In the digital era, advertising is ubiquitous.
Incredibly, PPC Protect estimates that the average person is exposed to between 6,000 and 10,000 ads per day. Companies spend billions every year on advertising, with much of that now spent online. In Australia, businesses spend $4.3 billion on Google advertising and $674 million on Facebook, according to The Sydney Morning Herald. It’s fair to say that digital advertising is here, and here to stay.
However, what works when you want to advertise, and what doesn’t?
This article will explore 15 advertising techniques that can help companies thrive in the tech era, covering two categories: persuasive advertising techniques (how businesses can persuade a consumer to purchase their products) and visual advertising techniques (how companies arrange the visual elements within their ads).
The article will also cover common advertising language techniques and describe advertising technology (adtech) trends. Finally, and perhaps most important, it will explain how to identify what advertising techniques are most effective.
Technique 1: Persuasive advertising — creating association and connection
The first persuasive advertising technique in this advertising techniques list is creating association and connection.
Since the advent of lifestyle marketing, using association or creating connection has been a powerful and persuasive advertising technique. Brands and businesses can create association and connection in several ways.
In advertising, association can be with just about anything. Businesses may choose to associate themselves with a famous person or an influencer, or they may try to be remembered via a catchy jingle or the look and feel of their branding. For example, to portray a certain lifestyle, a fashion company may choose to work with a famous model, or a soft drink company may show young people having fun consuming its beverages.
The outcome of creating association in advertising is that the ads elicit an emotional response from consumers. Consumers then associate the brand with something positive and desirable and are more likely to remember it.
Technique 2: Persuasive advertising — storytelling
One of the most powerful persuasive techniques in advertising is storytelling. As noted by The Australian Grocery Academy, research from psychologist Jerome Bruner indicates that humans are 22 times more likely to remember something that’s wrapped in a story.
The goal of advertising is for consumers to feel something. However, advertisers need consumers to not just feel something, but also relate to the situation being demonstrated, so they’re more likely to want to buy the product. This is where storytelling comes in.
Brands can tell stories in different ways to intrigue and capture consumers’ imagination. For example, a sportswear company may show a short story of a famous person competing and winning in its apparel.
Other common examples of storytelling are brands using their origin histories to tell stories or brands using real-life, user-generated content to make their products more relatable. Music and great imagery enhance the power of storytelling.
Technique 3: Persuasive advertising — describing features and benefits
Consumers want to understand both what the product is and what it does. They want to know its benefits and features and how it can make them look or feel. Describing features and benefits is a key persuasive technique in advertising.
Advertisers can make various claims about a product, provided that those claims aren’t false or misleading. For example, an organic food store may state that one of its products is locally grown and has additional health benefits. This type of persuasive advertising can be used to create a bit of hype; for example, a baby clothing manufacturer may say something like “The brand loved by mums everywhere.”
Stating that a target audience loves its brand can help grab consumer attention and provide reassurance that the brand is a trusted business.
Technique 4: Persuasive advertising — user-generated content
The fourth persuasive advertising technique in this advertising techniques list is user-generated content. User-generated content is any content, which may include videos, text, images and reviews, that consumers create.
User-generated content has exploded in popularity since the advent of smartphones, and many consumers now say that it influences how they shop online.
Brands use user-generated content in several ways. For example, a watch brand may run an online competition in which it asks consumers to post images of themselves wearing its watches in famous or beautiful places. User-generated content is particularly popular on Instagram, and consumers are far more likely to trust user-generated content than brand-generated content.
Technique 5: Persuasive advertising — creating scarcity
Another persuasive technique in advertising is to create scarcity: using specific promotional techniques to convince consumers that they need to buy and buy right now.
When these techniques are used, consumers begin to worry that they’ll miss out and act as a result. It makes the product feel exclusive and more valuable; it can also make people feel powerful as they’ll believe that they have something other people don’t.
The different ways that brands can create scarcity are numerous. For example, they can use limited-time offers, purchase countdowns, next-day shipping countdowns, seasonal or holiday offers, or notifications of low stock or special editions.
Technique 6: Persuasive advertising — bandwagon
Consumers hate to feel as if they’re missing out.
For this reason, the bandwagon technique is another effective persuasive technique in advertising. The idea behind the bandwagon technique is that brands convince consumers that everyone else has a product and that they’re missing out by not owning it.
This technique usually uses persuasive writing and messaging and can be as simple as saying, “Don’t miss out.” According to the Houston Chronicle, other examples are words to the effect of “Be part of the in crowd,” “Get on the winning side” or “Don’t get left behind.”
