Advertising Principles - Evidence-based principles

Finalist for AMA’s 2011 Best Book in Marketing

A complete description of the principles has
been published in Persuasive Advertising

German Edition available

Chinese Version available

Evidence-based Principles of Advertising: Free Internet course

---This is the course that Professor Armstrong has taught at the Wharton School since 1998

Developed by Professor J. Scott Armstrong,

The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania



“Advertising is fundamentally persuasion.” Bill Bernbach, 1960

The learning objectives are to gain skills in:

  1. Evidence-based principles for creating persuasive advertising campaigns. A 15-year effort to summarize a century of research has led to 195 persuasion principles. These principles do not appear in any other book (as shown in Armstrong 2011).
  2. Evidence-based techniques for improved decision-making in advertising. There are currently 48 useful techniques. Use the Tools and Techniques Spreadsheet to guide your learning and track your progress. For example, one of these tools, the Persuasion Principles Audit, will allow you to make accurate pretests of which of a set of ads (for the same product and brand) will be most effective.



            Following Benjamin Franklin’s advice, this course is designed to provide useful knowledge along with suggestions on how to apply that knowledge. To that end, I believe that there is only one reliable source for useful scientific knowledge –experimentation.

            One study estimated that “persuasion is one-quarter of the GNP.” The persuasion principles apply not only to advertising, but also to many other aspects of life, such as preparing a résumé, convincing your friends about an issue, making a persuasive speech, or writing a management report. In addition, as a consumer, you will be better able to defend against advertising “tricks.”


If you follow the directions as specified, by the end of the course you should be better able to design and evaluate persuasive advertising campaigns better than most practitioners with many years of experience.  Don’t take my word on this, read A free version of the paper is now available.

  Learning times vary substantially across individuals, but I estimate that it should take most people more than 200 hours to complete all of the activities described for this course. Self-directed learners should develop a learning plan to determine which aspects of the course to focus on, and thus make a plan suited to their aims and the amount of time they can devote to their learning.

Benefits of Online Learning

             This Internet course allows you to (1) schedule your learning when convenient for you, (2) revise your schedule as needed, (3) go through materials at your own pace, and (4) allocate your time for techniques and principles that are most important to you.

            A small-scale test of courses at Stanford for on-campus courses found that those who used the Internet version did better on the final exam than did those who attended the classes.

            I ran a small test to assess the demand for this course if it were made available to Wharton students. That is, they were able to take this internet course for credit. This substantially increased the demand for the course. I also offered the regular classes for them along with the Internet resources and provided advice on their work. Few of the students attended many class sessions. Over 90% of the students completed the course (higher than usual), and their performance on the exams was comparable to that of the students in my traditional classes. Most of the students said they enjoyed the freedom to go at their own pace. In this case, attendance at the sessions improved their skills. But they also improved their skills when they gained feedback from others.

            Similar results were obtained in economics, another area where what is taught often conflicts with “common sense”: Attiyeh and Lumsden (1972), in a study of 30,000 U.K. students in economics courses, found that class attendance was not related to learning as measured by "before" and "after" examinations. This is interesting in that one might expect the more interested students to be more likely to attend class sessions.

            This internet course aims at content and skills. See “Natural Learning in Higher Education” for a brief review of the evidence for self-directed learning. Most importantly, it is more effective in terms of learning, and, of course, it is free.

            This course currently offers only-self-certification. That might change in the future as we could arrange for independent assessment centers that would use the exams provided at present in this Wharton course.

Learning Resources

            Text: The text is Persuasive Advertising (Palgrave Macmillan 2010), a runner-up for AMA’s 2011 Best Book in Marketing (I refer to this book here as PA). The aim of PA was to summarize all useful knowledge about persuasive advertising in such a way that advertisers, consumers, consumer groups, courts, and government regulators can use it. It is the only advertising book that provides evidence-based principles, and it is designed to help you understand how advertising campaigns should be conducted. There is no need to update the book because the new findings and changes are described at Please note that the lectures and the checklists given in the course do not provide all of the conditions for each principle, nor do they provide all of the evidence; thus, you will also need to use the book. 

             Website: won the Merlot Award as the best educational site in business and economics in 2004. It has been improved upon every year since then. It is currently rated as the best of the 262 advertising sites on Merlot. It provides spreadsheets for applications and describes Techniques and Concepts for Advertising. It provides print and video ads that illustrate good (and bad) applications of principles. To learn more about, read the FAQ and take a tour of the site.

            The course’s experiential lectures are all available on under the “Educational Materials” link.

