Advertising Principles - Evidence-based principles

Adprin Advertising Glossary


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The following terms were used in Persuasive Advertising (Armstrong 2010).

Glossary Link Advertising elasticity. The relationship between percentage changes in advertising and unit sales. Thus, an Glossary Link elasticity of 0.1 means that if the expenditure on advertising for a brand increases (decreases) by 10 percent, unit sales would increase (decrease) by 1 percent.

Glossary Link Alignable choice. A set of products in which the differences are based on a single dimension, such as the size of a container of milk. I sometimes refer to these as easy choices.

Glossary Link Anchoring. The tendency of people to focus on a value, such as a suggested retail price of a product, when making a decision.

Glossary Link Body text or body copy. The main text of an advertisement, not including the headline or brand identifiers.

Glossary Link Brainwriting. A technique in which group members work alone to list their ideas for a given problem. It can also be done within a group meeting by taking a short time interval for individual work, say ten minutes, during which group members individually write all the solutions they can think of for a given problem. They submit their lists anonymously and the ideas are then collated. This procedure is more effective than brainstorming.

Glossary Link Campaign. A series of advertisements with a common objective.

Glossary Link Caption. A description commonly placed above or beneath a photograph or an illustration.

Glossary Link Cognitive dissonance. Psychological conflict resulting from incongruous beliefs and attitudes held simultaneously; when applied to advertising, the dissonance that nearly often exists after an individual makes a decision involving two or more alternatives.

Glossary Link Comparative advantage. The degree to which a brand is superior to a competitive brand on a given feature or benefit.

Glossary Link Comparative advertising. Advertising that compares two or more specifically named or recognizably presented brands of the same type of product or service and makes comparisons in terms of one or more specific product or service attributes. Direct comparative advertising explicitly names a competitive brand (e.g., “better than Bose”) and indirect comparative advertising refers to a competitive brand without explicitly naming it (e.g., “better than other leading brands”).

Glossary Link Concrete words. Words that denote a material object as opposed to an abstract quality, state, or action, I use this word as synonymouse with "specific.

Glossary Link Copy. The text used in ads. (See Body text.)

Glossary Link Copy testing. Research to determine how consumers will respond to an ad. In particular, will the ad affect behavior?

Glossary Link Correlation. Correlations give an idea of how closely two variables vary, going from -1 (perfect agreement in the negative in the negative direction: if x is higher, y is lower) to +1 (perfect agreement in the positive in the negative direction: if x is higher, y is higher). It is widely confused with causality (it is not). A pattern of correlations may help to support a statement about causality, but the lack of a correlation does not mean that variables are not causally related. For example, it might occur because one variable did not vary, or because the relationship was masked by the variations in another variable. It is not an easy measure to understand because it is related to various properties of the data. For example, data on individuals tend to have smaller correlations (below 0.1) than for group data, and time series can have very high correlations (above .9) even for spurious relationships (such as two variable that rise over time). Unfortunately, it is difficult to infer importance or effect sizes from correlations. In addition, it is easy for statisticians to obtain higher correlations by using various “tricks.” Armstrong (1970) showed how a correlation of .92 was obtained by correlating two series of random numbers. I try to refrain from reporting correlations; however, in some cases, it is the only measure provided by the researchers, and can be used as a very rough measure of relative importance.

Glossary Link Credence product: A product for which the claims are based on faith. The consumer cannot check this, even after using the product. However, published tests or comments from prior consumers could help to transform a credence product into a Glossary Link search product (see Search product).

ELM (pronounced E-L-M) – Elaboration Likelihood Method. Persuasion follows a central route, i.e., recipients think about the message, when they have the motivation and ability to process the message; however, if they lack either the motivation or ability, persuasion follows peripheral route—they may rely on simple cues, such as, “if he is an expert, it must be right.” Booth-Butterfield and Welbourne (2002) review its impact on research.

Elasticity. See advertising elasticity.

Glossary Link Endowment effect. The concept that an object becomes more valuable when one possesses it.

Glossary Link Experience good. A product for which claims can be evaluated only after a period of use by the consumer.

Glossary Link Exposure. Consumers have seen or heard an ad, even if have they paid little attention to it.

Glossary Link Eye tracking. A research method that determines which part of an advertisement consumers look at, by tracking the pattern of their eye movements. Initial studies have been traced to the 1920s.

Glossary Link FDA (Food and Drug Administration). The U.S. government agency that regulates advertising of foods, drugs, and cosmetics.

Glossary Link FTC (Federal Trade Commission). The U.S. federal agency primarily responsible for regulating advertising.

