What You Need to Know About : Advertising Theories

Since the early 1900s, scholars have attempted to discern whether advertising has its own distinctive theories because it seemed that any serious profession should draw from a systematic analysis of its trade rather than from chance or instinct. With U.S. advertising expenditures at about $149 billion in 2007 (about 1.1% of the total U.S. gross domestic product), there is no doubt that advertising can be looked at as a serious industry. Yet when Walter Dill Scott, director of the Psychological Laboratory of Northwestern University, conducted his research in 1903 for his work on advertising theories, he could not find any reference to a theory other than psychological approaches. Even more contemporary works, such as the wellknown title How Advertising Works, still describe the advertising process as a strategic communication procedure whose function is to create a psychological (and subsequently behavioral) change in a potential consumer of a product, service, or idea. Thus, when we talk about advertising theories, we basically talk about theories of consumer psychology.

Advertising is a complex and diverse field, and often even those involved with it have difficulty discerning what works and why. In 1976, Charles Ramond argued that advertising has no general theory that is widely accepted but forms a discipline in which a collection of pseudotheories exist whose reason for existence is introspection. While advertising typically uses information, the emphasis in a persuasive advertising message is on influencing the receiver. Moreover, since the advent of the Internet and online marketing, the long-held notion of the mass market has given way to that of a more individualized consumer as digital consumers are no longer “passive” receivers of the advertiser’s message but will actively select the advertising message or completely disregard it. New theoretical models are emerging to explain the many-tomany communication processes evolving. Olaf H. Werder

Source : Littlejohn, Stephen W and Karen A.Floss. (2009). Encyclopedia of Communication Theory.USA:SAGE. 87 & 91