Thursday, November 13, 2008


Nobody really knows exactly how many advertising messages we are exposed to each day. An interrogation of several respected business journals, asking this very question for US Citizens revealed a number of studies that gave answers ranging from 247 to 3,000. Either way there are a lot.

In an increasingly competitive society, advertising has taken on many forms in order to remain a step ahead of the competition. Many sellers and advertisers are now using entertainment in order to capture the attention of an audience and get their message across – this is sellertainment. A definition of which is ‘entertainment that is designed to sell a product, belief or ideal with the specific intention of increasing take-up amongst the audience’. Sellertainment can be found in a number of guises, some of the more commonly experienced forms of sellertainment are as follows:

· Printed sellertainment: brochures; leaflets; flyers; posters; and adverts in printed media.
· Sellertainment events: industry / trade shows; political rallies; sales parties.
· Media broadcast sellertainment: television and radio advertising; television ‘shopping’ channels.
· Online sellertainment: adverts; pop-ups; banners; and company websites.

Printed sellertainment is relatively commonplace, many magazines and newspapers are loaded (and heavily subsidised) by numerous full page and smaller adverts within them – including the use of ‘advertorials’ – adverts that are disguised as interest stories to get readers interested in the product, belief or ideal being sold.

Posters can be found in numerous locations, large billboards are often displayed by road sides so as to attract the attention of the occupants of passing vehicles. Flyers and leaflets can be found in many places, often pushed through letterboxes as ‘junk mail’ or distributed by hand to passers by, in student cities these are particularly used to advertise club nights.

From fashion shows to the The British International Motor Show, sellertainment events are commonplace. At the ‘World Travel Market’ (currently being held at ExCel in London), countries from around the world showcase themselves to potential buyers, including tour operators, students, and trade body representatives. In order to have appeal to passing potential customers, stands need to be eye catching, and often use entertaining promotional methods such as cultural crafts and artworks, musical performances, traditional costumes, gastronomic delights; dance displays; and many different types of ‘giveaways’. The images below highlight some specific examples of this, from this year’s World Travel Market.

A Formula 1 car helps to sell Abu Dhabi

A band helps to sell Tanzania

Traditional crafts and the 2010 world cup help to sell South Africa

In the recent US elections, the political campaigning cost both parties over $1bn, much of which was spent on large scale rallies where both Republican and Democrat parties attempted to ‘sell’ themselves to the US electorate, both candidates and their Vice Presidents spoke to thousands of people, and in doing so became entertainers themselves to their audiences. On a much smaller scale, ‘home sales parties’ such as Tupperware, Pampered Chef, Virgin Vie, and Ann Summers parties (which all have the broadest appeal to women) are held in a person’s home. With the use of a kit / starter pack or instructions, the ‘host’ typically has to prepare by buying food and drinks for their invited guests. When the party is held, an organisational representative arrives to demonstrate products, as well as organising tasks and games. The idea of the party is that the audience will be tempted to commit themselves to buying a product or products there and then. The host, for their involvement gets a small percentage of the sales revenue – often in the form of ‘points’ which is typically traded for products from the promoting company.

By far the most obvious form of Sellertainment to many people, is that which is broadcast through the media – particularly television. Television adverts or commercials have been in existence since 1941, when the first TV advert was aired in the USA. Television adverts have proved to be good sources of revenue generation for channel operators, but not always popular with viewers. Devices such as TiVo are now available that can record programmes without the adverts – this is of course of concern to many broadcaster stakeholders who do not want to see advertising revenue cut because of this.

The availability of cable / satellite and digital television has lead to the segmentation of channels with many solely providing specialist content – this includes ‘shopping’ channels that are entirely made up of advertising content such as QVC and Bid TV. These channels allow viewers to buy products as they are being advertised in a seemingly live environment by chatty hosts who often ‘play act’ or demonstrate these products to the viewing public. Some shopping channels ‘share’ their frequency with other channels that may only broadcast at certain times of day, allowing shopping channels to take up unused broadcasting capacity.

The internet is host to many forms of advertising, the websites of organisations that are trying to sell a product, belief or ideal to visitors is an example of sellertainment, as are online banner ads, pop ups and other adverts placed upon screens. The use of Flash and dynamic html often allows adverts to run at video quality without taking too long to load. Some websites make viewers watch an advert before allowing them to proceed to the part of the site that the viewer actually wanted to see.

Like it or not, sellertainment is here to stay and will most likely grow for the foreseeable future in our consumer-driven commercial society (excuse the pun). Entertainment Weekly publisher Scott Donaton has written an excellent book called ‘Madison and Vine: Why the Entertainment & Advertising Industries Must Converge to Survive’, which covers this subject area in much greater depth.

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