Advertising has been a form of glorifying or gaining publicity for goods and merchandise since very early times. In fact, advertising has been around as an informal concept since the beginning of civilizations and former methods were oral advertising or claiming the benefits of products verbally when merchants sold goods to people directly on the streets. However with the advent of paper and writing, advertising took a more formal shape.

Egyptians and Ancient Greeks used the papyrus for advertising and rock painting was also used. Advertising in English in magazines as we know today dates back to the end of the 17th century and newspaper advertising in America began during the first part of the 18th century with advertisements for estates. With the growth of mass media and different forms and avenues of communication like radio, TV, newspapers, magazines, and of course the internet in the 20th century, advertising started becoming an important aspect for commercialization of products. People started understanding the potential of advertisements and it became a business with the establishment of advertising agencies with the first advertising agency in US opened in 1841.

With advertising becoming a business in itself, the methods of using advertisements became even more formalized, controlled and systematic and the advertisements for products started appearing as newspaper ads, on billboards, hoardings, as handbills, leaflets, on magazines, newspapers, on TV and radio as commercials and more recently on the internet. Web advertising is now a very powerful means to take the message across to the customers. However to actually appeal to customers, advertising will have to work in accordance with the principles of psychology and sociology. Thus an advertiser or an advertising professional will also have to be a sociologist and a psychologist to really have an impact on the minds of consumers.

The principles of advertising are largely based on cognitive psychology and the psychological processes of attention, perception, association and memory to bring out the complete impact or uses of a product or ‘brand’. Any advertisement will have to first focus on the attention that it is able to capture of the consumers. Strong messages, strong visuals and glaring colors are sometimes used on hoardings and billboards. For commercials, attention catching clothes and attractive models are sometimes used.

Once the attention is drawn with the colors and the sounds or words, the focus is on retaining consumer interests by using ‘association’. Themes or products which a particular segment of customers could associate with are used thus for baby food, mothers and babies are featured so association would have more to do with relevance or context of the advertisement. Certain colors also have associative value and certain brands and companies use a specific color to promote their products. For example easygroup uses orange and Vodafone uses red as standard color for all advertising. The company logo or symbol is also a part of developing a brand and helps in giving identity to a brand and has a strong associative value.

The association should be such that it not only serves the purpose of quick understanding and perception of the consumers but is also retained in their memory for a long time. Thus memory or retention is an important aspect of the psychology of advertising as only an advertisement that consumers can easily remember for a long time for its novelty or use of words, colors and figures will be the most effective.

The development of a ‘brand’ is just as effective because a brand helps in driving attention, in developing association (for example, we associate Coke or Pepsi with youth, celebration and a soft drink popular for all occasions) and in memory or retention of any image associated with a service or product. So branding is vital in advertisements as brands help in giving a name and distinct identity of a product. So a Gucci bag or a Sony camera is known for the brand rather than the product.

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