The Structures and Techniques of Television Advertisement


Advertisers use a huge variety of techniques when creating their promotional material in order for them to be as successful as possible. These are advertising conventions, which reflect the many specific needs of certain consumers. The theory behind it is that as an advertiser ticks off appropriate conventions and techniques when creating an advert, they will get closer to what their target audience want to hear. Not only does this influence the decision of the target market, persuading them, it also gives them a feeling of belonging to the brand, as the advert is tailored to suit them. Before these conventions can be put in place, the advertisers must identify and classify their target audience.

Audience categorisation methods are ways of classifying consumers who want the product in question. It’s very important for advertisers to classify an audience in order to gain a target market as it gives them a bar in which to produce the advertisement to. For example, if an expensive car company wanted the most effective audience to target the advert towards, they wouldn’t aim the promotional material towards a lower-salary audience. The reason targeting is used is to ensure the company have an effective advert, which pulls in the correct consumer-base in order to maximize impact and increase sales.

  • Demographics, such as age and gender are very common and expected ways of classifying an audience. Advertisers may be attracted to start the process of classification with these methods, as it gives a general view of the target audience, which can later be narrowed down to further specifics. For example, a women’s product is most likely to be more effective when marketed towards women, or household products, like cleaning supplies, are most likely to be more effective when marketed towards adults than children.
  • Standard Occupational Classification is classifying an audience by their profession and social grade. This method sieves an audience, essentially, by how much money they hold, for example, expensive products would market towards wealthy audiences. Most companies would refer to social grades of a household, A,B,C1,C1,D,E. This is known as Socio-Economic Classification.
  • Psychographics are an effective method of audience classification also, as they allow companies to market directly towards the interests of the consumers. Psychographic classification separates audiences by their interests and mindset, meaning targeting the audience becomes more personal, in comparison to by age or earnings. Originally, psychographics were mapped in a hierarchy of needs, created by Abraham Maslow.
    After Maslow’s research, Young and Rubicam created their own hierarchy of needs, and divided consumers into different psychographic sections. Theoretically, every person fits into the following 7 social groups which correspond to a specific need in life. This is the Cross Cultural Consumer Characterisation, or the 4 Cs.

    • The Explorer – Need for Discovery – New or crazy products would be marketed towards the explorer.
    • The Aspirer – Need for Status – Posh, impressive or expensive products would be marketed towards the aspirer.
    • The Succeeder – Need for Control – Similar to the aspirer, except these products are bought more as a reward for their hard work.
    • The Reformer – Need for Enlightenment – Authentic, interesting products are marketed towards the reformer.
    • The Mainstream – Need for Security – Popular, reliable brands are marketed towards the mainstream.
    • The Struggler – Need for Escape – Products which seek to improve lives are more marketed towards the struggler.
    • The Resigned – Need to Survive – Familiar brands, or the brands they personally are familiar with are what they seek, making them, arguably the hardest audience to market to.
  • Geodemographical Classification is classification based on location. If a person lives in a more wealthy area, more expensive products may be marketed there. Also, if products are more popular in certain areas they would be marketed more towards said areas.

Example 1

Smirnoff: The Apple Bite
This advertisement is very stylish and modern, introducing the idea that this isn’t necessarily just a drink to get drunk with, as some perceive Smirnoff to be on some occasions, and it is more a posh, rewarding drink that is to be had with a meal or on a posh night out – deviating from their familiar brand. This instantaneously sets the bar that this product is aiming for a more upper class, wealthier audience. The imagery used in the ad is very surreal and strange, along with twitching visuals and peculiar effects, which convey the idea that the drink itself is an odd, interesting experience. This reflects what Young and Rubicam suggested about ‘The Explorer‘ in their 4 Cs. The explorer’s market is a market in which anything funky and new could interest them. The combination of the drink and its promotional material help to really emphasise that this is the product for the explorer. Likewise, going off the base of the previous point, the succeeder may be drawn towards the product due to the posh, reward aspect of the advertisement, as if its saying “Go on treat yourself” (with its biblical theme mimicking Adam and Eve, particularly with the snake being the bartender). It’s clear that these groups are the market that the company are attempting sell to and not, say, the Struggler, which would be searching for a stronger, more bog standard drink, without all the intrigue that the dark, modern theme conveys.

Example 2

Go Compare is an infamous example of a company falling down onto a convention and becoming hugely successful because of it. Due to the boringness of finding car insurance and the other services GoCompare provide, this cannot be reflected in an advert, i.e – It would be tedious to watch. That is why GoCompare fell back on the technique of character creation. This is where the advertisers create a character who is funny, memorable or relatable in order to catch the viewers interest and help sell the product. Gio Compario, as he is called, is the character that came as a result. The song he sings is catchy and memorable, whilst explaining what GoCompare is. When an advertiser uses a catchy song and character, they are attempting a viral, comedy marketing scheme, as opposed to an informative and educational one. They are persuading the audience by using such a silly theme tune and pushing the name into the viewers’ heads. Because of its obnoxiousness, everybody knows who and what the Go Compare man is and can probably recite the lyrics of “Go Compare!”. This is exactly the tactic of the advertiser. The lyrics present a tone for people like the the Struggler, as they push the idea that “you can save a pretty penny” or “save your spondoliks”. The idea that the advertisement is clearly pushing to a struggler is bolstered by the informality of the advert and in-your-face nature of the ad, not to mention the fact that this advert was plastered all over daytime television hinting that the target audience for the ad is unemployed/lower salary members of the public, that need their money elsewhere than car insurance. The slogan “You can thank your stars that you went to GoCompare!” only emphasises this point.

