The Ultimate Guide to Advertising in 2021

What do you think of when you hear the word advertising?

Are you thinking of banner ads on your favorite website? Those fun Super Bowl commercials? The billboards along the motorway or posters in the subway stations?

While most of us have a pretty good idea of ​​what advertising looks like, we often struggle to pinpoint exactly what it means – and how to do it well.

From the press to pop-up ads, advertising has certainly changed over time. Even so, the need for advertising hasn’t changed, nor have the techniques and best practices that make for quality advertising. We’ll cover that in this guide.

What is advertising?

Advertising creates messages to persuade and motivate someone to act.

Good advertising should be extremely influential, memorable, and sometimes risky. But how does advertising actually work?

How does advertising work?

Advertising works by breaking through the clutter and noise of everyday life, disturbing the viewer’s attention and demanding focus.

Depending on the goals of your advertising campaign, advertising can be used in a number of ways for your business:

  • To increase the awareness of your brand

  • To win potential customers for your company

  • Sales promotion for new and existing products

  • Introduction of a new product or service on the market

  • To differentiate your product from your competitors “

Advertising can also be carried out in a number of ways. Radio advertisements, billboards, branded T-shirts, and social media endorsements are considered advertisements – as we will discuss later in this guide.

What are advertisers?

Advertisers are the people in a company who are responsible for promoting a product or service. “Advertiser” may also refer to a company or organization that pays to advertise on a billboard, in a magazine, or through a website or mobile application.

All advertisers are marketers, but not all marketers are advertisers. Let’s take a closer look at the differences between advertising and marketing.

Advertising vs. Marketing

Marketing is the big picture of how a company aims to increase brand awareness and persuade customers to buy. Advertising communicates the compelling messages around these general goals.

Advertising is a subset of marketing. This is the umbrella term for communicating with your audience.

Marketing encompasses a number of different channels such as social media, email marketing, public relations, SEO, and paid advertising.

Alternatively, advertising is just one component of marketing.

A company’s overall marketing strategy usually includes an advertising plan. The promotional portion magnifies the specific process of creating and posting the compelling news to get customers to act.

A brief history of advertising

Advertising is one of the oldest lines of business, aside from currency and trade. As soon as products and services emerged, it was also necessary to make them known.

The oldest confirmed advertisement dates back to 3,000 BC. Technically, it was a print ad from ancient Egypt promoting the capture and return of an escaped slave.

The ad also mentioned the slave owner’s shop – a carpet shop – which also advertised his shop front. The slave was never caught, but the carpet owner discovered a brand new way to generate traffic: advertising.

Let’s fast forward about 4,000 years. Here’s a quick look at the past five centuries of advertising:

1472: The first billboard advertising is placed on the church doors in London.

1650: The first newspaper advertisement – a reward for 12 stolen horses – is published. (What about those reward-based ads?)

1704: The Boston News Letter encourages readers to place advertisements in its newspaper.

1870: The Powers style of ad copy is born. That style was impressive – it was short, to the point, honest, and persuasive. Powers said the focus should be on why the consumer should buy your product or service – a message that is still resonating today for good reason.

1880: Postcards are becoming one of the hottest new ways to reach customers.

1902: Unilever creates “longest client-agency relationship in advertising history” when it hires the J. Walter Thompson Company to promote its lifebuoy soap.

Advertising story unilever lifebuoy soap

1902: Mellins Food advertises its brand on 25 airship flights, making it the first brand to pursue this approach.

Promotional story of Mellin's airship

1904: Campbell’s Kids are created to control the change in advertising focus from a single ad to an entire campaign.

Promotional story Campbell's kids campaign

1922: Radio advertising is born and companies buy 10 minutes for $ 100. Two years later, brands would increase their investment by sponsoring an entire radio show, a concept that would eventually become known as “sponsored content.”

1925: Advertisers begin to address emotions and focus on the joy customers would get from their product or service. This old Ford ad illustrates this perfectly.

Advertising story ford

1975: VCRs are being introduced and consumers are starting to record programs and are therefore skipping advertisements.

1990: Computers are becoming increasingly popular and accessible in the home. Over 5 million households are connected to the Internet.

1994: The first email spam campaign is started. Banner advertising will also be introduced.

1995: Search engines like Yahoo! and Alta Vista are born. Ask Jeeves and Google would follow in 1997 and 1998, respectively.

2005: YouTube and Facebook (only for students) are started.

2008: Brands are beginning to realize the importance of an online presence to their potential customers. Procter and Gamble control the concept of the content hub with

Promotional story Procter Gamble Content Hub Beinggirl

2012: Online videos reach almost 170 million viewers.

2013: Websites like Pinterest and Instagram are joining the social network scene.

