What Is the Difference Between an Ad & a Commercial?
An advertisement is a message paid for by a company and delivered through a mass medium to a target audience. Commercials are examples of ads that run specifically on broadcast media like television and radio. Choosing the right medium to persuade your target audience is a critical element of successful advertising.
There are three common criteria used to define a company's message as an advertisement. It must be paid for, delivered through mass media and attempt to persuade the audience in some manner. Advertisers typically have in-house ad departments or outside agencies that develop the creative strategy for an ad, design it and produce it for distribution. Ads normally combine elements of visual imagery and verbal or written copy that collectively try to increase company awareness, reinforce the brand's image, change customer attitudes or influence purchase behavior.
The media channels available for delivering ads are virtually limitless. Traditional media include radio and TV, along with magazines and newspapers. The Internet has also been a major ad medium since the end of the 20th century. More recently, companies have expanded into digital and interactive ad space using mobile technology such as cell phones as delivery mechanisms. Billboards, transits, bus benches, aerial and directories are common examples of support media used to place ads that reinforce company messages. Interactive methods of direct marketing such as direct mail and email are also common. Companies analyze media to determine whether a high proportion of the audience or readership fits the target market. High efficiency on investment is important to advertisers.
Along with traditional radio and television, Internet and mobile streaming video and audio commercials have become more common in the early 21st century. What distinguishes commercials from other ads is the dynamic nature of the message. Print ads and billboards have static messages that don't move and rely on the combination of visuals and copy to tell a story. Television and radio commercials run for 15 to 60 seconds and present a dynamic message that the listener or viewer must follow to understand and absorb.
TV and radio commercials have pros and cons relative to other ads. The ability to tell a story creatively, especially with the visuals and movement of TV, are strengths. You can also combine music and sound to set a tone or mood for the message. TV is normally the most expensive medium by the time you produce the commercial and buy ad space. Radio is relatively affordable, though, especially in local markets. One drawback of the dynamic nature of commercials is that the message is fleeting. Once the commercial ends, your sensory appeal is lost and you hope the audience was impacted.