Advertising And The Art Of Making An Impression

Nigel HollisJanuary 11, 20138332 min

Advertising And The Art Of Making An Impression

The reference to an “advertising message” makes me wince. The word “message” seems to imply that the advertising is designed to convey specific information or an argument. But not all advertising is intended to persuade people by arguing the merits of a brand. And even when it does, I think we overestimate the degree to which people actually comprehend what is shown and said in advertising.

Particularly for dynamic media like TV, online video, radio and cinema, people rarely assess the relevance of an ad at the time of viewing.

There are three reasons for this.

First, there is no pause for thought. If people have decided to watch the ads, then new content is constantly displacing attention on the old.

Second, most people are not in the shopping window, i.e. the subject matter is not immediately relevant to them.

And, third, even for those in the shopping window, the information is understood as a claim, it is not yet a belief confirmed by experience.

But this does not mean that most advertising is ineffective. Provided the ideas conveyed by the ad come to mind when relevant, then it will have an effect, i.e. when someone is thinking about buying the product in that category. So in the vast majority of cases, the best we can hope of any advertising is that the content is noticed at the time of viewing and the idea and feelings evoked are linked to the brand in people’s memories.

This is why I have always preferred the old-fashioned term, “advertising impression.” Although it is typically used as a media term to imply an exposure or ad view, the word “impression” also implies that people get the general idea. They understand the gist of what is being said, without necessarily consciously considering what the ad is trying to convey at the time of viewing. An impression is the mental image of a brand that sticks in people’s minds.

After all, isn’t that what most advertising is trying to do?

Advertising helps the brand to make a good impression. The analogy might be chatting with someone you find attractive. You might try to make yourself seem interesting to the other person. You try to make a good impression by saying the right things and casting yourself in a good light. You may choose to emphasize certain things about yourself more than others, in order to make yourself stand out from the crowd. And you will try to make yourself seem likeable.

It seems to me that if these tactics work for a person, then they ought to work for a brand as well. So what do you think? Would “impression” be a better word than “message?” Please share your thoughts.

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Nigel Hollis


  • Mukesh

    January 12, 2013 at 2:35 pm

    I think the trick is to create a relevant brand impression with right brand message.

    Advertisements should aim at leaving a memorable image in consumer’s mind which leads to creation of brand preference. Many Advertisers use a set of verbal & non verbal messages to achieve this.

  • DoTime_WX

    January 13, 2013 at 12:18 pm

    Although semantics play a part, I prefer impression over message. Your analogy on “chatting with someone you find attractive” simplifies what the brand ultimately wants to do: connect.

  • Dan White

    January 14, 2013 at 9:22 am

    I second the connection point. Brands want to connect with their audience on a personal level and inspire them to both make a purchase and be an ambassador to their friends. If I feel more connected to a brand then I am more likely to purchase, the two go hand in hand.

  • Luke Murphy

    January 16, 2013 at 12:43 am

    Though I agree on most above points, I think two things are getting mixed up. Branding and advertising. Advertising’s sole purpose is to communicate the one benefit which that brand has for the consumer and, if successful, will leave the consumer with the impression: “yeah, that brand might work for me”.

    I believe advertising alone can’t make the bond which is described above.

  • Sanmi Lajuwomi

    January 16, 2013 at 9:50 am

    I agree that an advertisement has to leave an impression on the consumer’s mind i.e. funny, witty, encouraging, inspiring e.t.c., however, that impression is best established with a strong message. A great example is Apple’s classic “Think Different” advert which gave the impression that Apple is only used by different and unique individuals whilst simultaneously telling the viewer that Apple is a special brand for special people. I think the perfect blend of the impression and the message is part of what made the advert effective and much lauded.

  • Steven Gordon

    January 20, 2013 at 5:22 am

    Maps are a relevant advertising tool, particularly the map app platforms developed for mobile devices. Google, Bing, Nokia, now Apple all market their maps by the standard of information content. In a sense the play for their audiences is based on “brand = information trustworthiness.” Most users fall into engaging with their maps with or without assessing good graphic / cartographic design. They just happen to be loyal to the mobile platform they carry in their pocket or purse.

    Will we get to a point where map information is uniformly high-quality and trustworthy so that design-as-branding will separate one platform from another?

  • Doug Bell

    January 22, 2013 at 11:01 pm

    So, whether they are in your career or social life, it’s important to know how to create a good first impression. This article provides some useful tips to help you do this.

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