In a nutshell, brands try to convince consumers that their life will be better if they don’t miss out on a product.
Technique 7: Persuasive advertising — the anti-ad
The final persuasive technique in advertising that will be discussed in this advertising techniques list is the anti-ad. This technique is considered controversial as it makes people aware of certain advertising conventions that grab consumer attention.
Anti-ads can be as blatant as telling consumers to not buy a product at all, or they may make a self-referential joke or poke fun at various advertising elements.
For example, brands may not reveal what they’re advertising, or they may use something unmarketable or undesirable in an ad. Although these techniques may seem anything but persuasive, they do grab attention and get people talking, which can be especially effective with younger consumers who have grown up being exposed to ads and are wary of brands that always use the same techniques.
Technique 8: Visual advertising — colour psychology
Most advertising is, of course, very visual. The first visual advertising technique that will be discussed in this advertising techniques list is colour psychology.
Colour psychology is critical in advertising as certain colours portray different emotions. Red, for example, can elicit emotions such as passion, energy, fearlessness and excitement. However, it can also elicit negative emotions, such as anger, danger, defiance, aggression and pain. A colour such as green can be associated with health, hope, freshness, nature and prosperity, but it can also be associated with boredom, stagnation and blandness.
Different colours can create surprising results in website design, which can function as a form of advertising. For example, marketing company HubSpot found that a red call-to-action (CTA) button outperformed a green CTA button by 21%.
Technique 9: Visual advertising — composition
Composition, just like colour psychology, is an important and effective visual advertising technique. Composition refers to how elements and objects are placed in a visual space.
A balanced composition can help brands direct attention to certain elements in a space. For example, it may pull a viewer’s eye to a product or a person or create a flow by directing a consumer to look from left to right.
A balanced composition can be created in a space by using basic rules such as the Gestalt principles, which are:
- Figure/ground: This principle says that the human eye perceives objects as being either in the foreground or in the background.
- Similarity: This principle says that when items seem similar, viewers group them and assume they have the same function.
- Proximity: This principle says that objects situated close together will appear more related than objects spaced far apart.
- Continuation: This principle says that elements arranged on a line or curve are perceived to be related (or more related than elements not on a line or curve).
- Closure: This principle says that when viewers look at a complex arrangement of objects, their eyes will always look for a single pattern.
- Focal point: This principle says that whatever stands out visually will capture attention.
Technique 10: Visual advertising — focal point
Colour psychology and a balanced composition work together with another effective visual advertising technique, a focal point, to draw consumers to certain things.
A focal point is where brands strategically place messages, objects and people in their advertising to draw attention to one thing in particular (as opposed to composition, which about how many objects are arranged). A focal point helps consumers absorb a specific message.
A focal point in visual advertising can be achieved in a few ways. Two useful tools to help achieve a focal point are the rule of thirds and the golden ratio.
The rule of thirds is a tool in which a space is separated into six rectangles (two rows and three columns), and elements are placed at the crosspoints of these rectangles. The golden ratio is a tool in which elements are harmoniously placed in a space.
Technique 11: Visual advertising — visual path
Where consumers look when they’re looking at ads is very important, so creating a visual path is another visual advertising technique that brands need to use to direct consumers to the right element in an ad.
The visual path is different from a focal point, however, as it takes consumers on a journey throughout the content.
Without realising it, when consumers look at something, they’ll follow a visual path, whether it be from the top of the ad to the bottom or through it in some way, shape or form.
The two most common visual paths that a consumer follows when looking at content are shaped like letters. The first is a Z-shaped path. Consumers will start by looking at something in the top left of an ad, then their gaze will move to the right, before crossing down diagonally and moving across to the right again.
The second visual path follows an F shape. Consumers will look from left to right of an ad, but then they’ll return to the left and read the content similar to how someone would read a book. Strategically placing elements at certain points in an ad can help direct a consumer to things of interest.
Technique 12: Visual advertising — typographic composition
The shape, color and font of the written words used in advertising should be given just as much attention as the images and other visual designs.
Ad text must accurately relay the message of the ad while also supporting the overall aesthetic and visual design goals.
In typographic composition, brands should use fonts that complement the rest of the ad design rather than detract from it. Words or individual letters may form shapes to convey a deeper meaning or even be composed of the product being advertised.
Striking a balance between too much and too little text is also important, particularly with digital advertising. Facebook ads, for example, may be subject to a text-to-image ratio algorithm.
