15th November – Advertising

The most commonplace form of imagery in our lives is advertising.

The term branding comes from branding cattle, which was done as a mark of ownership and used to distinguish between cows.

The function of advertising is to sell a product, campaign or idea and to promote a brand. Advertising is not always commercial and can take the form of charity advertising, political advertising.

Early advertising came in the form of painted proclamations. Many people were illiterate so signage and symbolism was important.

Chromolithography provided new forms of packaging by the 19th Century. By mid 19th Century, the streets were covered with print and advertising.

In this time of early advertising, adverts were wordy and descriptive, this changed as it became apparent that imagery is more effective in advertising, especially in the modern day world where people are always in a rush and many no longer spend much time stopping and reading. The key features of advertisements are image, logo, slogan and the type used.

During and after WWII designs for advertising became more complex and a variety of methods were used, including surrealism.

Information is said to drive behaviour, something proven by Edward Bernays who led woman to believe that smoking in public was a sign of freedom and strength, using the phrase “torches of freedom”, creating the idea that smoking made woman more free. This is evidence that objects can become symbols of how someone wants to be, and adverts that engage people emotionally with the product rather than commercially are effective. A modern example can be the John Lewis christmas adverts, well known and done in the form of a short narrative which makes them memorable.

Other methods used in advertising include subvertising, often messages added (e.g. graffitied) which challenge the original advert. Also, the halo effect is often included with coded advertising which gives the viewer a sense of accomplishment when they decipher the meaning.

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