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What is Advertising? Importance and Types of Advertising

Maurice Mandel notes that of all business activities, none probably is better known, more widely discussed or more highly criticized by the public than advertising. According to him, the reason is simple and straightforward: Advertising has become the spokesman for business. No doubt, Mandel actually hit the nail on the head!

In view of its nature, advertising could be likened to a game where every player, and even non-players, claim expertise. This is probably responsible for “the so many definitions” of advertising, issuing from both players and non-players. Again, the reason for this is not far-fetched. Advertisements are found virtually everywhere and they are multiplying all the more: in newspapers and magazines; in textbooks and other sundry publications; in mailboxes, on cars, buses, trucks and even motorbikes; on wallpapers, doors and windows; on the Internet; on packages; on T-shirts – you name it! Ads come in many forms, contents, shapes and sizes. They are ubiquitous and it is this ubiquity that has pitchforked advertising into the definitional fray. Perhaps the best way to disentangle advertising from this fray is to look at some definitions that would help us to answer the question;

What is Advertising? Importance and Types of Advertising 1


Some definitions of advertising is…

(a)”any paid form of non-personal communication about an organization, product, service, or idea by an identified sponsor.” (American Marketing Association)

(b) any form of non-personal presentation and promotion of ideas, goods, and services usually paid for by an identified sponsor.” (Dominick, 2005)

(c) the printed, written, spoken or pictured representation of a person, product, service or movement, openly sponsored by the advertiser and at his
expense, for the purpose of influencing sales, use, votes or endorsement (Advertising Age).

d) Non-personal communication directed at a target audience through various
media in order to present and promote products, services and idea. The cost of media space, time and advertisement production is borne by the sponsor or sponsors” (G.B. Giles, 1976).

e) “the impersonal communication of usually paid for and identified with sponsors through the media. (Bovee and Arens, 1982)

(f) “According to IE Nwosu in 1994, advertising can be defined as any paid form of non-personal presentation and promotion of institutions, ideas, goods or services by an identified sponsor using appropriate medium or media of communication.”

(g) ” The Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON) defines advertising as a form of communication through media about products, services or idea paid for by an identified sponsor.”

Going by these definitions, we can now answer the question, “what is advertising? as “any persuasive communication by an identified sponsor, through the aimed at selling an idea, product, or service to a target audience”.

Following these definitions and explanations also, we can say that advertising a do with “telling and selling” i.e. telling people about something and selling something to them. That something could be a product, an idea, a service, and even a movement. (See


From the above definitions, we can glean some features such as “non-personal” ‘identified sponsor”, “communication”, “media”, “influencing” and “persuasion”. Let us look at these features, one after the other.

Non-personal Advertising

Advertising is said to be non-personal because “in the great majority of cases, the seller does not see or meet the potential customers or clients-who are often called ‘prospects’ – or even see or meet established customers or clients. It is impossible for large-scale sellers, in particular, to send sales personnel to everybody who might buy their products. Instead, they use advertising to carry their sales messages’ to possibly large numbers of
potential and established customers or clients at the same time.”

Identified Sponsor

This refers to the person or the organization that is paying for the advertising i.e. the advertiser. In some cases, the name of the sponsor is mentioned the advertisement.

Some ads however carry the brand name instead of the sponsor’s name, in some ads, both the name of the sponsor as well as the brand name are stated.


This is the act of conveying a message or passing on information or transmitting an idea from source (encoder) to destination (decoder). Advertising seeks to deliver a message about a product, idea, service, etc. to the target audience. In advertising, communication is used to bridge the gap between sellers and buyers. For communication to take place, five elements must be at work i.e. the sender, the message, the medium, the receiver and the feedback (action). (See Noughton, Asemota and Alao, 1998)


Media (singular: medium) refer to the channels of communication (e.g. newspapers, magazines, radio, television, Internet, etc.) which are used by advertisers to convey their messages to the target market. The success of modern advertising is largely based on the effective, efficient and strategic use of the media. In advertising, the McLuhanian dictum ‘The medium is the message” occupies a very important position. This is because “the medium helps in great measure to carve out a particular image for the advertised
product, in addition to just singing the wants-satisfying qualities of that product” (Okoro, 1998). In the media, we “place” or “insert” adverts or ads (abbreviated forms of advertisements) to deliver ad messages to potential and established customers/clients.

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These refer to the art of getting people to “do something which they might otherwise have had no intention of doing, or were unaware that they could do, or did because they were prompted or influenced to take the action.” (See The mandate of advertising in essence is to influence and persuade the target market to buy something (marketing) or not to buy something (demarketing).

This brings forth the question:

Why is Advertising So Important?

The modern commercial world would be dead in the absence of advertising. When we talk about the importance of advertising, we look at the issue from three angles, namely: the advertiser, the consumer and the media. Advertising enables the advertiser to sell his wares and also provides the consumer with relevant information and knowledge about different products and services which are available for use. Advertising creates the necessary atmosphere for competition which, in turn, promotes product/service quality. In large measure, advertising sustains the media.

