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Essay: Social Media Advertising: From Cave Paintings to the Cadbury Gorilla

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This study will be regarding social media platforms and if they are leading the way for advertising in the future and if social media platforms should be considered as media companies. It will be focusing on the evolution of social media and how companies such as Nike are using it to lead the way within the advertising industry.

Advertising identifies current problems or opportunity for a product, service or corporate brand Increasingly, though, definitions of advertising have had to take on board new communications opportunities.  The explosion of media channel opportunities, including social, have made the advertising environment much more complex. With the variety of different media channels, different communications opportunities require a range of approaches. Now companies use these different forms of communications such as persuasion, conversation, participation, engagement and facilitation which were all seen in early examples of print-based advertising. (Include visit and research to the archive here with the example of the early advertising.)  With the constant evolution of digital media channels and the abrupt rise of social media, these forms will be developing rapidly, making advertising an exciting field to be a part of.

Since its very first beginnings, which are thought to date back to carvings made by the ancient Egyptians, advertising has constantly had to adapt and change to adjust to new mediums and an increasingly intuitive audience. “The advertising industry has expanded to promote products and services. Much of the development has been influenced by war, westward migration and technological advancements.” The internet has revolutionized advertising in the most drastic ways. Not only has it changed the way ads are broadcast, but also the way consumers react towards them. Ad agencies in this country can be traced back through to the coffee houses of the 18th century. In the late 1700s, coffee house owners would buy newspapers which would attract crowds of people wanting to read them. Like todays working spaces such as Starbucks, these coffee houses became hubs of people gathered for their caffeine, news fix and social interactions. People and entrepreneurs would come and circulate their own ads cultivating the earliest ad agencies. “One of the oldest of the countries ad agencies, Samuel Deacon & Co, started up in 1821, which grew out of a colonial coffeehouse.”

The first TV ad aired on screens in 1941 in America, it was for Bulova clocks and watches, fig 1.

(Figure 1. Bulova Clocks and watch Ad.)

Back in those days’ adverts were an integral part of society. With the tense decade of the 50s with the American cold war, TV viewers felt optimistic for the prosperity. Characters were built around products to create a persona of connection between viewers and brands. And famous faces were used to sell everything from washing machines to cigarettes. For example, the Marlborough Man. A recognizable and cultural icon/figure between the 60s and 90s. The use of this “Macho man” was to help convert cigarettes from a feminine product to a masculine one with the use of the rugged cowboy and smoldering looks, A very early for of celebrity endorsement.

(Figure 2. Marlboro Ad.)

Today, advertising has seen the rise of other motives rather than to just sell such as brand awareness, brand ideals or ethos and re brands. Rather than the sell mentality advertising is focused on community building and awareness. This see products being taken away from focus within ads, where the products are no longer at the epicenter. This is exampled by the TV ad campaign in 2007 for Cadbury (Fig 3.). This saw a drum playing Gorilla playing along to Phil Collins, In the air tonight, set infant of the famous purple colour background. No show or mention of Cadbury until the end at 1:25 into the video. This wasn’t an attempt to promote a new bar of chocolate or flavour. But rather a strategic move to raise awareness of Cadbury as a brand. The simplicity of the ad led it to be memorable and iconic to this date with it being the first recommendation on YouTube when typing in “Cadbury”, It even is seen in parody form by Wonderbra. These same strategies are seen in today’s advertising.

(Figure 3. Cadbury Gorilla viral Ad.)

One of the defining aspects of the current times, shaping the world as we know it, is the accessibility of the internet worldwide. The lovechild of the internet is social media, which comes in a variety of forms, ranging from forums to business networks, from social gaming to social networks. Social media has had an important impact on all of us. It started out as a platform to provide a way for people to connect with each other whether it be reconnecting or branching out. It has become a tool in tandem with traditional methods of marketing to produce successful campaigns to grow businesses, sell products, deal with issues or promote campaigns. The revolution was inevitable as “the number of worldwide users is expected to reach some 3.02 billion monthly active social media users by 2021” (Social Media Statistics & Facts report, 2018)

With the pace of which technology is changing, it was only a matter of time before people and companies started getting involved to use social platforms as a tool for advertising.  “Advertising is a form of communication that constantly impinges on our daily lives, yet we are often unaware of its subtler form of persuasion, or of the extent to which it manipulates our (consumer) culture.” (Dyer, G. 1982). In today´s digital era advertising uses every possible media to get its message across.  This is done by the use of platforms such as TV, print (newspapers, magazines, journals etc), press, internet, events and even people. “Advertising is any paid-for communication overtly intended to inform and/or influence one or more people” Bullmore, J (2018). Social media has become an essential core part of the development of brands. Forging new career paths for jobs such as social media managers, the use of social media has become an essential part of all fashion businesses.

