Clickbait and viral marketing: the language of advertising

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by Liz Walter

These days, most of us are targeted by adverts pretty much constantly, sometimes in obvious ways and sometimes more subtly. This post looks at the language around a phenomenon that many people would say is out of control.

Let’s start with some basic words for advertising. The first thing to note is that the pronunciation of the word advertisement is different in British and American English. In British English, the third syllable rhymes with ‘miss’, whereas in American English it sounds like ‘eyes’. Only British English speakers use the shortened form advert, but both Brits and Americans use ad.

Another general word for things that get attention for a product is publicity. This word has several collocations, for instance the verbs attract and generate and the adjective adverse (meaning ‘bad’):

Their charitable actions attracted a lot of good publicity for the company.

The phrase publicity stunt is often used in a rather disapproving way, to mean that something was done only to get attention:

I don’t believe they are really in a relationship – it’s just a publicity stunt.

Marketing is a word for all the ways in which a company tries to persuade people to buy its products. It includes advertising, but also other factors such as pricing:

We have just launched our new marketing campaign.

Marketing methods change continually, bringing new words. For example, the word clickbait is used (usually rather disapprovingly) for online material that is designed primarily to persuade the reader to click on a link where they are likely to be exposed to advertisements.

Ambush marketing is a term for a type of unofficial, unpaid advertising, often linked rather dishonestly with a sporting event. One famous example occurred during the 2012 London Olympics, when one company advertised itself as the official sponsor of ‘the largest athletics event in London’, then explaining that they were talking about an egg-and-spoon race in the small French village of London!

It is common for companies to employ celebrities to endorse (say they like) their products. Some people even make a living as influencers on social media. These people, who have large numbers of followers, are paid to promote (advertise) products.

Viral marketing is where consumers of a product spread information about it, either because they love it or by sharing adverts that they particularly enjoy. This usually happens via social media, but could also be word-of-mouth (when people talk to one another). Stealth marketing is where products are promoted in ways that may not be obvious to the target consumers. An example could be product placement, where a company pays for its products to be used in a popular movie or TV series. Similarly, advertorials are newspaper or magazine adverts that are made to look like normal articles.

In this information age, we need to pay attention to our sources!

12 thoughts on “Clickbait and viral marketing: the language of advertising

  1. Wow, it’s the first time i’ve read an article in this website, and i’ve already learnt more than I did in my last year’s english lessons. Congratulations and keep up the good work. Love from Barcelona.

  2. Haitham Ghazy

    thanks alot for your efforts
    It isreally very interested

    obvious word or incomplete sentence some times used to attarct people, after a while the advering company relaise the complete sentce or clear the word meaning.
    this method in advertising i do not like specialy when they close it unprofissionaly.

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