Technique 13: Visual advertising — body language
Body language is extremely important to how humans communicate. In fact, psychologist Albert Mehrabian found that body language accounts for 55% of personal communication, as explained by Psychology Today.
For this reason, manipulating body language is an important visual advertising technique.
Much can be portrayed via the body language of an actor in a video or a still image. For example, someone may look confident, successful, happy or scared. These emotions can elicit important ideas about the product in the eyes of the consumer.
Before an ad is created, brands need to think specifically about body language. They need to ask themselves questions like, What do we want consumers to think, feel and do when looking at this ad, and what do we want it to say about our product and brand?
Once they have answers to these questions, they can direct actors to portray certain emotions in the way they gesture, stand and move.
Technique 14: Visual advertising — direct gaze
Related to body language, a direct gaze is a visual advertising technique that takes a cue from hypnosis.
Just as direct eye contact is considered effective in engaging an audience and establishing credibility in face-to-face communication, it’s also effective in advertising. It can heighten the intensity of feeling and emotion and is often deployed in visual ads anchored by an actor, a model or a celebrity who’s considered attractive.
The direct gaze technique is frequently used in watch or perfume advertisements, for example.
Technique 15: Visual advertising — point of view
The final visual advertising technique to be discussed in this advertising techniques list is point of view.
To persuade consumers to buy something, brands need to make them believe that they simply can’t live without the product. For this reason, a point of view is an important visual advertising technique. A point of view is a technique in which a brand shows an action as if the consumer were experiencing it. This particular visual advertising technique is best employed through video advertising and is used for lifestyle marketing.
One commonly used point-of-view technique is to attach a camera to a consumer in a particular situation. When this point of view is captured, consumers can imagine themselves in a situation and feel the associated excitement.
Videos that use this technique are also much more likely to feel natural and real to the consumer.
Advertising language techniques
How brands design their ads and the persuasive techniques they use are critical in convincing consumers to buy products. Underpinning this is an important consideration for every ad: advertising language techniques (how brands discuss their products).
Advertising language techniques can include assonance, exaggeration, repetition, rhetorical questions or alliteration. A basic example is a brand repeating positive claims about its product at the beginning, middle and end of a video ad.
Puns are another effective advertising language technique. A great example of a pun is the Dollar Shave Club’s “Shave Time. Shave Money.”
In addition to the persuasive, visual and linguistic content of ads, the software and tools used in digital advertising (adtech) are also important.
Adtech is key in how and where digital ads are delivered. Digital advertising in Australia is already a huge market and growing fast. In 2019 alone, IAB Australia estimates that advertisers spent AUD9.3 billion on digital advertising.
Adtech facilitates ad placement across a host of different channels, including websites, mobile apps, connected TV, and other devices and social media services. It includes ad servers, demand- and supply-side platforms, customer data platforms, and ad quality tools.
Companies and brands should have a solid adtech understanding, so they can select and use the software and tools that best support their advertising goals and strengthen any areas of weakness in planning, execution or analysis.
Current adtech trends include improved analytics and predictive capabilities enabled by artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, as well as digital out-of-home (DOOH) advertising, in which digital billboards and other public advertising screens can display customized ads based on mobile location data.
What advertising techniques are most effective?
The one question that all brands want to know the answer to is, What advertising techniques are most effective?
Unfortunately, answering that question is difficult, as different advertising techniques can be effective in many different scenarios, and realistically, a combination of all techniques will work at different times for different brands.
To ascertain what techniques may be most effective for a particular campaign, though, brands need to understand the goals of their advertising. For example, if they’re targeting customers who already know the brand, they may want to use persuasive advertising techniques, such as creating scarcity, that encourage customers to buy straightaway.
On the other hand, if a company wants to introduce people to a brand, it may want to create excitement and positive association by explaining features and benefits or creating a compelling point of view through visual advertising techniques.
Different techniques can also be effective for different advertising mediums. Online, for example, brands may need to be very thoughtful about a focal point and visual path because people tend to only scan information when reading online. Conversely, in television advertising, companies may want to use videos with bold use of colour to immediately grab people’s attention.
The importance of advertising techniques in the digital era
Thriving in the tech era as a brand can be a challenge. Given the sheer number of ads consumers see daily, they’re increasingly experiencing ad blindness; only 14% of web users say they even notice banner ads, as Spaceback noted. For this reason, brands need to be particularly savvy when choosing what advertising techniques to use.
Ultimately, brands may not be able to decipher which advertising technique will be most effective. In reality, they’ll need to create ads, and then test and learn with their consumers to figure out which persuasive, visual and language advertising techniques work best.