BACKGROUND AND RATIONALE
Advertising involves the paid use of the media (print and electronic) – in terms of time or space – to promote a message, service or product. Generally speaking, there are two types of advertising: commercial advertising; and public service announcements, sometimes called social marketing. Commercial advertising typically involves the promotion of a person, product, service or company in order to generate sales (e.g. commercials and print ads for clothing companies, soft drinks, movies, etc.), whereas public service announcements involve the promotion of messages and services that benefit the general public (e.g. health and safety messages, literacy promotion, etc.) Both forms of advertising constitute the primary source of revenue for traditional and new media. The revenue that media and other information providers receive from advertising is used to pay for operating costs and the development of content (e.g. television programmes, website material, magazine articles, radio programmes, etc.). Without this revenue, most private media companies, which form a part of a central advocating mechanism for the democracy and freedoms we enjoy, could not survive.
It is important for the media to attract advertising revenue by offering opportunities or ‘vehicles’ that will appeal to advertisers and sponsors. Therefore, the media often develop content that is in public demand or that will attract various large groups of citizens. These groups may be categorized according to age, race, sex, income, political persuasion, and so on.
Advertising, in one form or another, reaches almost every corner of the globe. Companies, organizations, citizens and governments use advertising to promote products and services, and to convey information, beliefs and values. The information or messages conveyed through advertising are essential to the decision-making public. Given the prominent role of advertising in our societies today, teachers should understand what goes into the creation of effective advertising and be able to evaluate advertisements as sources of information. Furthermore, it is important for teachers to learn about the mechanisms that allow citizens to provide feedback on ads to the industry and to government officials.
Advertising can have a negative effect upon the media, however. Pressure from advertisers may lead to journalists avoiding writing about controversial topics. It can drive out public – interest content in favour of entertainment that attracts a particular audience. Unless there is a clear wall between the editorial and the business sides of the media, which is less and less the case, then the business interests of the media company can impact content and news coverage without this being overt.
While advertising opportunities have expanded with the explosion of media and technology, the industry continues to be regulated by specific codes intended to help maintain public confidence. Generally speaking, these codes operate at the national level and are created by the advertising industry. The codes are designed to help ensure that advertising is truthful, fair and accurate. In many countries, advertising councils and consumer affairs groups can be contacted by consumers if they have any questions or concerns about industry practices.
Advertising today has moved beyond its traditional role. No longer confined to television commercials, magazine ads or billboards, ads for more and more products, information, messages and ideas can now be presented through pop-ups on web sites, mobile phones and other handheld devices, product placements in film and television programmes, and sponsorship agreements, as companies continue to seek new ways to bring their information to the public. Governments, politicians and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) also make use of advertising strategies as they attempt to promote and gain approval for policies or programmes and, in some cases, improve their image.
In many countries, the local private advertising base is not sufficient to sustain all the media entities that exist. Therefore, at times, media companies must also depend on advertising from foreign companies as well as the government. In addition, international companies and organizations that want to reach local audiences purchase advertising space from local media. In recent years, we have seen the emergence of ‘superbrands’: products or companies whose advertising and branding efforts have ‘gone global’.