Online Shopping in general is a form that has become very popular. This is a major feature target point for corporate companies to help target millennials and their phones. This is seen by how popular Amazon has become with them having over “304 million active accounts as of 2015 and 54 million Amazon Prime members which is growing fast”: Mathes, E. (2018). 10 Amazon Statistics That Will Shock Every Seller – Seller Labs: Amazon Tools, FBA Software & Amazon PPC Management. [online] Seller Labs: Amazon Tools, FBA Software & Amazon PPC Management. Available at: https://www.sellerlabs.com/blog/10-amazon-statistics-will-shock-every-seller/?utm_referrer=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.co.uk%2F [Accessed 21 May 2018]. This allows customers to shop from the comfort of their home. This is due to the heavy presence of online shopping and the ease of which it can be done. This is also evident with Instagram adding features such as the “tap to view product” element on posts. Rather than posting and image and leaving a link to the website where they can find these items, Instagram now allows for clickable buttons to appear on the image which will take you to out of the app and straight to where you can buy these items.  Not sure whether to keep this point in or not?

One medium which is leading the way for advertising, is Instagram. According to a 2015 report from Emarketer, Instagram generated $595 million in mobile ad revenue , this was predicted to have risen to $2.81bn in 2017. Instagram now has more than 800 million monthly active users and 300m+ accounts use Instagram Stories every day. With 75% of users living outside the US. Among the last 100 million who joined, more than half came from Europe and Asia.

Social media platforms have become abundantly saturated with a plethora of apps being released weekly. Well established companies such as NIKE and ADIDAS are using these platforms to target the millennial generation whose smart phones are an extension of themselves. “consumers are spending more time on the internet and social media (Hennig-Thurau et al., 2010), thus becoming less accessible to advertisers via traditional media” (Emerald Group Publishing, Ltd. 2017)

Most of the elements mentioned as advertising strategies within social media reside mainly in the Instagram platform. This is due to Instagram being a channel where companies can project brand ideals. This is one of the reasons why Instagram is Nike’s go to app for advertising and connecting with their audience, ahead of Facebook. This was clear from an interview done with a practitioner speaking about which social media platform they use (“I’d say Instagram. I would have said Facebook, but young people don’t seem to use it anymore” Oliver Hassel, 2018 Instagram interview, figure A.) A recent digital marketing report from Merkle shows that ad spend on Instagram climbed an incredible 177% year over year in 2018. The statistic is particularly impressive when you compare it to the amount of growth in Facebook ad spend (excluding Instagram) over the same time period, which was just 40%. It’s clear that advertisers are shifting their ad dollars from Facebook to Instagram. (http://www.fourthsource.com/news/ad-spend-on-instagram-grew-177-report-says-23056) .

Point to maybe include about instragram and how grid layouts are key way to gain awareness and customer appreciation seen in profiles like Lidl, Kat von D, Jaden smith

Nike has focused on this platform compared to others such as Facebook and Twitter. One of the reasons could be due to “Facebook losing its grip on young people, who are quitting the site in their millions” (https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/news/facebook-quit-young-people-social-media-snapchat-instagram-emarketer-a8206486.html), Facebook is used to cement their communities. Nike’s Facebook pages cover all of their sub-brands (Football, Golf, Running etc.) and are then further filtered down by country e.g. Nike Running France, so that each of their activities and regions can be focused into precise fan bases. Twitter is used for exceptional customer service as seen by the installation of the dedicated Twitter handle – @nikesupport.  Nike can reply to hundreds of daily tweets more efficiently, catering for queries worldwide in one hub. opening an account of the 29th December 2011, a year after the app launched, Nike were very quick to take advantage of Instagram, compared to other brands. Today, they are the app’s most followed brand with double the amount of the followers to Starbucks, who lie in second place.

This growth is in response to young people turning away from Facebook. This huge demographic segment has turned to new platforms, like Instagram. This in my opinion is due to Facebook taking their advertising and marketing too far with their unmistakable in-your-face promotions. These other platforms take a discreet form such as the new features, which could not even be tagged at all as advertising. Facebook, in the eyes of millennials, could be considered as a media company rather than a social site hence deterring them away to these other platforms where companies are focused with their marketing.