            The self-directed testing provided on this website will enable you to learn much more efficiently. Test taking helps people learn content: Holding study time constant, you will learn much more by self-testing than by spending the same amount of time reviewing the material.

   provides “end-of-chapter self-testing” in which you can check the book and grade your answers. In addition, there are true-false, multiple choice, and open-ended tests for which you can grade your answers, along with an exam on advertising tools and techniques.

Pick what you believe to be the most useful topics and set a timeline that suits you. You are much more likely to be successful if you develop a proper timeline.

            The following suggestions will enable you to more effectively retain your learning:

  1. Take the tests near the beginning of the course. This will serve as a diagnostic for you, and you will find new information to be more meaningful when it fills in your missed or blank answers later on in the course.
  2. Take the first test very soon after studying material to have high retention. The previously mentioned study on test taking also showed that learners lost about 30% of the content within five minutes.
  3. Take the tests in short sessions. Avoid massed learning. Retest yourself after a week or so.
  4. Repeat the tests after intervals of a week or more.


            Self-directed experiential lectures: The “experiential lectures” first present a problem for you to solve and then allow you to see the evidence-based approach. Finally, they ask you to practice using the solution on other problems. These “self-directed lectures” guide you through this process.

            If you are preparing for an advertising career, I suggest following the schedule that I present later in this syllabus. If you are currently working in advertising, you may want to select lectures that are relevant to your current issues. This would be a “just-in-time” approach to learning.

            The idea behind this course is that you are responsible for your learning. If you think that you would benefit from gaining ideas from others, feel free to do so. And, in fact, those in my classes who get feedback from others do substantially better on the applications section of the Certification assessment.

            Although I individually cannot help people with their learning, the website manager invites your suggestions about how we can make this course more useful to learners. We would also appreciate it if you would alert us to errors in this syllabus or on the website.


            To demonstrate your ability to create an advertising Glossary Link campaign, you will need to undertake a project in which you develop a small campaign. It would seem sensible to do a campaign for an organization that you work for, or an organization that you are interested in, perhaps a small company or a charity. In addition to doing something useful, you would ask the organization (in advance) if they would be willing to write an endorsementfor you should the campaign turn out well. This could be included in your certification report;

            Project components:

  1. Create at least two print ads, two video commercials, and one website mock-up. The project should lend itself to print, video and to a website (so that the website is used to advertise the product).
  2. Demonstrate use of the checklists for creating each of the print ads as well as for the other ads you create.
  3. Use the persuasion principles audit for each of the ads that you create.
  4. Use Glossary Link copy-tests to compare the two print ads. See the copy testing recommendations from this lecture.
  5. Recommend a media plan for your print advertisements using each of the procedures (except experimentation) described in Appendix E of Persuasive Advertising with the descriptions provided on
  6. Provide an appendix (for your Certification Report, not the client) describing your use of the creativity procedures that you used from the Creativity chapter of Persuasive Advertising.
  7. Provide a five-page report following the . (Appendices up to 10 pages allowed)
  8. Evaluate your report using the checklist for ad proposals. Seek independent ratings.


Suggested Syllabus for “Self-directed Lectures”

All of the “self-directed lectures” are available at the Educational Materials section of the course website. The following sequence follows Persuasive Advertising, with the exception of the Creativity and Evaluation techniques discussed at the beginning, as they are relevant to all of the applications. Tasks are listed under each topic heading, and some of the topics will take much longer (e.g., influence and resistance) than others (e.g., emotion). BE SURE to do the Educational Lectures using the “SLIDE-SHOW” format.

S1. ____ Introduction to Evidence-based Advertising                                             

  1. Obtain a notebook to use for planning and making applications.
  2. Take the five-minute “Test your advertising IQ.” Record your score in your notebook
  3. Read the AdPrin FAQ.
  4. Complete the Introduction lectureEducational Materials
  5. Read the sections “Preface,” “Introduction,” and “Types of Evidence”in Persuasive Advertising (PA).
  6. Take the end-of-chapter exam for this section. (each of the chapters contains the end-of-chapter questions.


S2. ____ Creativity and Evaluation Techniques

            Find a project to work on, such as a project for your organization or another group, a product/service you would like to sell, a worthy cause, a political candidate, or a company you would like to start. See the description on page 3 above. Your project should relate to a high-involvement, Glossary Link utilitarian product/service. (See the Then do the following:

  1. Work through the Creativity and Evaluation lecture.
  2. Study theCreativity and Evaluation section on pages 278-292 of PA.
  3. If you are advertising for a new organization or product, apply the creativity and evaluation procedures for selecting a name. Use the “Names” section on
  4. List the creativity and evaluation techniques that you plan to use to create a one-page print ad.
  5. Take the end-of-chapter exam for this section.


