Advertising may be described as a form of commercial mass communication designed to promote the sale of a product or service, or a message on behalf of an institution, organisation or candidate for political office.
Today, technology is affording service providers and product sellers a wide variety of media to choose from, including print, audio and digital.
In the 19th century, when new technologies were being invented and fresh forms of communication were being experimented with, advertisers did not have such a luxury.
The availability of a wide spectrum of advertising platforms means that communication is no longer only speech or pictures, but any way one person can pass information, ideas or feelings to another.
Contemporary advertising therefore has the ability to use all of the senses: smell, touch, taste, sound and sight.
Smell is most effective in personal advertising techniques, such as merchandising.
Smell is the perfect merchandising weapon for selling perfumes, or sampling of foodstuffs, but it is ineffective with any form of non-personal communication.
Touch has a limitation that makes it of little use in advertising – the customer has to come into actual contact with the item to be touched.
Thus the item must actually exist and be put in a medium that can carry it. This puts touch more in the realm of personal selling than advertising.
It is, however, possible to use touch for a limited number of products. For example, samples of cloth or paper can be bound into magazines.
The potential customer can thus feel percale or the texture of corduroy, tell through touch the difference between one and the other.
Taste is probably the least useful communication channel available to advertising. Like touch, taste requires the potential customer to come in actual physical contact with the product.
The remaining two senses, sound and sight, are the most effective and easily used channels of communication available to advertising.
For these reasons, virtually all advertising relies on them.
Radio, television, the internet and new technology of binding micro-sound chips in magazines to present 20-second sales messages all use sound as the principal communication tool.
Words, the method by which humans communicate their ideas and feelings, are presented by sound, by speaking aloud.
Through the use of words it is possible to deliver logical arguments, discuss pros and cons, and evoke emotions.
And through the use of sound it is possible to create what is called “the theatre of the mind”.
What this means is that sound can conjure in the listener’s mind images and actions that don’t necessarily exist.
For example, to evoke images of a summer suburban morning, the sounds of a breeze rustling leaves, the chirrup of insects, the soft call of birds is sufficient.
Cellphone companies occasionally use alert tones of the most popular phones to connect with subscribers that are used to the sounds.
In our case, Samsung cellphones are more popular than the rest and it would be logical that their tones are used across the networks as advertising tools.
The targeted audience would fill his or her mind will take those sounds, combine them, make sense of them, and create an image suited to their individual taste.
For example, a beer commercial may play the sounds of muttering people and clicking glasses in the background, and the listener may imagine themselves in their own favourite bar, and perhaps ordering that brand of beer.
Thus sound, in the forms of words and effects, is quite useful to the advertiser in affecting a listener.
Sight is arguably the most useful of the communication channels available to the advertiser.
Through sight, it is possible to use both words and images effectively.
Words do not have to be spoken to be understood, they can be printed and animated as well.
Although it is difficult to put in written words the emotional impact possible in spoken words, with their inflections and subtle sound cues, nevertheless written words are unsurpassed for getting across and explaining complex ideas or arguments.
A picture is worth a thousand words.
Showing a visual of a thing carries more value than describing it in words.
No matter how many words are used, some details will be left out that are visible at a glance.
Sight has the ability to quickly and concisely show a customer what the advertiser wants her to see, be it a product or how buying the product can benefit him or her.
In addition, the mind does not have to consciously recognize what the eye sees for it to have an effect on the subconscious.
An advertiser can put many inconspicuous details into a picture that will affect a customer at the subconscious level.
A direct meaning of a drop of water on a rose petal for example may not consciously register in the targeted audience’s head, but will unconsciously leave an impression of freshness and delicacy.
A small child looking upward into the camera, unsmiling and eyes wide, gives an impression of innocence, sadness and vulnerability.
Of the five senses, sound and sight are the most useful and effective in advertising.
A marketing message may be packaged in so many different ways but, for as long the nature of the communication is non-personal, touch, smell and taste cannot offer a direct link between an advertiser and potential customers.
Technology has given the world progressively better communication devices and will continue to present better, cheaper and faster machines, but sound and sight will continue to be the primary tools for passing a massage from point A to point B.