For example, Nike have incorporated this feature first seen in the marketing for the new “Mercurial Heritage” boots pack (fig 4.).  As seen in the picture it features a clickable link leading you to the page where this particular product can be purchased. This uses the form of facilitation to provide a service in selling a product aimed at the same audience as Amazon users. This is one-way social media platform are revolutionizing the advertising industry.

(Figure 4. – Screen shot of Instagram tap to buy feature.)

Another example is how companies such as NIKE and ADIDAS have started creating media that will feature solely on stories and not on the main page. These forms of media are seen for a 24hour period by anyone, however after this time period it is automatically removed and unattainable. This is seen by NIKE and their promotion for the new World Cup Jerseys, specifically Portugal. The image below shows a 16-page Instagram story dedicated to the release of the Portugal’s new World Cup jersey (fig 5.).

(Figure 5. – Instagram screen shot, (NIKEFOOTBALL), 2018.)

Each page displayed for 6 seconds showcasing the kit in very graphical and striking forms of digital art. Drawing inspiration from modern graphics design practice, looking at colour, type, visual hierarchy, layout and image while also using new forms of media such as GIFs. These piece after a 24-hour period will disappear and won’t be viewable again, these works won’t be seen on the story again, won’t be placed on the main page or used in any posts. Therefore, showing the importance social media platforms are. Therefore, this shows the importance of social media platforms in regard to the advertising industry, especially at NIKE, as they are designing specifically for the stories and being used nowhere else.

With these new renovations and features implemented into social media platforms and having cooperated worldwide companies using them as its own mean of advertising, I think that social media platforms are leading the advertising industry. “Social media advertising has come a long way in a relatively short period of time. When Facebook launched its first advertising option in May 2005, no one could have predicted that social media advertising revenue would be estimated to reach $8.4billion in 2015, just ten years later” (Ganguly & Ganguly, S. 2018). Online advertising is now the natural choice for businesses, with its potential to find potential clients by the users own shared information to identify interest leading the advertising straight to you and specifically for you.

Finally, and arguably one of the key points of why Instagram is used as a main platform by Nike is its constant innovation of new features such as stories, swipe to explore, tap to buy, IGTV and hashtags in Fig 6.


(Figure 6. screen shots of new features on Instagram.)

From the iconic swoosh logo to the ‘Just Do It’ slogan which is now part of pop culture, Nike is one of the most recognizable brands in the world. The retail juggernaut has moved beyond the domain of selling sportswear to branding themselves as a lifestyle. It should come as no surprise that Nike takes the cake on social media as well. Nike embraced digital before digital was even a norm. From football communities on social media to Nike+ Run Club app, the brand has adapted to digital age and has grown aggressively, connecting with consumers locally and globally.

Today, Nike is the 2nd most followed account, with 75.6m followers (a growth of 134% in under two years) They have the second highest number of followers after National Geographic, and currently boasts the 5th most-used branded hashtag, #nike.

With a total of 318 social media profiles catering to a plethora of products and locations. Nike is one of the most followed brands to this day online. The brand has profiles on all the biggest platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn. They expanded and diversified their social and online presence by creating individual pages for their products and sub brands catering to the variety of their target audiences.

Nike post a mix of content. From celebrity-endorsed, through to lifestyle-based performance shots. Using still imagery, animated imagery, and video to “define moments”. Nike launched the ‘Equality’ campaign during black history month in February. The highlight of the campaign was a 90 second video featuring a voiceover by actor Micheal B Jordon with the video showing Serena Williams and LeBron James. The campaign which debuted during the time of President Trumps immigration ban gained a lot of limelight.

Another way Nike have grown to the sportswear giant is through their approaches towards their target audience through a variety of strategies. I analyzed Nike’s primary and rapidly growing social media profile, Instagram. First, their emotive and motive language. The last decade proves that humans have become fearless and highly productive for both personal and professional gain. This may be because we have people like Serena Williams, Barak Obama and Oprah leading the way. This ideology and ethos is native to Nike, the brand uses this emotive motivation quite often in their posts, earning them up to 500,000 likes on such posts. Seen by figure 7.

(Figure 7. A screen shot of a post promoting the emotive and motive language.)

