Education = Advertising

“Education is advertising a specific viewpoint to a specific target audience to influence a desired outcome. Advertising is educating a specific target audience about a specific product or service to influence a desired outcome.” I’ve said this many times when asked why, after years of work in advertising design, I would choose a Masters of Education degree in Instructional Technology. To me, it seems like the next logical step in my career. I’ve always wanted to teach, to include my technology and design background in the discussion, and to improve existing educational outlets.

What is advertising?

Advertising can be defined as what we say about some product, service, or idea to get someone to make the choice we want them to make. While most traditional definitions focus solely on the nonpersonal communication media of advertising, I’m going to lump in everything including “word-of-mouth” advertising and personal sales pitches. Why? Well, it fits my purpose to relate it to education because education usually involves face-to-face contact supported by various media.

What is education?

This, to me, is a little harder to define. I’ll include the definition from Webster’s online: “to train by formal instruction and supervised practice especially in a skill, trade, or profession.” But to tie education to strict formal settings seems to limit it unnecessarily. In today’s world of the Internet, social networks, and web-enabled devices, I’ll add education as a construct to any situation where learning can occur. For example, part of my education in advertising design has included self-paced trial-and-error working through projects on my own, looking at others’ work as case studies, and reading up on trends and ideas through online blogs.

If education includes media and social networking outlets, the formality of the instruction and practice gets thrown out of the definition. In my education I’ve gone to blogs, news sites, critiqued completed ads or campaigns, and the like. It’s not a question of whether the blogger, creative person, or advertiser had the intended purpose to educate me. It becomes a question of whether I can learn from other’s ideas, successes, and mistakes. Education is personal. Why not look at it in a sense of how one becomes educated?

Education = Advertising

How can we use principles and techniques of advertising to enhance education, and vice versa? I’ll start with a look at something as simple as the television commercial, the 30 or 60 second spot, as a model for topic introduction in a lesson.

Anatomy of a TV commercial

A successful television commercial will effectively and concisely convey a message to a segment of the public called a target audience. The intended outcome of the communication is for that audience to understand the message and then comply with the call to action presented in the commercial. The underlying outcome of the communication is for that audience to become further educated in regard to the product, service, or idea presented in the commercial, along with any implied or suggested messages accompanying that message. These may be emotional ties to the brand, rationality to the how, when, or why of the message. The ad is merely a piece of educational material wrapped up in some persuasive message.

There is actually a formula or format by which all ads should be created. It’s called the AIDCA (alternately, AICDA) format. The acronym stands for Attention, Interest, Desire, Credibility, and call to Action. As you study advertising design, you’ll come into contact with this format and start to recognize which parts of the formula are present in a given advertisement.

  • Attention – The advertisement will attempt to get the audience’s attention. This may take the majority of the ad, or, if strong enough, it will hit and stick with as the ad maneuvers into the other aspects of the formula.
  • Interest – This may be tied into Attention, but it further retains the attention. Interest is not equivalent to Attention. For example, a car accident might get one’s attention but not necessarily interest, if one turns away from it to avoid becoming part of the accident.
  • Desire – This is what develops if the advertiser has successfully kept the Interest of the viewer. Desire begins to tie the viewer to the subject matter, to the brand or product.
  • Credibility – Credibility solidifies resolve in the audience. If one feels one can trust the advertiser, one is more likely to buy in to the intended outcome.
  • call to Action – The intended outcome of the commercial. This may be communicated outright – “Buy now!”, or implied “Choosy mom’s choose Jif”. Without a clear, unmuddied call to Action, a commercial will fail.

With the understanding of the AIDCA formula, teachers would be better prepared to introduce a new topic of instruction. Yes, but give me an example. OK.

Welcome to my class today third-graders. Today we’re going to start something that you’ll use for the rest of your lives. It is a practice that has been handed down for generations. It will increase the speed with which you can write to your friends. It’s artistic and fun! Who wants to know what it is?! Yeah! OK, get your pencils and paper ready, because today you are going to start writing in cursive!

Did you see all the pieces? Do you think it would be successful in motivating at least the start on learning cursive? Now, its all up to the teacher to keep the motivation. The only tough part–easy for me to say of course, since it’s a whole field of study–is the research to know what will get the viewer/student’s Attention, how to develop Interest into Desire, establish Credibility, and then what specific call to Action will work to get the student/viewer to do what one wants them to do. I leave that up to you.

Get out there and start advertising and educating!

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3 thoughts on “Education = Advertising

  1. Valuable info. Lucky me I found your site by accident, I bookmarked it.

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Ryan Haworth, Ryan Haworth. Ryan Haworth said: Check out my first article about Instructional Design: […]

  3. […] money involved. But, can I do all things I am capable of doing? Does the answer lie in the area of specializing in […]

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