For purpose of simplicity, we would define advertising as the process of creating and disseminating information or creating awareness, for purpose of selling goods/service, idea or person. We are aware of the classroom and other theoretic definitions that say advertising is “The activity of attracting public attention to a product or business, as by paid announcements in the print, broadcast, or electronic media”. On the whole, advertising is a deliberate effort at communicating information about a product, service, ideas and opinion…from a known and identifiable source to a group of defined target, in an effort to persuade acceptance and/or patronage.
Advertising messages are in a form of news. The only classical point of difference between news and advertising (messages) is that news is not paid for, while advertising messages are paid for. Just as for the purpose and intention of news is to create awareness and enable anticipated reaction from the target listener (and the general public), it is same for advertising messages, albeit one is commercial and the other is not.
As it is with every endeavour of measurable benefit or value, advertising (services, messages and product delivery) is based on the principle of Functionality. It must deliver on certain values (and bring about Change) to be worth the investment and efforts. It is upon the weight of anticipated or achieved Change, that value is placed on invested effort or resource – whether for news generation and broadcast or brand communication. To the extent that advertising or brand communication is about “making-known”, same as with news writing, it is based on the fundamentals of mass communication, which is predicated upon the principle of The 5Ws & H – Who, what, Where, When, Why & How.
The 5Ws & H serve the purposes of a guide to the source(s) of news and advertising messages and as fine definition of target receivers’ expectation. They can be said to function as the ultimate profiler. There are no messages that are created if they are not created from answering the questions bellied in the classical 5Ws & H. It follows, therefore, that generating and communicating messages for either purpose, must be a deliberate decision to provide answers to certain questions, for definite purposes.
We at MC&A DIGEST hold sacred, the rule that advertising must be Functional. The definitions and narratives above are a deliberate effort to underscore the reason for purpose and intent in the development of advertising messages. Let us capture at this point the other point of difference between news writing and advertising messages generation – Creativity. Writing news stories attract a good level of creativity, but clearly, it takes deeper creative engagement, commitment and involvement to develop and produce good advert messages. Perhaps the extent and depth of creativity in advertising is due to its role, but it is instructive to appreciate that difference.
Interestingly, it is that depth of creative involvement that has been the bane of advertising, both as a practice and as a role. We have had to consider Functionality In Advertising in one of our papers in the past, but from the perspective of over-all structuring and alignment with Purpose or objective. The common disconnect in the process of advertising is between structure and objective. In that piece, we emphasised the place of advertising brief and its importance in guiding the process, for purposefulness. In so far as the advertising brief is agreed, every element in the process must connect with it to avoid confusion of derailment.
As a creative process, however, advertising message development and communication depends a lot on copy writing. But we shall be careful here, to not place too much emphasis on copy writing because it is also dependent on the strategic focus or direction, which over-rides every other consideration and determines the form of every other element in the creative process. So, if for instance, the strategic direction for a given advertisement or campaign is to communicate higher affordability for increased consumer engagement, the copywriter must understand that and must develop copies that support that direction. So you see, copy writing is a derivative and is dependent upon agreed strategic direction.
Unfortunately, all of these dependent elements of the creative process have become independent. Consequently, a great percentage of advert messages on air, prints and wire today, are not saying anything or serving their purpose, because they are disjointed, being whole on their own. Far from the concept of creative license, creativity has fallen to a very low level due to mental laziness, inadequate training and lack of purpose. The entire creative process has become unguided. Creative products are no longer focused on purpose and functionality.
Going by the theory of the 5Ws&H, every communication message must answer questions or give information about (1) WHO is saying what (2) WHAT has or is to happen (3) WHY did or is it to happen (4) WHERE did it, or is it to happen (5) WHY is it to happen, and *HOW of the whole story. The sequence of this story breaks down purpose and functionality as a basic role for every communication, especially advertising.
As we noted at some point above, general news and brands communication serve same purpose. However, the creativity for advert messages development is deeper and much more demanding, because advertising messages are tilted towards value proposition. And that is the major difference between both forms of mass communication, leading all the way to investment/financial involvement, method of communication, scope of communication, and pattern of communication and profile of target recipient or target audience. Advertising messages must sell value in a competitive manner; they must be distinctive and frontal in making promises and distinguish the subject purposefully.
Therefore, advertising must be very clear on purpose. If advertising messages must be definite on the above-mentioned, does it not follow, therefore, that it must be functional? It is to this character of functionality that we have encouraged clients to hold their advertising agencies or advertising service providers. As in accounting (financial accounting), advertising messages should be made to account for the financial investment, based on set-objective(s). For purposes of exactness, advertising objectives can be in quantifiable terms or otherwise. But whichever way, advertising’s contribution can be measured – ask any expert!
It is only when accountability is brought to bear in advertising or brands management & communication that the right inputs will manifest. For instance, some of our readers have been asking to know the purpose and intent for advert messages such as “Speed Is An Attitude”, for instance. Unity Bank did spend good sum on their presently running TV Commercial in which they ran through some values, perhaps ascribing same to their corporate personality (as character traits?). Some of our readers are at a loss as to whether that was a corporate campaign really, but more importantly, the question is the purpose all of that effort serves.
Advertising: Making Promises
The golden rule is that every advert message must make a promise. That is why value proposition must be seen to have been clearly made in every brand communication. The creative process lends itself to all sorts of interpretation, but the bottom-line is that the winning ingredients for advertising must be derived, not assumed. It is assumption that is driven by absence of professionalism, low intellectual state and mental weakness that permits meaningless brand communication; not given to purpose and functionality. Every brand communication or advert message must Function to persuade and clearly make a promise that would enable profitable level of competitive advantage(s) for the brand, idea, person or opinion it is meant to serve. Otherwise, clients should think of refund of invested funds from their advertising service providers.
Until accountability is introduced into advertising service provision, non-professionals and their likes will continue to turn out meaningless communication not even newsworthy.
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