7 Types of Advertising (+ Examples of How Brands Have Used Them)

Time after time, businesses allocate large amounts of money towards their advertisement efforts.

But with so many types of advertising, how does a business ensure their money is well spent?

Despite the array of choices at hand, all types of advertising share two mutual goals: to influence consumers and convert them either into customers or leads. When creating an impactful ad campaign, advertisers have a method to their madness that starts with research and strategy.

Businesses attempt to understand the habits and interests of consumers so that they can impact the lives of their target audience at nearly every touch point in their day, and ultimately, influence their buying decisions. To make a lasting impact, advertisers won’t just implement one ad type, but a plethora of ads that all work cohesively to reach consumers at every point in their buying journey.

The type of ad that a business chooses to use is almost as important as the ad’s visual aspects. Graphic design techniques are utilized to ensure that the ad is visually alluring for an audience, but if the ad isn’t placed in front of the right people at the right time, it’s simply ineffective.

Understanding the different types of advertising will put businesses on the right track towards a desirable ROI.

Types of advertising

Consumers today have more control over what they buy than ever. Just take, for instance, buying detergent — you walk through the grocery store aisle and find yourself staring at a shelf filled with seemingly similar products, but you’re forced to choose one brand over another. Businesses understand the consumer decision-making process and attempt to influence a customer’s buying journey before they are stuck staring at a shelf of choices.

Brands attempt to communicate with consumers at pivotal moments throughout their days as many times as possible. Effective ad campaigns will implement multiple advertising mediums to win over customers loyalty.

Every type of advertising differs in objective and usage. While one business may find success by investing predominantly in paid search advertising, another might rely on sponsored content. Advertisers will use market segmentation so that their advertising strategy is tailored to a specific audience and able to reach this audience effectively. 

Since not every type of advertising will work for every brand, understanding the distinction between digital and traditional advertising is an important place to start.

Digital advertising vs. traditional advertising

As people rely more on digital forms of communication, advertisers depend on online channels to remain relevant in the lives of consumers. The insertion of digital technology in the consumer culture has empowered businesses with more flexibility than ever in how they communicate with consumers.

Your target audience and budget will be the predominant factors that decide which type of advertising best serves the interests of your business. The most impactful campaigns feature a mix of both traditional advertising and digital advertising, such as this New Years campaign from Spotify. The music streaming service provided each of their users with a personalized musical “year in review” and then used that data for their outdoor ad campaign.

Spotify digital advertisement

Image courtesy of Reddit

Spotify outdoor advertisement

Image courtesy of AdWeek

 Digital advertising offers businesses instant feedback, a valuable tool for deciding what does and does not work in real-time. Implementing digital advertising is also more cost-effective than traditional channels and it easily allows businesses to develop a cohesive brand identity over channels such as social media. The price, scalability, and ease of digital advertising make it an ideal choice for small businesses to implement.

While digital advertising is usually targeted, traditional advertising provides businesses with the opportunity for enhanced brand exposure. Billboards, radio, and television allow a business to reach large populations across many different demographics, which increases the possibility of becoming noticed by an audience that has not already been targeted. The high cost of traditional media and its timely implementation process make it a more realistic choice for larger businesses that have the budget and resources to effectively advertise digitally.

Now, let’s break-down the major types of advertising so that you can decide which ones are ideal for your business.

Types of digital advertising

In today’s consumer culture, investing in digital advertising is a necessity. If you want to reach your target audience, chances are they are online. Whether it’s through search engines, social media, or other forms of media, digital ads enable businesses to reach the right consumers at the right times. Digital types of advertising also provide businesses with measurable results, so brands can analyze and improve their online ad campaigns.

Now learn some of the ways you can implement digital advertising into your next advertising strategy.

Paid search advertising

I’m sure you are familiar with the process of using a search engine–type your desired topic into the search box and within seconds an abundance of links are displayed across your screen. Now consider this process from the viewpoint of a business. How do you get your website to stand out from all of the seemingly similar content available to users? The answer to that is paid search.

Paid search is the process of bidding on specific keywords, so that related search ads are placed at either the top, bottom or sides of a search engine results page (SERP). With paid search advertisers pay a fee every time their aid is like, otherwise known as pay-per-click (PPC). The bulk of a SERP contains organic search results, but paid search ads appear similar in format to the organic listings placed between them. To differentiate between paid and organic search, look for a small label next to the link, which signifies that it is, in fact, an ad.