2020: Advertising is increasing on digital platforms like social media, podcasts, pay-per-click (PPC) and more. Customer data plays a bigger role in ad targeting and retargeting. Finally, a rapid increase in mobile devices leads to an increase in mobile ads and SMS marketing.

History teaches us that advertising is a constantly changing concept, just like shopping habits and how and where consumers spend their time.

While postcards were the newest form of advertising almost 140 years ago, brands today are building chatbots for Facebook Messenger and integrating artificial intelligence into their marketing and sales platforms.

Things are moving fast in the advertising world. Now let’s take a look at how advertising methods have changed and what marketers and advertisers are using today.

Advertising methods

  1. Print advertising
  2. Public transport billboards and advertisements
  3. Television commercials
  4. radio
  5. Event advertising
  6. Direct mail
  7. Digital advertising

Advertising can look like many different things. Here are the various formats and channels that advertisers have used over the years.

1. Print advertising

Print advertising refers to posters, bulletins, flyers, and other physically printed promotions. It also applies to newspaper and magazine ads.

The way we design and consume print advertising has changed over the years, but it has been an unwavering advertising vehicle – especially as digital advertising evolves (which we will discuss next).

In contrast to digital media, print advertising cannot be tracked and analyzed as clearly. Fortunately, brands have found great ways to incorporate print advertising into wider digital campaigns.

2. Billboards and advertisements for public transport

Billboard advertising includes print advertising on a much larger scale. Because of their size, the design, placement, and cost of advertisements on billboards and public transport differ from typical print advertising.

For example, billboards are typically designed with few to no words so viewers have time to process the message as they pass by in a car or train. These ads are also used for brand awareness so they usually only have a brand name or phone number (compared to a website).

3. Television advertising

Television commercials are short-term advertisements developed and paid for by companies and organizations that want to target the audience of a television show or network program. Television advertising has been around since the invention of television, and it has changed drastically since then with the birth of streaming television.

TV advertising has a wide reach (millions) and offers viewers a multi-sensory advertising experience – something that print ads and some digital ads just can’t quite do. Alternatively, television commercials are expensive, avoidable for your audience, and difficult to target as accurately as other channels.

4. Radio

Radio advertising refers to spoken commercials that are broadcast on radio stations between music and other programs. This method dates back to 1920 when commercial radio was first broadcast.

Radio advertising is particularly powerful for local and regional advertising. Nowadays, podcast advertising is a similar but more effective method, especially for the national audience.

5. Event advertising

Events (both in person and virtual) provide the opportunity to connect with your audience while promoting your brand and products. You can host your own event (like HubSpot at INBOUND) in the form of a conference, webinar, round table or lunch.

Another form of event promotion is to sponsor an event or buy a booth at a conference or trade show. This is cheaper than hosting your own event, but you can still get the audience involved and promote your brand.

6. Direct mail

Direct mail includes postcards, brochures and catalogs sent directly to your target audience’s homes. A direct mail advertising strategy is more personal than others on this list, but it is also very costly. (Just look at the postage.)

Another direct mail strategy is email, usually in the form of email newsletters or promotions. This overlaps with our next section – digital advertising. T.What are we going to unpack next?

Digital advertising: online advertising

To date, over 4 billion people have used the Internet. This number has increased by 300% compared to 2005. Internet usage is increasing rapidly and is not stopping.

If you don’t advertise online, you are behind the curve. Not only does the Internet give you direct access to more than half the world’s population – including more than half your target audience – it also offers so many different channels to advertise on.

Marketers now have the flexibility to reach their audiences on multiple fronts in different ways for multiple budgets. There are also a number of tools (many of which are free) that you can use to implement your advertising strategy.

Here are the most common ways to advertise online:

Paid search advertising

Whether Google, Yahoo or Bing, all search engines have their own paid advertising. This is known as pay-per-click, or PPC, and involves bidding on keywords and placing ads on top or on the sides of search results.

When someone queries one of these search engines, advertisers can serve ads through organic search results. This is what makes PPC so powerful – it gives your ads prime real estate in front of people who are already looking for relevant topics.

Here is an example on Google:

google ppc examples paid advertising

The top entries in the red box are ads. Organic search results that arose as a result of SEO were located below the map section.

Download our free Ultimate Google Ads PPC kit to learn everything you need to know about paid advertising on Google.

Social media advertising

Social media platforms know how valuable their content is and therefore offer the opportunity to sponsor or improve posts. Social media ads put your message in front of your target audience and encourage them to engage, click through, and buy.

Social media websites are prioritizing more and more advertising space over organic content because they generate more sales.

Whether you are a budding business or a brand new business, there are some social media ads that you should run through. These will not only promote your products and services, but will also promote your social media pages and grow your fan base.