S3. ____ Conditions: Objectives, Product, & Target Market

  1. Work through the lecture on Conditions.
  2. Start your project (see above).
  3. Apply the objective-setting process from PA to set objectives for your project.
  4. Take the end-of-chapter exam for this section.
  5. Read the AdPrin FAQ.

S4. ____ Target Market Research

  1. Work through the Target Market Research
  2. Describe what techniques you should use from the lecture to select the target markets for your project.Develop instruments to assess the target market for your project. Become familiar with Don Dillman’sInternet, Phone, Mail, and Mixed-Mode Surveys: The Tailored Design Method.
  3. Ask a few people to complete your target market survey. Then, seek feedback and input on how to improve your target market survey.
  4. Take the end-of-chapter exam for this section.

S5. ____ Information on the Product

  1. Work throughthe Product
  2. Read the relevant chapter for this section in PA.
  3. Take the end-of-chapter exam for this section.
  4. Use the Product lecture and the Checklist of Advertising Principles to write two one-page print ads for your project that would go into a magazine. Use PA to guide you.

S6. ____ Information on Pricing & Distribution

  1. Work through the lectures on Pricing and Distribution.
  2. Read the relevant chapter for this section in PA.
  3. Take the end-of-chapter exam for this section.
  4. How many principles were you able to apply to your project?

S7. ____ Influence

  1. Assume that Waste Management has come to you for a proposal for a TV campaign. Go through the Influence lecture and find ideas for developing TV commercials. Do not look up any information about Waste Management. Focus on the influence principles, but also try to apply the principles to date by using the Persuasion Principles Checklist to create at least three storyboards.
  2. When you have your storyboards, view the excellent Waste Management commercials by Ogilvy. How well did you do in comparison with Ogilvy?
  3. Read the relevant chapter for this section in PA.
  4. Take the end-of-chapter exam for this section.
  5. Improve your project by using the Influence Principles.
  6. How many principles were you able to apply to your project?


S8. ____ Emotion

  1. Work through the lecture on when and how to use Emotion to persuade.
  2. Read the relevant chapter in PA.
  3. Take the end-of-chapter exam for this section.
  4. Improve your project by using the Emotion Principles Checklist in the PA book and the creativity techniques in the PA book.
  5. How many principles were you able to apply to your project?


S9. ____ Mere Glossary Link Exposure

  1. Work through the lecture on when and how to use Mere Exposure to persuade.
  2. Read the relevant chapter for this section in PA.
  3. Take the end-of-chapter exam for this section.
  4. Improve your project by using the Mere Exposure Principles Checklist along and the creativity techniques checklists in the PA book.
  5. How many principles were you able to apply to your project?


S10. ___ Resistance

            Assume that you were askedto prepare an advertising campaign people who would be resistant to trying the product or service involved in your project. For example that might be using a substitute for your product.

  1. Work through the Resistance lecture and apply the resistance principles to your project.
  2. Read the relevant chapter for this section in PA.
  3. Take the end-of-chapter exam for this section.
  4. Improve your project by using the relevant Checklist of Advertising Principles
  5. How many principles were you able to apply to your project?


S11. ___ Acceptance

            Assume that Ansett New Zealand has come to you to develop a TV campaign. They believe they provide better airline service for their customers than Air New Zealand. They want you to present a campaign that customers will believe. Do not look at the actual ads until you get to the last step.

  1. Work through the Acceptance
  2. Read the relevant chapter in PA.
  3. Take the end-of-chapter exam for this section.
  4. Prepare storyboards for a possible campaign for Ansett or use a smartphone to provide a 30-second commercial. To do so, use the relevant section in the Checklist of Advertising Principles.
  5. Review the actual Ansett New Zealand commercials to see how closely they match with yours. Their ads do a great job of implementing the acceptance principles.


S12. ___ Pretesting Ads by Copy-testing

            Write a questionnaire and all necessary material for pretesting the effectiveness of your print ads among a sample of subjects.

  1. Work through the Copy-testing lecture.
  2. Skim Don Dillman’s Internet, Mail, and Mixed-Mode Surveys(the “bible” for survey research) to make further improvements to your questionnaire.
  3. Write a technical report on your copy-testing procedure and findings. Use the evidence-based guidelines for written management reports.


S13. ___ Message

  1. Work through the lecture on Message.
  2. Read the relevant chapter in PA.
  3. Take the end-of-chapter exam for this lecture.
  4. Use the Checklist of Advertising Principles section on message to improve your project.
  5. How many principles were you able to apply to your project?     


