You hear a lot about the different kind of advertising—TV, radio, billboards, search, mobile, social, banner, pop-overs, and so on—but, after looking at ads on all platforms, I think we can reduce the taxonomy down to just four kinds.

Four types of advertising:

Type 1: “Yellow Pages”

Customers are actively looking for something because they want to buy it. They want several options — but not too many — to allow them to compare, and for the results to be: locally available to them, show prices, give links to more information. Their priorities (not necessarily in this order) include: price, fastest, best, available here, size/colour/etc.

Other examples: classified ads, Google search results, product comparisons, professional services listings, etc

More info

Type 2: “Coca Cola”

Shows the brand, typically in a fairly passive way, so that later, when the person wants to purchase that type of product, they recognise that brand and preferentially choose it. (They may even actively seek out that brand.)

Other examples: banner advertising, sports team sponsorship, business name signs outside business premises, logos on clothing, etc.

More info

Type 3: “Catalogues”

When the advertiser advertises another company or another company’s product to try to use that company’s brand awareness.

Other examples: Retailers that put popular brand name/products prominently in their advertisements, the little “Powered by” logos on some web sites, “Authorised resellers of…” etc.

More info

Type 4: “Garage Sale”

An event that the person doesn’t know about but, once they’re told about it, may interest them.

Other examples: new product announcements, spruikers outside stores, sales and special offers, bands & sporting events, exhibitions/shows, etc.

More info


As well as the above, sometimes things happen serendipitously, eg. you were talking to your friend about their amazing vacation in Italy, and then you see an ad for cheap holidays in Italy. Normally you wouldn’t have been interested, but you’ve just been talking about it, so you are. But, even though you’ve been talking about it, you wouldn’t have gone looking for cheap holidays. But when the two happen together, you’re interested enough to follow up.

Note that, of the four types, the first three do not depend on knowing about the customer. In fact, Type 2 is really aimed at everyone, without regard to their demographics. Type 1 advertising can benefit from things like knowing the customer’s location, but it does not rely on this. It is only the fourth type that really benefits from knowing more about the customer.

I go into each of the four types in more detail in separate posts.