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date: 23 July 2017

Advertising and Persuasion

This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Communication. Please check back later for the full article.

When discussing the relationship between advertising and persuasion the focus typically centers on the intended effects of advertising, which include increasing brand awareness, piquing brand interest, promoting brand use, and fostering brand loyalty. As such, the impact of advertising and persuasion is generally discussed in terms of market metrics. Did the advertising campaign lead to increased brand awareness, more favorable attitudes toward the brand, or increased consumer trial or retention? Structuring the relationship between advertising and persuasion in such a narrow fashion dismisses the broad array of unintended social effects associated with advertising, such as how race, gender, class, and sexuality are perceived and lived. While the goals of advertising explicitly exist within the realm of marketplace economics, its pervasive use of cultural symbols as a tool of persuasion squarely places it beyond the confines of mere business logic and in the domain of social learning. So while the messages communicated by advertisers are deliberately designed to impact how individuals relate to brands, those same messages also influence how individuals perceive themselves and relate to each other. Given the ways in which advertising serves as a marketing tool and socialization agent, the depth and breadth of its persuasive reach can only be understood when the intended and unintended effects of its output are examined in tandem.