Glossary Link Focus group interview. A research method that brings together a small group of consumers to discuss a topic, such as a new product, under the guidance of a trained interviewer. Focus groups are often misused. They should seldom be used for research because they are biased, inefficient, and expensive. They were not designed to evaluate or to predict; but unfortunately, they are often used for these purposes. In short, do not use focus groups to evaluate advertising. Here are the reasons:

  1.  Biases occur in selecting samples. Selection of focus group members often necessitates self-selection because it requires that a group meet at a specific time and place.
  2.  Sample sizes are small. Because people interact with one another within the group, a researcher cannot claim that the observations of each member are individual.
  3.  Responses are biased by other subjects. In scientific work, effort is devoted to ensuring that other subjects do not bias subjects’ responses. In focus groups, people listen to others and they are influenced by their responses.
  4.  Biases occur because of the administration. Questions are often modified by the leader to favor a particular answer; such modifications might be unintentional. In addition, customer responses are subject to interpretation, creating another potential bias.
  5.  People tend to treat the responses as good predictors. There is no evidence that focus groups provide useful predictions.
  6.  Focus groups are expensive.

Glossary Link Font. A typeface style in a single size. A single font in English includes all 26 letters of the alphabet, along with punctuation, numbers, and other characters.

Glossary Link Font size. The size of the font typically measured in points, where a point is approximately 1/82 of an inch.

Glossary Link Framing. Questions or statements worded in ways that influence how the viewer interprets them; framing is also known as providing a “perspective.”

Glossary Link Gallup and Robinson. Leading advertising research firm set up by George Gallup and Claude Robinson in 1948. Provided test and normative Glossary Link recall and persuasion scores for the advertisements included in WAPB editions.

Glossary Link Gunning Fog Index. A measure of readability based on the length of sentences and large words. G = 0.4 * (S+W), where S is the average number of words per sentence, and W is the percentage of words with three or more syllables (ignoring common suffixes, such as “ed” and “ing”). The resulting index approximates the number of years of schooling needed to understand the material.. Word processing programs allow for easy assessment of readability. The analysis should exclude tables, references, subtitles, and numbers.

Glossary Link Hedonic product. A product that offers a positive experience; also called transformational products.

Glossary Link 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).

Glossary Link 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).

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

Glossary Link 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 (

Glossary Link 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.

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

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

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

Glossary Link 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.

Glossary Link 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.

Glossary Link Meta-analysis. 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.

Glossary Link Metaphor. 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.

Glossary Link 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.

Glossary Link 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.

Recall. Remembrance of an ad’s content. There are many ways to measure recall. For example, in our analyses of ads from Which ad Pulled Best?, recall was Proven Name Registration (PNR); it was measured a day after the respondent has read the magazine with the target ad in it. Measuring PNR involves Unaided Recall ("What ads do you remember in the Time magazine that you read yesterday?"), Category-aided recall ("Do you remember any ads for any cars? Which ones?") and Brand aided recall ("Do you remember an ad for Toyota?"). PNR is the percentage of respondents who are able to correctly remember the target ad and then go on to describe the ad accurately when asked to do so.

Glossary Link Received wisdom. Commonly held beliefs that are based only on unaided judgment, as reflected by typical practice and expert opinions.

Glossary Link Return on investment (ROI). The profit earned divided by the investment employed to earn that return; usually expressed as a percentage gain on an annual basis (e.g., P&G assesses ROI at least twice a year on each of its brands).

Glossary Link Rhetorical device. A technique for using language to produce emphasis (i.e., repetition or alliteration).

Glossary Link Sans serif typeface. A typeface without serifs, and usually with minimal or no variation in thickness of strokes. Helvetica is a sans serif face.

Search product. A product for which the consumer can evaluate claims easily and accurately prior to making a purchase by inspecting the product or by using information sources, such as Consumer Reports or

Glossary Link Serif typeface. A type style with definitive endings (serifs) to the open-ended letter strokes and most corners of letters; the small finishing lines attached to the letters. Times New Roman is a moderate Serif typeface.

Glossary Link Supers. Words superimposed on a TV, video, movie, or computer screen during an ad.

Glossary Link Tagline. A phrase that conveys a brand’s most important product attribute or benefit in a short memorable phrase. Used as a synonym for “slogan.”

Glossary Link Time compression. A device used in broadcast production to delete time from television or radio commercials, primarily by reducing the intervals between words,

Glossary Link Transformational product. See Hedonic product.

Glossary Link USP (Unique Selling Proposition). A short statement of a product’s strongest benefit (real or perceived). It can be objective or subjective, and it can be rational or emotional.

Glossary Link Utilitarian product. A product or service that solves a problem.

Glossary Link Voice-over. An unseen narrator or commentator in TV commercials.

WAPB (Which Ad Pulled Best). Aseries of books that presents 50 pairs of ads, each matched against another ad for the same product, ad size and media (and half the time for the same brand). For details, see Appendix B. As of 2002, the series was in its 9th edition.

Glossary Link White space. Unoccupied parts of a print advertisement, including between blocks of type, illustrations, headlines, or brand identifiers; also refers to blank sections with colored background.


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