This tri-focal contribution is summarized thus:
Effective advertising can increase the sale of advertisers’ products, and by doing so increase their profits. But at the same time increased sales can benefit consumers too. That is because the sale of goods in large quantities frequently creates the need to “mass produce” them. Mass production tends to reduce costs, which reduces the
prices which consumers need to pay for their products, which tends to increase sales – which in turn leads to larger scale production, and so on.

Then, too, increased consumer demand encourages manufacturers to in research to produce new and improved products, in an attempt to retain customers and to secure new ones. It must not be overlooked that advertising benefits the media in which or on which advertisements appear. The sums advertisements can ‘defray’- contribute towards the payment of – large pro of the costs of publishing newspapers, magazines and periodicals, and the cost of producing and transmitting radio and television programmes, etc.

Outside these benefits, advertising makes a unique contribution to national image. Way back in 1917, Norman Douglas quipped that “You can tell the ideals of a nation by its advertisements.” By creating and promoting what is fashionable and beautiful, advertising exerts a powerful impact on determining the standard of national beauty in various cultures. In doing so, advertising constitutes a health check mechanism for national health and economy. In the light of this relevance, let us now take a look at the types of advertising.


Advertising could be likened to a tree with many branches. These branches form what we refer to as advertising types.

  1. Product Advertising
  2. Corporate Advertising
  3. Public service Advertising
  4. Political Advertising
  5. Charity Advertising
  6. National Advertising
  7. Advocacy Advertising
  8. Trade Advertising
  9. International Advertising

Let us now examine the above one after the other.

1) Product Advertising

This type provides information about goods and services and is aimed at stimulating sales. Specifically, product advertising is used to:

  • Introduce or herald new products into the market. The idea is to get the consumer to buy and try the product. This is done to attract the attention of the consumer to the availability of a new product. In this vein, advertising aims at arousing the interest of the consumer in the new product.
  • Retain customers of established products or brands. Here advertising is used as a reminding strategy. Such strategy helps to ward off competition and prevent consumers from switching brands.
  • Maintain and increase sales.
  • Elongate the season for a product by lengthening the demand period for the product. The strategy of persistence is used in this regard.
  • Reach a different segment of consumers. An example is that of Nigerian Breweries Plc, which introduced Amstel Malt to cater for a different group of customers who want a malt drink which is low in sugari.e. which is not as sugary as Maltina”.
  • Support the efforts of the sales personnel. Personal selling is made easier when consumers become aware of the existence or availability of a product via advertising. Such “introduction prepares the consumers to be “more receptive to the persuasion of the sales personnel”.
  • Market Penetration: This strategy is used to “break into” a market territory which is already occupied by competition. The advertising strategy which is usually used in this regard is what is known as “market education” – a prior public relations activity aimed at showcasing the goodness of the “new product”.
  • Introduce a new Business: A new improved product or a new outlet to a locality or a community. The strategy here is to use local campaigns to inform consumers and prospective consumers that a new outlet of the business has been opened in the area or the vicinity. Such advertising can also “announce” the availability of a new improved version of an existing product and persuade consumers to “buy and try”.
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Local advertising attempts to induce people to go to a local store or business to buy a product or service, whether it be a new Toyota truck, a gallon of milk, or a travel agent’s services. These ads announce the product or service and its price, and tell consumers where they can buy it. The local ad is also looking for immediate, direct action. Thus, a direct action message is designed to get consumers to purchase a product or engage in a behaviour. For example: “Hurry down, these prices won’t last, buy today!”

However, It is important you note the following:

  • Some product advertising is intended to produce a quick response, to stimulate a quick sale. It is often called direct response or direct-action advertising. The desired objective might be achieved by including – in advertisements – a coupon with an “expiry date”, or an order form to be mailed in by a specified date, and so on. Consumers can respond to the advertisements by telephone, fax or post/mail, and products ordered are delivered directly to customers by post or courier.
  • Another type of product advertising is designed to stimulate demand over a longer period of time; and is called indirect action advertising. Advertisements designed for use in this way are intended to inform
    prospects of the existence of products, and of their features and benefits, where and how they can be purchased, to remind customers to repurchase-and to “reinforce” that decision.
  • Some product advertising is called primary advertising. It attempts to stimulate sales of a general or generic type of product, rather than any specific brand(s). When primary advertising is carried out, typically it “sets the stage” for the selective advertising which will follow or accompany it.
  • What is often called selective advertising is designed to promote sales of a specific brand. The primary advertising would, it is hoped, have aroused interest generally and thereby enhance the effectiveness of selective advertising.

kinds of Product Advertising

Product advertising is of many kinds. Let us look at some of them:

(a) National Consumer Advertising:

This is also known as brand advertising, this form of advertising is designed to build demand for a nationally available product or service does not send consumers out to a particular store to buy Pepsi, a movie video, or a bag of cat food. National advertising assumes that consumer knows where to buy the product or service and can be told in a local ad where and how to do so” (Hanson, 2005). Usually, the product service is available in several outlets across the country. For instance, product (e.g. Diet Coke) might be on sale in cafes, restaurants, bars, shops, supermarkets, kiosks, etc, in various parts of the country.