Platforms like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter each have their own version of such ads.

Here’s how they appear in their respective feeds:


paid advertising example Facebook

Download our free lookbook of 50 examples of Facebook ads we actually clicked on.


Paid advertising example Instagram

Download our free guide to learn how to run Instagram ads, set goals, moderate engagement, and measure success.


LinkedIn paid advertising example

Download our free guide to running successful LinkedIn ads.


paid advertising example Twitter

Download our free guide to using Twitter for Business.

Native ads and sponsored content

Sponsored content has been around since 1922 when brands sponsored entire radio shows. Today, sponsored content is more related to native ads and blog or article content that is subsidized by brands.

Have you ever read a Buzzfeed article that heavily referenced or recommended a particular product or service? It was likely sponsored by a specific brand.

Read this article, 10 Reasons to Put Your Phone Down on Your Next Trip, advertised by agoda, a hotel or travel destination booking site. Does it blatantly advertise agoda’s services? No. Its main purpose is to entertain and inform, although agoda is mentioned a few times throughout the content.

At the top, the line reflects agoda’s sponsorship just before the content begins. If you scroll down the page, there is another indicator in the content.

Sponsored content is a great way to promote your brand in content that your audience is already familiar with.

Banner and display ads

Banner and display ads are an extension of search ads and follow a similar PPC model. Instead of a text-based advertisement, however, consumers see a more visual advertisement.

Advertising banner display ad

Banner ads are usually the horizontal panels at the top of a webpage, while display ads are smaller and appear on the side (as in the screenshot above).

Whether you opt for traditional print ads in magazines or subway stations, or opt for online advertising on social media or search engines, there are a few rules that make for great advertising. Below are some advertising best practices that apply to all of your ads.

Advertising Best Practices

There are many best practices, tips, and tricks out there when it comes to advertising. It’s an art that has been perfected over the years. With the advent of modern advertising and new media, best practices continue to manifest.

However, this section covers five famous advertising concepts that still work today – regardless of the advertising method or medium you use.

When used correctly, these advertising techniques work wonders for your brand and products.

Addressing emotions.

While you might not think of ASPCA as a business, their memorable Sarah McLachlan commercial is the perfect example of how you use emotional attraction to draw people into action.

For most of us, the images in this commercial are difficult to see – we can even turn away. But since we are deeply drawn, we are more likely to donate to animals in need after seeing the horrors they go through.

Studies show that people are more likely to rely on emotions than information to make brand decisions. Emotional responses to ads influence a person’s intention to buy more than actual ad content.

Whether you’re trying to induce happiness, sadness, fear, or anger, addressing emotions can help your target audience feel your message – not just read or hear it.

Create positive associations.

When consumers associate your product with a feeling of happiness, success, or a goal achieved, they are more likely to become aware, remember your product or service, and make a purchase.

In fact, you’ve probably already been to the receiving end without realizing it. Have you ever seen your favorite celebrity or Instagram influencer posing with a product or brand and realized that you wanted to be, do, or look the same? Companies make this subconscious connection in advertising and hope that you associate your positive feelings with the product or service they are promoting.

Catchy songs like “Nationwide is on your side” are an example of how people can associate friendliness with the Nationwide brand. Coca-Cola has a branded advertising campaign that connects their product with friends, family and fun. When considering what refreshments to serve at a party or picnic, Coca-Cola wants you to think of them.

When creating your advertisement, consider which feelings, desires or goals your brand should be associated with. Weave these feelings or goals into your advertising through stories or videos. Find influencers who align with your brand’s core values ​​and behavior and involve them to foster positive association.

Create a train carriage effect.

People want to fit in with it. It’s human nature. Neither you nor I are immune to it.

And it is this basic human desire that makes the pull effect so effective. People don’t want to be left out. They find value in the opinions of their peers and they certainly don’t want to be the only ones not using the latest and greatest product.

Brands like Maybelline understand this concept well and use it to their advertising advantage. A tube of their best-selling mascara is bought every two seconds. This statistic proves the social evidence and supports the claim of being America’s favorite mascara.

Advertising Maybelline

Use testimonials, survey data, or shareable content to promote your brand as a brand worth following or buying. Go a different route by promoting a discount for sharing your brand with a friend or family member – so that your audience does the sale for you. Either way, use your advertising to create an inclusive environment that people will want to join.

Focus on advantages over features.

Features and benefits are two very different things. Characteristics are the details of the product or service that you are selling, such as: B. the dimensions of a couch or the ingredients of a protein bar. The benefits, on the other hand, explain why a person should buy a couch or protein bar from you and how their life would benefit from such a purchase.

Advertising should focus on the benefits of your product or service, not explain what you are physically selling.