Another way Nike have thrived is by being one of the earliest supporters for women in sports.  The brand has dedicated numerous accounts to strong female athletes and non-athletes alike. The world around us is changing and Nike ensures your brand embraces it because chances are customers do not belong to one single gender with the inclusion, diversity and acceptance happening in the world.  seen by the Ad promotion featuring Chris Mosier, a duathlete and the first transgender athlete promoted by Nike and to qualify for the US Men’s national team. The ad ends with two powerful words that embody Mosier and his accomplishments: Unlimited courage.


Along with all this Nike also promote a diverse and cohesive lifestyle featuring a variety of colours, faiths and religions in their posts and products. Exampled perfectly in figure 8. with the Nike Pro Hijab.

(Figure 8. Image of Instagram’s NikeWomen promoting Nike Pro Hijab)

Nike are no strangers to taking topical events and adding the Nike’s twist on it. Take the below post, for “Skateboarding Day” (fig 10.)  Nike took a global celebration, all be it not the most popular of sports. They keep the context with their brand and created a ‘likeable’ image for their gallery, to both cater to the skating fans and Nike fans alike. A smart move by the marketing, there is no Nike logo except for the subtle swoosh on the child’s sole. Another topical relevance seen by Nike is their backing of American football player Colin Kaepernick. The quarterback was one of the first players to take the kneel during the National anthem, to protest racial injustice. He now is the face of Nike’s advertising campaign for the 30th anniversary of its “Just Do It” motto. This caused a lot of backlash from their audience yet still stuck to their guns, backing what they feel is right and the slogan “Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything” like fig 9.


(Figure 9. Kaepernick just do it campaign.)

(Figure 10. Screen shot of Instagram page for Nike on skateboarding day.)

Finally, and most importantly the way Nike are leading the advertising industry is through social media collaborations, featuring pages and celebrity endorsements. With Instagram, you want to remember: “we’re all in this together” – reward customers who have their own accounts by sharing their photographs. Not only will it give you something to share but it’ll earn brand loyalty. Another way Nike promotes other account is through celebrity endorsements take the best celebrities using the social pages managing the content to promote their brand in order to get their followers to invest in Nike products. This use of celebrity endorsement is to gain features, followers and up sales on particular products.

One of the earliest markets for brand influencers were the beauty industry, who first considered it as a valid channel. Another strategy born out of the beauty industry is one where brands are using influencers who aren’t actually beauty focused. As seen by Superdrug when they ran a campaign for their B. Makeup range which is completely vegan and cruelty free. They sought to include influencers who are specifically known for their vegan lifestyle such as Georgie Aldous. “A devout vegan, Georgie, with his turquoise hair, sums up B.’s inclusive ‘be who you are’ vibe perfectly and shows that it’s a-OK for men to wear makeup.” A direct example is seen primarily by Cristiano Ronaldo’s personal Instagram account where he promotes Nike products only, whether it be his clothing, football boots or lifestyle. He even has direct links to Nikes website promoting their products. In 2016 alone, Ronaldo generated almost half a billion dollars in media value for his main sponsor, Nike. According to hookit, which measures social media and digital media values for brands, his over 1,700 posts across social media generated 2.25billion interactions (likes, comments, shares, retweets and views). Nike’s logo features in 347 of these posts, resulting in 477 million interactions worth an estimated $499.6m. In figure xi below its seen from a screen shot of Ronaldo’s Instagram how the Nike Logo features in 11 of the 15 of images in grid in figure 11. Even if the image is promoting his own fragrance (CR7), a footballing cause (DAZN) or even just a generic work out images the Nike logo features in some form to another.

(Figure 11. A screen shot of Ronaldo’s Instagram featuring a range of images)

Influencers marketing today originated from generic celebrity product placements. It is very different today and has proved to be more effective than digital ads, which are increasingly filtered by ad blockers. “According to DigiDay, $570m was spent in 2016 on influencer marketing on Instagram alone, and this is expected to grow faster than digital adspend. Digital marketing itself is expected to overshadow traditional television as the biggest area of marketing spend as access to affordable, broadband internet reaches more people. The drop in traditional television viewing, particularly in the 18-24 age group, means fewer opportunities for brands to reach their audiences in mass media” (http://www.bizcommunity.com/Article/196/82/174373.html). Previously media owners would use the editors of their owner or operated sites as influencers to create branded content. There is now a significant demand for the use of a wide rand of independent influencers who are eager and passionate about branded content. The more influencers delivering specific and creative content, the strong the impact, and in turn, the results for marketers.