(b) Retail Advertising

This is local in scope and aimed at attracting customers to specific stores or outlets, to buy those products that have be advertised nationally. For example, the manufacturer of a brand of salt might advertise it nationally while local stores might advertise same to direct local consumers to the specific outlets where the salt can be bought. Such ads are often called local advertising.

(c) Co-operative Advertising:

This is an advertising arrangement where the cost of advertising is borne by the manufacturer and the retailer. “Generally an advertisement is produced by the manufacturer, and the names of the retailer(s) are inserted in it. The same basic advertisement might appear in media in a number of areas of a country, but the ‘copy’ appearing in a particular area might bear only the names of the ‘local’ retailer(s) in that specific area.

(d) Industrial Advertising:

This is “designed to sell products used in the production of other goods. It is directed at a specialized and limited audience” Products usually advertised are raw materials and industrial components. For example, a beer manufacturer would need to buy hops and barley, and other materials used in beer brewing.

(e) Business-to-Business Advertising:

This is also known as trade advertising. This type of advertising is directed at people in specific trades or industries, such as wholesalers, retailers, manufacturers or distributors; and specific professions like medical doctors, lawyers, engineers, pharmacists, architects, quantity surveyors, and so on. Such advertisement is routed through trade magazines and journals.

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(f) Guide or Directory Advertising:

This refers to ads that are placed in special publications like local/national directories. The “yellow pages” directory a good example of this advertising category. Others include tourist/hotel guides.

Having looked at some kinds of product advertising, let us now continue with the various types of advertising;

2. Corporate Advertising

This is also known as institutional advertising. This type of advertising is aimed at projecting a favourable or positive image of an organization or a company. The idea is to attract and sustain public goodwill and acceptance, as well as maintain and enhance organizational or company reputation. Such advertising is also designed to cancel unfavourable or negative public image about a company or occasioned by bad publicity as a result of industrial action staff lay off and restore public confidence and trust in the company and its product
rate or institutional advertising is also aimed at projecting a corporate identity for a company which will gain public recognition for the company and fix the company’s cluster of value satisfactions in public mind. Such advertising is also designed to “win the public over to the company’s point of view, as well as gain public support or approval of its policies and programmes.

Corporate advertising does not aim at selling a company’s product directly. It aims at selling ‘the name, reputation, image or point of view of a company or an organization. Such favourable image presentation, however, persuades the public to ‘do business with the company, rather than its competitors and this translates into product sale and business success!

3) Public Service Advertising

This type of advertising crusades for good causes which are in the public interest. Such campaigns could be about environmental protection, wildlife conservation, afforestation, energy conservation, anti-drunk driving, health risks reduction such as STOP AIDS, USE CONDOM or SAY NO TO SMOKING. Campaigns could also
centre on good governance, and responsible voting behaviour (RVB) such as ONE MAN, ONE VOTE! ONE WOMAN, ONE VOTE!

4) Political Advertising

This type of advertising is used by politicians to persuade the electorate to vote for them and their political parties. Political advertising has become an important feature of the political process in many democracies. A good political advertising aims at selling a product (a candidate) to the target audience (electorate).

5) Charity Advertising

Charity organizations and other types of non-profit making outfits, such as NGOs, advertise to encourage public spirited individuals and organizations to donate “for good work”. Such projects include upkeep of motherless babies homes, old people’s homes, the physically challenged, tuberculosis (TB) colonies and such other quarantines. Such advertising is also used to drum up support for victims of natural disasters such as floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, famine, and even man-made catastrophes like civil wars and ethnic/religious conflicts/crises. Such advertising is usually sponsored, or co-sponsored by business enterprises, religious bodies and/or government agencies.

6) National Advertising

National advertising is designed to build demand for a nationally available product service but does not direct consumers to a particular store or outlet to buy + product or service. “National advertising assumes that the consumer knows when to buy the product or service and can be told in a local advertising where and how to
do so”

7) Advocacy Advertising

Advocacy advertising aims at promoting a particular point of view rather than a product or service. An example is the anti-smoking campaign aimed at advocating a smoke-free environment.

8) Trade Advertising

This is a business-to-business communication which attempts at promoting products directly to other business concerns, rather than to the consumer market. Such advertisements are placed in trade magazines and business-oriented media.

9) International Advertising

This refers to advertising across international borders. International advertising campaigns today are becoming more common for global products like Coca-Cola and McDonald’s, and this has meant the creation of international advertising.

This brings us to the conclusion on the definition of advertising, the features and types of advertising as well as the importance of advertising in the survival of business, brand, politics and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

Based on this article, you should be able to answer questions

i) Distinguish between advertising and publicity

ii) Make a case for advertising in the modern commercial world

III) Write briefly on the following;

  • Product advertising
  • Corporate advertising
  • Public service advertising
  • Political advertising
  • Charity advertising

iv) List the importance of advertising to a growing and established corporate organization or establishment.

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