S14. ___ Attention

  1. Work through the lecture on Attention.
  2. Read the relevant chapter in PA.
  3. Take the end-of-chapter exam for this lecture.
  4. Use the Checklist of Advertising Principles to apply the attention principles to the various versions of your project. As you do this, use PA and relevant readings from the lecture.
  5. How many principles were you able to apply to your project?

S15. ___ Still Media

  1. Work through the Still Media
  2. Take the end-of-chapter exam for this section.
  3. Use the Still Media Principles from the PA book to improve the print ad and website for your project.
  4. How many principles were you able to apply to your project?


S16. ___Design a Website for your Project

            Prepare a mock-up of a website to advertise your product (or agency). Examine books on how to design a website, such as Lynch, Patrick J. & Sarah Horton (2009)

  1. Use the PPI to evaluate the website.
  2. Revise your website based on your Persuasion Principles Audit.

S17. ___ Motion and Sound Media

  1. Work through the Motion and Sound Media lecture and discussion to help you develop a TV commercial for your ad agency (or another project).
  2. Take the end-of-chapter exam for this section.
  3. Create a storyboard for your project. Use the PA chapter to guide you.
  4. Use a smartphone to create a video to advertise your project. The exercise takes about 2 hours; more time can, of course, lead to a better advertisement. As an alternative, consider an animated movie maker, such as Plotagon,GoAnimate,Movie Maker.
  5. To edit and your commercial use Audacity: A free audio editing program for voices available here. For example, you can use it to fit your commercial into the allotted time
  6. Obtain feedback on your commercials. Then develop actions steps for improving your commercials. Count your success in terms of how many changes you are able to make.


S18. ­­­___ Legal Aspects of Advertising

  1. Work through the Legal Aspects
  2. Apply techniques from this session to your project.
  3. How many principles were you able to apply to your project?


S19. ___ Media Allocation

  1. Analyze the Gardenburgers Case.
  2. Rate the effectiveness by using the PPI.
  3. Analyze how much to spend on the Gardenburgers’s campaign in total and on each media Media” section on .
  4. When you complete your report, go to the solution for Gardenburgers.
  5. Take the end-of-chapter exam for this section.

S20. ___ Evaluating an Advertising Campaign: Seducing these Men

            Assume that you are in the advertising department at Subaru and that you were asked to review a number of advertising proposals to determine which advertising agency to hire.

  1. Write in your diary about how you would handle this problem.
  2. Watch the video “Sample of a Traditional Advertising Proposal” related to Ogilvy’s pitch to Bell Communications. Do the recommended exercise. What techniques could you use from this exercise?
  3. Analyze the proposal described in the report “Seducing these Men.” Use Appendix F from PA. Write your reasons for each rating. It is up to the writer of the proposal to make sure you have what you need in order to give a high rating.
  4. Share your ratings with a learning partner and estimate the inter-rater reliability of each rating.


  S21. ___ Prepare a Project Proposal  

  1. Write an advertising proposal for your project. Show the proposed campaign (the advertisements and media expenditure, along with reasons why they should work). Then provide an estimate of the return on investment.
  2. Rate your proposal by using the Checklist for Rating Advertising Proposals.  



S22. ­­­____ Take the Final Exams


This is useful not only for learning, but also for demonstrating learning in your certification report:

Take the Multiple Choice, True/False, and Open-ended exams. Time yourself to spend no more than three hours taking the exams, and sign an ethics statement that you took no more than 3 hours. To add credibility, ask someone else to grade your exam answers. The grading takes about an hour. Have the grader sign a statement that they used the grading sheet and graded the exam as objectively as they could. The testing session of 3 hours is more comprehensive than the 80-minute testing session used for this class at Wharton. It includes 44 open-ended questions vs. the 22 used in the Wharton class. Include your score and the testing procedures on your Certification Report.

Here are benchmark averages and ranges in percentages for Wharton students. (The * signifies that answers were provided in advance; for the other tests, only the questions were provided.) These grades do not include on-time bonus points. In the past, the low grades on the open–ended and end-of-chapter exams seem to have been due to the lack of effective timelines. The Fall 2015 class improved substantially on this. Still there is much room for improvement.


                                              Fall 2014                       Fall 2015                     Spring 2016

                                            Avg            Range          Avg      Range                Avg    Range

T/F*                             95       68-100             98          94-100              99       95-100

Multiple Choice*          92       74-100             99          96-100              97     91-100

Open-ended*              58         8-91                77           53-93              75       49-98

End-of chapter            54       10-75                65           32-95              71       29-90

Take the “Take-home” exam on the Tools and techniques page. Explain how you applied five of the techniques. The entries will be graded based on the importance of the techniques and your ability to write a believable and persuasive report that would be impressive to someone who has little knowledge of these tools and techniques. This is what you would have to do when using the techniques so as to persuade clients in a real-world advertising proposal.

