Do advertisements really work?


            I am a Public Relations major. However for this major, I also have to take a class that teaches a lot about advertising. Because of this I started to wonder: how much does advertising actually work? Personally, I feel as though it has no effect on what I buy. But if that's truly the case, why has this 70 billion-dollar industry continued to exist? I'm assuming it's because I'm mistaken and advertising has a much larger effect than I realize.


    describes advertising as, "paid, non-personal communication that is designed to communicate in a creative manner, through the use of mass or information-directed media, the nature of products, services, and ideas. It is a form of persuasive communication that offers information about products, ideas, and services that serves the objectives determined by the advertise." Okay, that makes sense. But is this persuasive communication actually accomplishing anything? The article also says that there to achieve the main objective of persuading, there are a few ways to do this. One, is to identify the product in such a way that it differentiates from any other products in a memorable way. This, in turn, is supposed to cause consumers to choose this product over others. Another function is to communicate the actual function of the product to consumers. And lastly, advertisement try to cause consumers to try new products and encourage people to continue using old products, this is the "persuasion function." But does all of this really work? Well, according to an article from, depending on how the advertisers execute their advertisements, the answer is yes, they can work.

            The article said, "The new research, led by cognitive scientist Mark Changizi of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, shows why direct exposure to repeated ads initially increases a consumer's preference for promoted products, and why the most effective advertisements are the ones consumers don't even realize they have seen." In summary, Changizi says that the only way that advertising has a real effect is if it is unconscious. This is because; "they tap into our non-conscious mechanisms for optimal preferences, hijacking them for selling a company's products." So is that it, is that the answer? It makes sense. I said that I don't believe advertising works, which is true. When I am consciously aware that advertising is going on I don't believe it is working on me. However, it make sense that maybe it is when I don't know that it's going on that it is extremely effective. Though this did not make sense, I still was not completely convinced that this was the only way advertising worked. An article from had a different answer.

            They addressed the exact statement that I made in the beginning of this blog - that I, like many others, don't believe advertising "works" on me. They had similar ideas like the unconscious advertising being effective, saying that "Successful advertising rarely succeeds through argument or calls to action. Instead, it creates positive memories and feelings that influence our behavior over time to encourage us to buy something at a later date. No one likes to think that they are easily influenced. In fact, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that we respond negatively to naked attempts at persuasion." They think that the most successful advertisements are the ones that leave "impressions." Again, they reinforce the idea that we shouldn't be aware that the advertisements are trying to sell something to us, and instead they try to turn our focus to images, jingles, and stories in order to focus attention on the brand. The ones that are able to do this are the most successful advertisements. Another article tried to study advertising from the biological perspective.

            The research from Pankaj Aggarwal and Ann L. McGill said that there is actual scientific reasoning for why advertisements may work. They found that that "the more you help people project human attributes onto products, the better." They also suggest that animated characters are also quite effective. "Another study showed "consumers will use post-purchase actions -- and advertising -- as a proxy for lost memories, even if these actions are not a good indication of how we actually felt while using the product." According to Cowley, our memories guide our future decisions. When we like an advertisement or get a good feeling from it we remember this and use is to guide our future actions. In turn, we then believe that this good feeling or good experience came from the product, rather than the memory, and this makes us want the product.  

            So there is it. I'm not sure which is right, or if there even is one right reason, but I do believe advertising does work. There is no denying that I have probably been mistaken. Whether they are working unconsciously, or because of a jingle, or because of a good feeling they created: advertisements do work. Which, I guess, explains the 70 billion dollars it generates a year.




I found your article very interesting. After reading your blog I came to the conclusion that finding advertising convincing or not is relative to the specific person. Advertisements have to be somewhat successful because it is very successful. I want to be a marketing major so I personally hope that advertisements and marketing does work. I found an article talking about how Facebook believes that its ads work. Ads have to work somewhat because you see all around society ads and people are buying certain products and using services that have a lot of adds.

I original thought that it could definitely be based on the individual, but I think that every individual has some sensitivity to advertisements. I'm sure that more some are more successful than others, but there has to be some thing that works on everyone. I think that is the reason why Facebook may believe their ads are so successful. I know that they advertise things that they know I would like based on my pictures and information. Each ad is personalized, because like you said it all depends on the individual.

Interesting blog,though it seems has little to do with science. I am in the communication college too,but I am focus on the media effect major. And my major concentrate on solving the questions you post, such as "Do advertisements really work?" Your blog gave me the exact reason why companies do spend money on marketing. Coke has spent millions in advertising over the century to build up the brand equity and that is why they could stop advertising tomorrow and at least a generation or two would continue to purchase their product. So, the advertisement work when it is good. In other words,that means In other words, the more that people see your company (whether that's a newspaper ad, website visit, TV exposure, etc.) -- subconsciously, the more they'll like it.
As you conclude,"Whether they are working unconsciously, or because of a jingle, or because of a good feeling they created: advertisements do work. "
I am totally agree with that.