A major factor making influencers marketing so desirable in word-of-mouth. People are generally more likely to trust a firm recommendation from a friend. The power influencers have is they carry the “digital word-of-mouth” to millions of their follower almost instantly through posts and interactions on social media “Mainstream companies are figuring out that influencers drive brands. With social media and how polarizing individuals are with the social media followings they are able to amass, influencers are brands.” (Mathew Haug, The Eavesdrop podcast Ep 3, 44:50.)

A direct example of how an influencer helped Nike improve sales is Tiger Woods. “We determine that from 2000 to 2010, the Nike golf ball division reaped an additional profit of $103 million through the acquisition of 9.9 million in sales from Tiger Woods’ endorsement effect. Moreover, having Tiger Woods’ endorsement led to a price premium of roughly 2.5%. As a result, approximately 57% of Nike’s investment in Woods’ $181 million endorsement deal was recovered just in U.S. golf ball sales alone.” (Pubsonline.informs.org. (2018). Economic Value of Celebrity Endorsements: Tiger Woods’ Impact on Sales of Nike Golf Balls | Marketing Science. [online] Available at: https://pubsonline.informs.org/doi/abs/10.1287/mksc.1120.0760 [Accessed 8 Oct. 2018]).

Nike’s partnerships with high profile celebrities is reflected in the mentions they receive on Twitter. Nike’s top 10 influencer mentions include the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar Jr and Kevin Hart who also are among the top 50 most followed accounts in Twitter. Along with partnering with celebrities, they also team up with lesser known icons to appeal to the average person. A key example is the “Find Your Greatness” campaign. In a throwback to the original “Just Do It” ad, Nike’s highly acclaimed “Find Your Greatness: Jogger” spot again played up the solitary runner pushing himself to the limit.

In it, an overweight boy trudges up along a remote road. As he jogs, a voiceover explains that “Greatness is no more unique to us than breathing. We’re all capable of it.

You can have all the celebrity endorsers you want, but sometimes appealing to the average person trying to get in shape is just as effective (fig 12.). Alongside this ad they tend to also feature personal pages on their Instagram of people who reflect the same values seen in their own brand (fig 13.)

(Figure 12. Find your greatness billboard poster.)

(Figure 13. Screen shot of Nike featuring another page.)

Points to still be made:

• Nike as well as using features and new innovations to attract their audience they use a whole new aspect to create a fan base.

• Point to maybe include about Instagram and how grid layouts are key way to gain awareness and customer appreciation seen in profiles like Lidl, Kat von D, Jaden smith

• Trip to the archive to get first images of early advertising

Conclusion structure: needs work yet

Nike uses new features on social media – instagram tap to buy

Specifies their audience in to groups through pages to get localized and focused information to keep them interested – pages like nike football and nike women to localize the audience

Special language to gauge audience – emotive and motive language

Promoting certain groups and campaigns – backing kaepenicky for taking the kneel during the anthem

Celebrity endorsements both sporting related to the company but also humanitarian – links above with kaepenicky

Original forms of promotion seen in early advertising – feature a person not the product like Cadbury

Find Your Greatness (2012) runner instead of the running equiptment

Yes, they are leading the advertising industry because of all the above!!!

Nike’s social media strategy and its effectiveness can be seen in the sheer number of followers the brand has, proving how they are leading the advertising industry through social media. Instagram is a visual medium and you have to excite people with the content you are producing with interesting imagery. Visual imagery is key, dull and boring images tend not to get shared, look at how stock photos seem to be dying out. Specially with how easy it is to go out and take an exciting photo of your environment, team and products, it’s about brand identity, showing stunning content and that Nike lifestyle. They also advertise the right way. While focusing on products as well as the lifestyle that is associated with it. They make you want to go out and be active. Likewise, Nike focus on telling stories that resonate with their audience’s goals, lifestyle and dreams. They true done with posts that celebrate positivity, motivation and empowerment to make for emotional branding. They never leave a stone unturned ranging from sporting issues to humanitarian causes right the way to the average person. They don’t believe in crowding their social media platforms with posts. Much of Nike’s success can be attributed to its sponsorships and deals with the greatest names in professional sports. They are similarly innovating not just with their products but by using the newest features seen by their use of Instagram and the plethora of features they have like IGTV, tap to buy, stories, grid layouts and swipe up links.

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