4. Tools and Techniques: Take-home Exam: Explain how you were able to apply five of the tools and techniques and any other techniques learned in the course. For example, the checklists in the top menu bar are excellent tools, as well as other checklists in the book (e.g., how to set objectives, how to allocate funds to the media).

Avoid checklists that look trivial. Choose ones that you think will be new and useful. Prove that they are useful. Show that you know how to use each tool. (Use the applications that you did when going through the lectures, for example.) Refer to applications in your advertising project and do it in such a way as to impress someone who has not previously heard of these techniques.

The assessment evaluator would grade the application using a 0 (very low) to 10 (very high) for each of the six criteria below. The score will add the ratings for “a” through “d” for each technique. For example, the degree of difficulty for Glossary Link brainwriting is low; it will look like something one can learn in five minutes.

            _____a. importance ____

            _____b. demonstrated usefulness _____

            _____c. new to the grader ______

            _____d. believable evidence that you mastered the technique ____

            _____e. Persuasive description _____

            _____f. difficulty of learning the technique. _____


End of course. If you have done everything in this syllabus, you have done as much as my very best students, a rare group. If you have done most, you are still among the best students.

Congratulations, you should be able to complete a believable Certification Report.


Self-Certification for Evidence-based Advertising Principles and Techniques

            This evidence-based advertising course has been under development by Wharton Professor J. Scott Armstrong since 1990. It is designed to help people apply the cumulative knowledge developed from experiments over the past century. Research evidence demonstrates that ads that follow evidence-based procedures have been shown to be more effective than those that do not. The research on the principles is summarized in Persuasive Advertising.

            I certify that I have completed the advertising course. (Link to the course syllabus.) I list the tasks that I completed in my efforts to learn advertising principles and techniques (inputs) and my tangible achievements (outputs). I can provide supporting information on items that are marked with an asterisk.

NAME (Last, First)____________________________________Date____________________ Mkt 265

                                                Please Print



* I-1. I have documented spending ____ hours for all of my learning efforts in this course. I recorded hours on each day that I spent time. (Time log required showing task, time spent, and date.)

*  I-2. I have studied the Persuasive Advertising book and have documented spending  _____ hours doing so. The entries were recorded on the day that I spent the time. (Time log)

*  I-3. I have completed ____ of the experiential lectures on (Provide list in Appendix)

*  I-4. I have used the evidence-based checklist for oral presentations ___ times. (show PI and details)

*  I-5. I have used the evidence-based checklist for written presentations___ times. (show PI and details)

I-6. I completed the multiple-choice & T/F exams ____ times and my most recent scores averaged ________%.

I-7. I completed the open-ended examon My score was ________percent.

I-8. I completed the full set of the end-of-chapter questionsthat was proctored at the Wharton School. My score was ________percent.

*I-9. I have attached the spreadsheet showing my familiarity with the 48 Tools and Techniques for advertising It shows my before and after ratings of mastery.

I-10. I have examined the new evidence on the principles that is on YES ___ NO ___

*I-11. I have used the skill-rating sheet and the mastery chart for techniques to guide my learning and they are attached. YES ___ NO ___

I-12. I have applied the Checklist of Advertising Principles to create ____ print ads,  ____ video ads, and   ___ websites. Provide list.

* I-13. I have worked through ____ of the experiential exercises on (see list.)

*I-14. I have guided my work by using the attached timeline. Attached

I-1.5 I have completed the self-training course for the Persuasion Principles Audit. YES ___ NO ___


*O-1. I have applied the Persuasion Principles Checklist to create ____ print ads,  ____ video ads, and  ___ websites. Provide list with links

Q-2 I have applied the Persuasion Principles Audit to ___ print ads, ___ video commercials and    ___ websites. Provide list with links

*O-3. I have applied techniques for setting media investments for ___ an advertising campaign. Provide one example.

*O-4. I have written an advertising proposal and checked it against recommended procedures.  YES ___ NO ___ If Yes, attach.

Independent testing (if any)

Q-1. I have taken an 80-minute test on my mastery of the content in this course. My grade on the exam was _______

Your Name (PRINT; Last Name First)____________________________________________________

Signature _______________________________________________ Date ____________

This Certification Report form has been created by Professor J. Scott Armstrong at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania. He uses this in his course at the Wharton School to allow students to demonstrate their mastery of the content.

© Copyright J. Scott Armstrong and Kesten C. Green. All rights are reserved.

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