So what do paid search ads look like? As you’ll see below, when you search, “winter boot” the first links that appear are all texts ads, and to the right, product listings are displayed on the side of the page, vertically.

paid search advertising example


Businesses of any size can benefit from paid search advertising, especially those that offer a specific consumer packaged goods product or a service with high lifetime value, such as schools or doctors. The real value behind investing in paid search is that it places a businesses services or products in front of people who are already looking for it. Since paid search ads are only seen by people who are already seeking out a good or service, there is a likelihood that clicks will convert to sales.

Social media advertising

While social media was once viewed as just as a fad, it has since grown to be a crucial element in a brand’s advertising campaign. Every platform, whether it’s Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn, operates uniquely, but understanding the ins and outs of each can ensure that your business is placed in front of the right people at the right time.

It’s very likely that your target audience is using social media, but it’s important for advertisers to recognize that not everyone is using it for the same reasons. Just think about how and why you use each social network. Isn’t your motivation to use LinkedIn different than why you choose to scroll through Instagram or Twitter? For a social ad to be impactful, the purpose of the ad should match the objectives of the target audiences. For instance, in the social media for the brand Class Pass, a subscription-based fitness membership program, there is clear intent with their postings, as the content on each of their platforms differs from one another. Their Twitter typically shares longform content related to health and beauty.

Their Instagram, on the other hand, focuses on creating a brand identity and displaying their services.



Businesses can implement social media advertising either organically or through paid ads. Just as with search engines, simply posting content and hoping it reaches your audience organically can take a tremendous amount of time and energy. Paid social media strategies enable businesses to target a specific audience, implement a clickable call to action, and then bring users right to their site. Paid ads mirror the style and format of organic content, but there is an added label, indicating the ad is sponsored.

With social ads, there is an added bonus–effectiveness is measured in real-time. Every piece of social media content that a business posts is trackable, so advertisers are able to collect insight on how much traffic an ad has, how many conversions it cultivated, and even who has engaged with the ad. On the consumer side, social media ads foster two-communication, since users are able to interact with brands by sharing, commenting, tagging content. Social media advertising is not only an impactful ad strategy, but it is also credible in the viewpoint of consumers.

Native advertising

When was the last time you actually paid attention to a video ad or clicked on a pop-up? My guess is not recently.

Native advertising, also referred to as sponsored content, is designed to match the style and function of the platform on which it appears, hence the word native. This type of ad comes in the form of articles or videos and are meant to look as if it belongs amongst original content of the platform.

Businesses understand that consumers have learned to ignore what they don’t care about, and only focus on the content that’s relevant to them. Impactful native ads provide consumers with valuable content but make the advertising aspect secondary to whatever message is being communicated. Since they match the natural editorial flow of the page, native ads are non-disruptive and users won’t feel like their engaging with an ad.

native ad example


Now you may be wondering, if a native ad blend in with regular content, how can I tell it’s an ad? Native advertising is typically found on either social media feeds or on web pages as recommended content. A distinguishing factor is usually displayed to insinuate that the media is actually a paid advertisement so customers are not misled.

Native ad example

Placement with native ads should be strategic and usually follow the patterns and interests of a business’s target audience. For instance, if you’re a business selling HR technology, it wouldn’t make sense to pay for sponsored content in beauty publications such as Vogue or Glamour. When implemented correctly, native advertising is not only a way to reach potential customers, but also build brand credibility in the eyes of consumers.

Display advertising

In style and format, display advertisements are unmistakably an advertisement. The obvious nature of display ads is a unique factor within the field of digital advertising since ads are typically implemented subliminally. While display ads are not as popular as other types of advertising, this is not said that they are ineffective.

Display ads can be static or animated, such as in the ad from Bowden below, and are typically found along the top of web pages, i.e. traditional banner ads, or along the sides. While other types of advertising have the intention of telling a compelling story or creating a brand identity, display ads aim for quick conversions. Their potential reach is diverse and extensive since most relevant search engines are able to match an ad up to millions of website based on keyword and targeting preferences.

display ad example


So, what are the drawbacks then?

The prevalence of display ads on the internet damages their effectiveness. Since they provide no value to consumers other than a call-to-action, people have learned to ignore display ads and their click-through-rates continue to drop.

