Advertising on Social Media
Frank Presbrey, author of The History and Development of Advertising, defined advertising as an ‘art of selling … [which] encourages sales of the advertiser's products and to create in the mind of people … an impression in favour of the advertiser's interest' (Rudani, 2010). Advertising is a form of mass communication that enables companies to spread a message, whether it be a promotion, opinions or information. It is now universally accepted as an art, science and profession.
Advertising is traditionally found in newspapers, on television and radio, however it is now more commonly used on social media such as Facebook, YouTube and Instagram.
Features and Techniques
With 3.196 billion people using social media globally (Chaffey, 2018), many sponsors use digital marketing techniques to appeal to their target audience. One example is having an identifiable sponsor. If a sponsor ‘is difficult to identify, then that information cannot be called advertising' (Samiksha, 2018). In Birchbox's adverts on Instagram, the sponsor is clear due to their name being printed on the pictured box. Another feature is that their primary job is to persuade consumers to buy the product. This is done by attracting their attention, creating a desire to own the item and inducing them to buy it. Good advertising will have a ‘psychological impact' (Akrani, 2010) on customers, influencing their buying decisions and generating word-of-mouth excitement. Wish promote their items on Facebook with the tagline ‘get 50-90% discounts on today's trending items', which entice viewers to ‘spend and save'. Advertising is also an impersonal presentation of information, which allows it to reach all sorts of target audiences efficiently. The same advert can be released on different social media sites at the same time, for example Zaful is promoted on YouTube, Facebook and Snapchat, giving the information the ability to spread around people of all ages and occupations.
Much like features, there are many techniques used in digital advertising, one being the use of ‘weasel words' (Juneja, 2016), in which the advertisement uses particularly ambiguous language to appeal to customers without lying. An example of this is Sunday.Ivy's Instagram advert for their makeup sponge, in which they say it ‘prevents foundation absorption', but doesn't fully diminish it. Another commonly used technique is idealism, where the company will use the ‘perfect' image of a family to appeal to consumers. This technique is usually targeted at adults with families, for example Tesco's recent Christmas advert on Twitter shows different people in a family, including well behaved children and a grand house, saying their favourite part of Christmas dinner, which makes parents subliminally question whether, if they shop at Tesco, their children will be that well-behaved too.
Traditional adverts include the brand's name, logo, pictures, tagline and information about the product. But, as 63% of people now use their phones more than desktops for internet searches (Enge, 2018), advertisements have had to adapt to become more smartphone friendly by reducing the text to just the heading and tagline, and increasing the size of the picture so it's the primary focus. Taglines draw people in and create excitement, so advertisers need ones that sell. Some prevail, such as Dollar Shave Club's ‘Shave time. Shave money.' In just four words the company ‘perfectly represent the overall tone of the brand' (Kolowich, 2018). However, some fail, like Victoria Secret's ‘A body for everybody' tagline. This doesn't provide any information about the brand, meaning the picture was the only hope at appealing to consumers.
Digital advertising is beneficial for younger generations, although perhaps leaving the older behind. Younger people are growing up with electronics and are used to them, however older people grew up with print adverts like the 1964 Volkswagen Beetle advert (Muir, 2015), which have lots of information about products. Traditional advertisements are becoming obsolete due to the high costs compared to digital marketing, as well as the fact that a higher percentage of target markets can be reached online. Despite this, advertisers still use traditional forms alongside digital, as they can work ‘most effectively' together to enhance their offerings (Cohn, 2010). This is beneficial as the products are seen by both the older and younger generations on different platforms.
With over 90% of advertisers posting on social media in 2018 (Meyers, 2018), there's going to be some bad ones. For example, Pepsi's 2017 advert trivialised social justice movements. Kendall Jenner joins a protest and hands an officer a Pepsi, which ends the march, happily and immediately. Taking social justice movements as an opportunity to sell a drink is disrespectful to anyone who's sacrificed or suffered for a cause, and having a supermodel as the frontwoman didn't help (Piedfort, 2017). Millions of people saw this advert shown on YouTube before it was pulled by the company.
Despite this, when advertisers get it right, it can be extremely beneficial to the sponsors. ASOS used social media to launch their #AsSeenOnMe hashtag, by asking followers to post pictures with the hashtag whilst wearing their clothes. ASOS reposted some so that their followers could see how the clothes would look on different body shapes. ASOS' website also has a page where users can shop the specific looks from the #AsSeenOnMe posts. ASOS have dominated Instagram through their marketing, and with their revenue rising ‘by 27% to £1.9 billion' in 2017 (Williams-Grut, 2017), it looks like they're on to a winner.
To conclude, there are many features used in social media advertising to catch the viewer's eye, such as being able to identify the sponsor, persuading customers to buy, and an impersonal display of information to enlighten people. Likewise, there are numerous techniques used, examples being weasel words and idealism, both of which make the product sound more appealing. The ever-growing popularity of social media means that adverts had to become more smartphone friendly, advertisers began to include less text and bigger pictures to accentuate their product from other posts. Sponsors are having to come up with catchy slogans that the viewer will remember, like ‘Shave Time. Shave Money.' Digital marketing is so popular because it's less expensive and more effective than traditional methods, although both can be used together to enhance each other and reach different audiences. Social media is a great way of boosting sales and getting the word out about brands, yet it can be unforgiving as once something's out there, like Pepsi's 2017 advert, it can never fully be deleted. However, brands like ASOS have used social media to their advantage by getting people involved and interacting with consumers, increasing their revenue by 27% in one year.
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