It could also be interpreted that this ad is somewhat aimed towards the Succeeder, giving off the idea that you should get a bargain and save your well earned money for other things, like overly expensive coffee. It is very much implied that the two guys are successful individuals. You could also interpret that this ad is meant to push the company into the mainstream, as at the point of the ad they were trying to set up a bigger brand than they had, by emphasising just how great it is, as if its been a household name all the time. Following this advertising scheme, we can see that the brand has now dipped into the mainstream, with the lyrics infecting near enough anyone from any age group, sex or profession.

Example 3

The Sony Bravia advert ‘Paint’ is a classic example of an advert breaking the norm and showing off. At this point, Sony is such a big company that it’s somewhat doubtful that one hasn’t heard of it, so Sony no longer has to make the big push to give as much information about their products as possible. That’s when experimental adverts arrive, like this one. This advert is basically just an over-the-top method of saying ‘Sony TVs are the best’. The words “Colour like no other” and the TV’s branding popping up at the end of the ad pushes the idea that Sony TVs are powerful, by making the impression that nothing even comes close to Sony’s design. Firstly, this marketing, implying that it’s the best of the best, would intrigue both the Aspirer and the Succeeder of Y&R’s 4Cs and it’s obvious that these are the main target audiences of this ad, at least from the branding, expressing the impressiveness of this gadget. That being said, the ad is a very intriguing style of ad. We can see that due to the abstract nature of paint fireworks that Sony are pushing their familiar brand out of the mainstream and towards the Explorer. Not many adverts follow the ‘interesting’ code like this one, yet they are clearly effective due to the impact they give. Sony are trying to push into the abstract theme in order to grasp people who want exciting things, like the aforementioned but also the Reformer, to some extent. There is no doubt that this advert is marketed towards the more upper class members of society, or at least not marketed towards lower wage members, despite the ‘cheap but good’ image that Sony is famous for.

Advertisers measure audiences in order to find out the most effective times and places for their advertisements to be optimal at grasping consumers. Audience measurement is a method of finding who watches the ads, when do they watch them and how many people watch them.

BARB, the Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board, use board members’ television information to match people to their programme and channel, to check the data analytics and ratings of a show/channel. They use a box which monitors audio from a television to work out which programme is being watched (which is later matched to a channel) in the household, which a remote to choose who is watching – whether they be male, female, child, teen, adult etc. This is similar to other companies, called television research agencies, which work with audience measurement panels, who also track the amount of people in an audience. This data is then all compiled and released as statistics for channels, TV show producers and advertisers to use. Advertisers can then find prime spots for their ads, in order to maximize exposure to their audience, for example:
– Foxy Bingo, a bingo website with ‘jackpots to be won’ sponsors a lot of daytime television, including ‘The Jeremy Kyle Show’. If a product, like Foxy Bingo, generally is marketing towards, what Y&R’s 4cs call ‘The Struggler‘, then they will check the figures for who’s watching what, trying to find unemployed/lower wage people, who will be more attracted to bingo, as they would hope to win money as a release from their lack of it. Daytime television shows, especially well renowned ones, like ‘Jeremy Kyle’, would be prime time for this, as a huge amount of people watch the show live, and if they’re watching daytime television, then they aren’t working the standard hours – implying unemployment. This means that Foxy Bingo has bigger exposure to potential consumers in their target market, due to the 2 million+ (as of 2009) viewers of ‘Jeremy Kyle’. Without the figures of viewers from BARB and other Audience Research Panels, Foxy Bingo might have placed their ad elsewhere on television and lose out on potential consumers. Likewise, if Foxy Bingo would ask focus groups on which Daytime TV show is their favourite, they would probably find ‘Jeremy Kyle’ towards the top of the list. Foxy Bingo then start thinking that these shows are an ideal place for their advertisements.

Somewhat similarly, ThinkBox uncovers trends in the media industry, giving insights on audience engagements with advertisements and how to further improve advertising to suit the needs of the current generation. They help measure audiences by monitoring fluctuations in viewership giving extensive knowledge to advertising companies on how to improve their ads.

Other methods of audience measurement are questionnaires and focus groups. This involves direct communication with an audience, either through giving them a survey or talking to them. These methods don’t give statistics but opinions, i.e – it’s not representative of an entire population of viewers, which these statistics could show. These methods are effective at seeing types of audiences, what they watch and what ads would appeal to them, as opposed to ratings and analytics. Face-to-face interviews, whether with public members of focus groups are effective at finding what channels a person watches and ads that have grasped them. This can then be conveyed to the advertising agency to find spots on TV that reflect data pulled from interviews. Questionnaires give the same data, except less data could be collected due to people not bothering to fill in the survey. Surveys can get a lot more concise and easily-collectible data. Although effective, these don’t give representative figures that span across a whole audience.


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