The reason I found this topic science related was because I thought there could be something in our brain that caused advertisements to be effective or not. And, if you saw, there has been scientific studies done to show how there could be a biological aspect that causes ads to be effective or ineffective. And the idea of subconscious or conscious is also scientific. Like when you're using the placebo effect. If you are aware that the drug is a fake, there is no chance of it working. However, by being deceived and not knowing it really isn't effective there is still a chance. Similarly to advertisements, if you know that they are trying to have an effect on you there is little chance that they will.

I think this is something a PR major should definitely consider. I think advertisements do work sometimes; especially if someone does a great job of advertising their product. One example is facebook. Facebook has many ads on their page. They say, some of these adds do work. It just depends on which ad you are talking about. An article on talks about it

A study showed that people who are "fans" of certain pages on facebook, did in fact spend a lot more on those stores than the rest of the population. Stores such as Amazon, Best Buy and Target were big hits during the 2011 holiday season. "Friends of these fans" on facebook spent about eight percent more at these stores as well.

Do you think that providing ads on social media is effective?

I always wonder whether advertising worked on me and I would like to think that it doesn’t but maybe it does. The best form of advertising is TV commercials. I know for instance that I don’t like Dr. Pepper but I think they did a really good job with LL Cool J in their commercials, but no matter who they put in their commercials I will never buy Dr. Pepper. I stopped drinking soda all together even though Sprite was my favorite and I really liked their commercials. My favorite commercials are the Geico commercials, which I now have. I think advertising really works on children, which in turn makes parents, the adults, have to go out and purchase those items. I also think that cultural influence is more important when it comes to what people buy. That the fact everyone wants to seem like they are technology superior and have all the top stuff is the greatest factor in what people buy. Apple is becoming one of those companies like Pepsi and many others that don’t have to do any advertising if they didn’t want to. All Apple has to do is say that they are coming out with a new iPhone and people will go buy it with out even really knowing the difference between the last iPhone. At the end of the day if advertising didn’t work companies wouldn’t be spending 70 billion dollar on it.

A lot of people think that the purpose of advertisements is solely to sell a certain product. While that's somewhat true, from a PR perspective, I think the biggest reason for advertising is to get the product "out there" in the public's eye. Ads never really cause mass amounts of people to run out and immediately buy something - rather, they form a positive, pleasing image of the company and its products.
Like your blog suggests, ads have a psychological effect on their audience. Think about it - how many people will only buy name brand products that have been advertised before, as opposed to an unknown store brand or knockoff imitation product? That's really the main reason I think ads *do* work.

re: Ariel's comment about social media advertising…

While I don't have any statistics to back me up, I think ads on social media might be some of the most effective advertisements out there today. So many people spend a ton of time on Facebook or Twitter, and they probably pay more attention to the ads found there than to ads on TV (how often do people actually sit and pay attention to these ads - most tune them out until their show comes back on). I think, in order to find out more about its effectiveness, there would need to be some sort of psychological/sociological study that considers how our minds react to ads as well as how social media is used by various groups of people.

Though it was briefly covered in this article, I think a lot of this has to do with our subconsciousness. When we think that advertising isn't working on us, it undoubtedly is. When we shop in the grocery store and are in between products, if we saw one on television earlier and laughed at the ad, (as mentioned) we'll corelate that positive experience and buy that product instead. With society becoming more and more dependent on technology, the advances have been a catalyst for advertisement. Recently, an advertiser capitalized on placing pictures in the bottom of golf holes at a few different courses. I truly believe that the advertisement industry is going to grow even larger, it's too successful to go anywhere but up.

I definitely agree with what you said about us becoming more dependent on technology and therefore more susceptible to advertisements. For example, as someone else has noted, Facebook ads are probably extremely successful. Most people are on their Facebooks constantly throughout the day, and see the countless ads, usually designed for their specific interests. Though technology has also allowed us to remove some advertising in our lives, like being able to fast forward through television commercials, it has also added many new places. Whether it's Facebook or YouTube, one is constantly forced to see advertisements and be affected by them whether they realize it or not.

I definitely think that advertising has an effect on us, whether or not we realize it. I appreciate your recognition of the notion of "unconscious advertising," which is practically an entire industry on its own.

Last year, Morgan Spurlock (of "Super Size Me" fame) came to Penn State as a Distinguished Speaker and also to promote his most recent documentary "POM Wonderful: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold." You can view the trailer for the documentary here:

The idea of the movie is to have the entire thing be funded by product placement. Up until Morgan's talk--and then me subsequently watching the movie--I never realized how big of a deal product placement is. Big companies are willing to spend tons of money to have their product appear in a high-profile movie. Why? Because, even if you're not realizing it, you are seeing their product on the big screen. Ever notice your favorite actor/actress drinking a Coke in one of their scenes? Or how about the fact that all of the Transformers are Chevrolets? It's pretty interesting that companies see such a value in this type of advertising.

Your blog post makes the case that the most effective ads are the ones that aren't making it obvious that you're trying to be sold something, but ones that rather leave an impression or associate the product with an emotion. I tend to agree, especially when it comes to product placement. If I see a product in a movie that I happen to love, perhaps that makes me more prone to go out and make that purchase.

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