a technique per se, a unique selling proposition is so sought after as a way of advertising a product or subject that it becomes a driving force that influences the design of a product or service itself. A unique selling proposition emphasizes an aspect of a product or subject that other competitors can't. Alternatively, it can also happen by making a statement about the product or subject that other like products can't make. A unique selling proposition sometimes has the power to revolutionize an industry.
*Purpose: To set a product or subject above the field of competitors with an exclusive feature.
Example: Chevy the highest gasoline mileage cars in America. Aleve, the only eight-hour pain remedy. Wendy's original dollar menu.
*Note: Unique selling propositions involve the content of a message rather than a technique for presenting a product or subject. They are usually combined with another advertising technique.