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What is advertising?

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Quick Answer

Advertising refers to the marketing communication that businesses use to persuade, encourage or manipulate audiences to get them to take some sort of action. The most common desired outcome is to make a purchase or follow some other dictate of consumer behavior, although advertising for ideological and political purposes is also popular. Commercial advertisers use "branding," or associating an image or name with specific qualities in the consciousness of the consumer, while affective advertisers attempt to get people to feel a certain way or believe a certain line.

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The word "advertisement" comes from the Latin word "ad vertere," which means "turn toward." Sponsors pay for the placement of advertising messages, and they appear to viewers through a variety of media, ranging from radio, television and print ads to direct mail and outdoor postings as well as websites, text messages, blogs and other sources.

Modern advertising began to appear in the 1920s, as tobacco companies created ads to promote their business. The first company to advertise in this way was Edward Bernays, the company that is thought to have founded the Madison Avenue style of advertising. The use of advertising has grown rapidly since then, with advertising spending in 2010 estimated at approximately $143 billion in the United States alone.

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