Did You Get the Message?


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How do you find out about the things you want to buy? Many goods and services are probably brought to your attention through advertising. Businesses use advertising to tell you about themselves and what they are selling. Businesses also use advertising to try to convince you to buy what they are selling. They do this by pointing out how you will benefit if you buy their product. These benefits are called incentives. .


You will investigate how advertising gets your attention and how it tries to influence your buying decisions. You will then create an ad.


Watch this advertisement titled Messy Marvin . Then formulate answers to the questions below. Check your answers by rolling your cursor over the answer link at the right of each question.

What Grabs You?

The creator of the Messy Marvin advertisement hoped a funny story would get you to pay attention to a message about Hershey's Syrup. Humor is just one of many techniques advertisers use to try to get you to pay attention to commercial messages. Some ads feature a movie star, athlete or cartoon character. Popular music, sound effects, and bright colors are other common features. Words like “new,” “amazing” or “free” may also grab your attention.

Watch the Messy Marvin ad again. This time listen very carefully for all the adjectives used to describe Hershey’s Syrup.

Of course, there was also Marvin drinking that big glass of chocolate milk. Did that image make you think about having a glass of your own?

For some different attention-grabbing strategies, watch this Pepsi advertisement .

What’s the Message?

Advertisers want to do more than grab your attention. They want to persuade you to make a purchase.

One way they do this is by pointing out how you will benefit if you buy what they are selling.

Think back to the two ads you have just examined.
Proud Man
Incentives can be monetary or non-monetary. All of the incentives above are non-monetary. An advertisement that announces a lower price on one of the products would be an example of a monetary incentive.

Who Is the Messenger?

MessangerSometimes the messenger is as important as the message in an advertisement. Advertisers often select messengers that they think people would like to be like or that they trust.

Famous people: You already know that some advertisers use famous people to grab your attention. Advertisers also think you will want to buy a product because it is associated with or recommended by a famous person. Winning athletes are often used to promote sports clothing and equipment. A movie star might be shown driving a new car. Popular musicians are common in soft drink commercials.

Experts: You have probably seen an ad where a dentist or an actor playing a dentist tells you which toothpaste to use. Other commercials claim most doctors prefer one medicine to other medicines. Advertisers think you are more likely to trust a message delivered by an expert.

Ordinary people: Have you every seen an ad in which ordinary people tell why they liked a movie as they were leaving the theater? Or an ad featuring a mom who tells how clean a laundry detergent got her family's dirty clothes? Advertisers know that some people are more likely to believe a message when “regular” people are the messengers.

Think back to the Pepsi ad.



Businesses use advertisements to grab your attention, to let you know about the goods and services they sell, and to motivate you to buy. They have many “tricks“ that can help them accomplish these goals. They might use:

  • Music, sound effects, color and images.
  • Stories that make you laugh or feel some other emotion.
  • Words and claims that make the good or service appealing.
  • Famous people that you like or want to be like.
  • Experts or other people you trust.

Generally, advertisers want their advertisements to create a positive image for the businesses they represent, and their products. An ad would not be successful if it told the bad stuff.


View ten television commercials targeting young persons. Using the TV Advertisement Log, record the business sponsoring each ad, the product being advertised, , how the ad tries to grab your attention, and the ad's message and messenger.


  1. Print advertisements use many of the same techniques used in television ads, minus the sound and motion. Create a print ad for Burp Cola at Don't Buy It: Advertising Tips , using elements that would grab your attention and make the drink seem appealing to persons your age.
  2. Prepare an advertisement promoting one of your favorite books. Use some of the strategies you learned in this lesson to convince others they should read the book.
  3. Over the years advertisers have tried to convince people to buy all sorts of things. Some products were huge sellers while others were big flops. Separate the successes from the failures at Don’t Buy It! Hot or Snot .
  4. Not all economists agree on the impact of advertising. Some economists credit advertising with increasing consumer demand and helping the economy grow. As businesses get more sales, they are often able to reduce their per-unit production costs. Consumers benefit if businesses pass on these savings as lower prices. Other economists, however, believe that advertising is wasteful. They argue that the cost of advertising adds to the cost of goods, and that most advertising simply encourages consumers to buy one brand rather than another. Which side of this argument do you think the ads in this lesson support?