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

Dictionary of terms used in Advertising Principles

There are 61 entries in this glossary.
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Term Definition
Hierarchy of effects

A series of steps by which people receive and use information to reach a decision regarding actions they will take. The hierarchy-of-effects model was developed in the early 1900s and it is widely used both in advertising and other areas of persuasion. The following illustrates a three-step version:
There are many other versions, such as AIDA (Attention, Interest, Desire, Action). While these seem like sensible ways to structure the problem, I was unable to find evidence that they lead to improved decision-making—nor were Barry and Howard (1990) successful. O’Shaughnessy and O’Shaughnessy (2004) claimed that the hierarchy is of little value. They said that different sequences of the steps are plausible, and all the steps need not occur for a message to be persuasive. Hierarchy-of-effects models have been used in other fields (usually under different names). Evidence supporting its value in these other area is also sparse (Herzog et al. 1999).

High-involvement product

A product or service that people evaluate carefully before making a purchase decision; it is likely to be an expensive or visible product, such as an automobile, that involves some monetary (e.g., expensive) or personal risk (e.g., clothing).


A plan by a consumer to engage in certain behavior such as to purchase a product, make a donation, or attend a function.

IPA (Institute of Practitioners in Advertising)

A U.K. organization that has been conducting awards competitions to recognize campaigns that clearly demonstrate advertising effectiveness. The awards began in 1979. As of 2009, there were over 830 tested case histories summarized in 17 volumes, and accessible through and the World Advertising Research Center (

Ipsos ASI

One of the world’s largest advertising research firms. It provided findings from analyses of non-experimental data on 30-second TV commercials that it had tested for recall and persuasion among adult women. Appendix C describes some of its procedures.


Music and verse combined in a commercial; it is often sung and is usually characterized by a rhyme.


The ordering and spacing of the various components of headline, illustration, copy, and brand identification marks.


A brand name or symbol often presented in a special lettering style or typeface.

Long-exposure ad

An ad, such as in a magazine or on a website, that is sufficiently long to allow customers to take their time in viewing or reviewing.

Low-involvement product

A product or service that a consumer is unlikely to evaluate carefully before making a purchase; it is generally an inexpensive product, such as soap, that involves little risk.


A structured quantitative review of the literature on a given topic. A meta-analysis should disclose the procedures used to select and code the studies, the method for summarizing the findings, and the procedures used to ensure that the search for information on this topic was comprehensive. For an example of how to effectively conduct a meta-analysis, see any of the studies by O’Keefe that I have cited.


A combination of two or more elements in which one element is understood or experienced in terms of the other; a form of wordplay that applies a word or a phrase to a concept or an object, such as a brand, to imply a feature of the object (e.g., Budweiser is “the king of beers”).

Non-alienable choices

A set of products that differ in various dimensions, such as TV sets with different features. I sometimes refer to these as difficult choices.

Nondirective interviewing

An interviewing technique in which an interviewer asks broad questions to lead the interviewee into a discussion of issues that the interviewee considers important. The interviewer probes for additional details but does not introduce ideas or evaluate what the interviewee says. The following guidelines can aid in conducting such interviews:

Start the interview by explaining what you would like to find out. The initial part of the interview is often the most difficult. If the opening statement (e.g., “Tell me about your objectives”) does not draw a response, try something a little more specific (e.g., What is the target market for product X?). Assure the interviewee that all responses will be anonymous. During the interview:

  1. Don’t evaluate what the interviewee says. If he feels he is being judged, he will be careful about what he says.

  2. Let the interviewee know that you are interested in what he says. To find out more about a particular subject that the interviewee mentions, ask for elaboration— e.g., “that’s interesting, tell me more.” Or, you may use a reflection of the interviewee’s comments—“you seem concerned by …,” often picking up the last few words used by the interviewee. These requests help to provide more information and let the interviewee know that you are interested in what he is saying. Take notes. This shows that you are interested; it will also help you to listen—and to remember.

  3. Don’t interrupt. Let the interviewee carry the conversation once he gets going. He’ll talk about what he thinks is important.

  4. Don’t bring in your own ideas during this interview. You can do that at the next meeting.

  5. Don’t worry about pauses in the conversation. The interviewee might get a bit uncomfortable during pauses. Don’t pressure the interviewee—and don’t be in a hurry to talk if it is likely that the interviewee is thinking.

Random sample

A sample taken from any given population in which each person maintains equal chances of being selected as part of that sample. In practice, this term is used to refer to any type of probability sampling, and I use it that way in this book.

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