While display ads are not as popular as they once were, businesses should not completely ignore them in their ad campaign strategy. When display ads are direct and visually stimulating, they can grab the attention of an audience.

Types of traditional advertising

While most people today rely on digital technology for how they receive information and communicate, traditional advertising shouldn’t just go by the wayside. With the right budget and purpose in mind, traditional types of advertising can be just as effective as digital. It’s all about understanding your audience and what type of media they’re most responsive to.


Advertising through print media–newspapers or magazines–was once the dominant form of advertising for businesses. Print media also includes the distribution of other print materials–brochures, direct mail, posters and flyers. Although the field of advertising has evolved, its goals have remained the same: to influence the opinion and buying decisions of consumers. While most people have turned to digital for how they communicate and receive information, print media is still an important form of advertising.

Understanding your audience is an essential part of deciding whether utilizing print will be beneficial to your business. Start by thinking: where are my customers located? What are their interests? How do they receive their information? And then consider if there is a publication that matches these characteristics. There probably is!

Imagine you own a business that sells fertilizer.Paying for ad space in a magazine that focuses on all things gardening is a tactic worth investing in since you are placing your product in front of consumers who have reason to be interested. The same goes for small businesses with a regionally-narrow consumer demographic. In this case, choosing to advertise in locally-owned newspapers and magazines matches your business’ target audience with a relevant readership.

With print, it’s important to remember, that the more niche and related print media is to your business, the better the impact it will have.


  • Newspaper and magazine ads
  • Brochures
  • Directories
  • Flyers and posters
  • Direct mail (postcards and letters)


Until recently, advertising through broadcast–commercials aired via television or radio–has been the most popular and reliable form of advertisement. However, with the popularity of streaming services and digital recording devices (DVR), the majority of consumers are skipping past or completely ignoring broadcast ads, making this type of advertising a bad investment for certain businesses. While broadcast is not the marketing tool that it once was, it has nots reached a point of complete extinction.

For some companies, especially those with a large budget, buying a broadcast spot is an excellent way to build brand awareness and communicate their values to consumers. Think about some of the most iconic brands within our culture. Nearly all of them will allocate money towards a flashy 30-second Super Bowl ad because the Super Bowl, like many other high profile events such as the Olympics or award shows, is guaranteed to bring in a large and diverse audience.

For businesses that can afford the high price tag associated with broadcast advertising, the potential attention it brings is a brand is a worthwhile investment. However, without a direct path to sales, broadcast is a tool for awareness, not a sales-driver.


  • Infomercial
  • Network spots
  • National spot advertising
  • Local spot advertising
  • Public service announcements

Outdoor advertising

Businesses want to reach consumers everywhere they go, so outdoor space has become synonymous with ad space. Outdoor advertising, otherwise known as out-of-home advertising, is simply any ad that touches a consumer while they’re out of the home. Just like broadcast, outdoor advertising is considered a mass-market medium and is intended to support broad messaging and branding efforts.

Implementing the principles and elements of design are critical to an effective outdoor ad. Think about how quickly you take in the messaging on a billboard or an ad on the side of a bus. The message of your advertisement should be easily consumable through its design.

An outdoor advertisement is a great way for businesses to reach a large population of people, that is not targeted by any specific demographic. It has traditionally been an advertising tactic that supports brand awareness since it’s difficult to display any kind of convincing messaging on an ad that people will only see for a few seconds. However, many advertisers have started to use outdoor ads as a way to connect the real world with the digital world. Whether it’s through a QR code or apps like SnapChat and Instagram, businesses are using technology to engage passers-by and drive them to something instantly, enabling a conversation between consumers and a brand.


  • Billboards
  • Street furniture
  • Transit advertising
  • Mobile billboards
  • Point of sale displays

What’s next? Start an ad campaign

Now that you understand all the different types of advertising, you have what it takes to form an ad campaign. Ad campaigns are a series of advertisements which all share a similar message or are intended to achieve the same goal. They are an integral part of most marketing plans and typically have the objective to build brand awareness, drive sales, or generate leads. Ad campaigns usually follow a set timeline and will utilize diverse media channels–traditional and digital–to reach a specific audience and position a business at influential touch points.

Want to learn more about how advertising can impact your business? Check out this compilation of over 40 advertising statistics to enhance your strategy in 2019.

Source: 7 Types of Advertising (+ Examples of How Brands Have Used Them)

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