Think about how Southwest Airlines advertises. Rather than explaining line by line what a Business Select ticket offers, Southwest paints a picture of what life would be like when you made a purchase. In this ad, they focus on the benefits.

Advertising Southwest

Instead of wasting valuable advertising space on your product specifications or service details, talk about how a purchase can make a positive difference to your customers. If you get it right, your creative, beneficial advertising would inspire them to explore the features for themselves.

Make use of storytelling.

No different than our desire to adapt is our preference for a good story. Storytelling helps paint a bigger picture of a brand or company, rather than just promoting a single product or service. When stories resonate with someone, it is much easier to get him or her into action.

Storytelling is the only technique that you should incorporate into all of your advertising. If you haven’t already started creating the overall story of your brand, then you should definitely do so. Research shows that stories that illustrate a brand as “necessary, believable and holistic” are most effective at engaging and influencing consumers.

Dove uses storytelling in its campaign partnership with Operation Homefront. The videos show real stories of the military and their families being reunited. The ads don’t directly promote Dove products, but instead tell the Dove brand story (and draw a few hearts, too).

As you determine your branding story, you will learn how to best discuss your brand in any marketing effort, not just advertising.

Next, let’s take a look at some of the most memorable ad campaigns, some of which are putting these best practices into action.

Five memorable ad campaigns

The best ads are the best teachers. Regardless of whether it’s copywriting, design, medium or target audience, well executed campaigns can always teach you something new about advertising or positioning.

(Look at Westinghouse Electric’s “We Can Do It” ad …)

Here are five campaigns that have left a noticeable mark on advertising history.

1. Nike: Just do it

In the late 1980s, Nike launched its “Just Do It” campaign.

At the time, Reebok was selling Nike and Nike had to act quickly to take on the sneaker conglomerate.

But it wasn’t just the three-word phrase that got worldwide attention. Their new ad campaign also focused on real people wearing and exercising their products, rather than just showing clothes and sneakers themselves.

advertising nike make it easy

This powerful combination of people and product helped Nike jump from $ 800 million in 1988 to $ 9.2 billion just 10 years later.

2. The Absolut Vodka bottle

Did you know that Absolut’s “Bottles in the Wild” series of ads is the longest uninterrupted campaign in history?

The campaign was Absolute’s attempt to expand its name internationally, particularly in the United States. It showed the Absolut bottle in different cities and countries around the world.

Advertising absolutely vodka

It was introduced in 1985 and ran until 2000 – an impressive 25 years.

Absolut’s campaign helped grow the company from a tiny fraction of the vodka market share (2.5%) to over half of the US imported market share.

To date, the Absolut brand is the fourth largest liquor company as it focuses on the entire story, not just the product itself.

3. Miller Lite

The folks at Miller Lite used differentiation to achieve their goal of getting “real men” to willingly drink light beers. With their “Great taste, less filling” campaign, they maintained a leading position in the light beer market for several decades after this first campaign was broadcast.

advertising miller lite

4. Volkswagen

Although Volkswagen has officially stopped producing Beetles, its legendary “Think Small” campaign will forever be anchored in advertising history.

Advertising agency Doyle Dane & Bernbach (DDB) knew that if it was to compete with industry leaders, it had to change consumers’ minds. So VW admitted that while the Beetle was tiny, it was still a force to be reckoned with and worth buying.

advertising volkswagen

Authenticity and honesty have come a long way in this seemingly small campaign.

5. Dos Equis

With its edgy, cool, and sophisticated aesthetic, it’s no surprise that the Most Interesting Man in the World campaign put Dos Equis on the menu.

This campaign made a positive connection between Dos Equis beer and the feeling of sophistication and balance. Sales rose quickly by 22% after the campaign started.

advertising dos equis

Even more impressive was how Dos Equis succeeded in a time when craft beers were gaining a foothold and imported beer had a 4% success. This campaign was an integral part of that success.

Learn from the professionals how to get your audience’s attention. These campaigns are a great example of how brands have used real stories, real people, and real conversation to grow their business.

Advertising helps you grow better

Armed with a dense, dynamic story, advertising is an incredible tool to expand your marketing toolbox.

Between print advertising, radio sponsorship, television advertising, and social media advertising, there are endless ways to promote and promote your brand.

Create a clear and authentic brand story to illustrate how your brand aligns with their values, to best connect and connect with your audience, speak your customers’ language, address their emotions and to use their desire to be part of a community.

By applying these best practices to your advertising, you will build a magnetic brand that will attract customers, build a following, and generate revenue.

When you do, your brand will become a household name that will stand the test of time – just like the advertising itself.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in July 2018 and has been updated for completeness.

Advertising plan

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