What is an ad?

By Keaton


This Post Is an Ad


Let me start off by saying that this post is an ad. Yes, this post is an ad. But we’ll get to that later.


What is the fundamental definition of an ad? An ad is anything that creates a non-overtly negative association with a brand. 


When we say anything, we really mean anything.


A comedian, mentioning that he went to a certain fast food restaurant, casually in a story, is an ad.


A protagonist, or villain, driving a certain brand car in a movie, is an ad.


Every time you tell someone to Google something, that’s an ad. 


When your significant other asks you to pick up some Starbucks, that’s an ad. 


Here’s the problem. Really good advertisers advertise without advertising. They insert their brand into everyday conversations and create content that seems unrelated to the brand but actually is designed to serve the brand.


I’ll give you a great example:



Ah, what a great company!


To Go Where No Ad Has Gone Before


That’s an ad. You make an association with a brand “Little Caesars.” The association is not overtly negative. That is all it takes. 


Doesn’t matter that this is a reporter reporting a story.


Doesn’t matter that it isn’t “about” Little Caesars directly; it is about donating pizzas for disaster relief but also happens to mention the brand.


It is an ad.


This form of advertising is so effective because it can go where traditional advertising cannot.



138 upvotes on Reddit!


The ad is popular and gets upvoted on Reddit. Normal ads cannot achieve this.


How can you tell what is an ad and what isn’t? The delineation between an ad and non ad is a gradient. Here are some factors which can help you determine.


There are levels:


Level 1: Visible logo or brand name with a link to related domain


Level 2: Related domain alone or visible logo or brand name alone


Level 3: No visible logo, brand name, or related domain but visible logo, brand name, related domain in supplementary materials like comment section


Level 4: No visible logo or brand name but implied logo or brand name from product type



You would think that the example above is a sneaky ad. It’s not. It’s a level 1 ad. Both the brand name and a link to the related domain are mentioned in the story.

Just a meme.


The Ad's Greatest Trick Is Convincing the World It Doesn't Exist

This meme is both a level 2 ad and a level 4 ad. How can it it be both at the same time?


The meme overtly mentions Facebook, a brand name, but with no logo or direct link. That’s a level 2 ad. The meme also mentions “tissue” which creates an implied brand name from product type. 


What? How does that work? 


You don’t have to use a tissue to cry, or sneeze, for that matter. You can use a cloth. You can use a paper towel. You can use your sleeve. You can not use anything (barbarian).


What you do use comes from the associations you make in the world around you. Constantly seeing media where people are using tissues to cry and and sneeze? You will probably use tissues. Constantly see media where people are using expandable nose plugs (this product does not exist in current society) you would probably be using expandable nose plugs. 


Every association in the media between a tissue and anything else is creating a market for tissues, which helps brand awareness indirectly for tissue companies. 


The larger the share a tissue company has of the market, the more this helps them. So this meme is a level 4 ad for tissue companies, most likely benefiting Kleenex the most since they have the largest brand in the space.


Is there information that speaks about the brand negatively? These tend not to be ads. But be careful. Is the information actually damaging or is it a disguised “humble brag” type damaging?


Example comment which is actually an ad:


Wow I’m so irritated that this shirt brand sells out in 2 minutes. I’ve been trying to get a shirt from them for months but always miss the window. They need to get their supply issues handled.


The explicit implication is something negative, but the implicit suggestion is that this shirt brand is so popular that people are upset they can’t get one and that it sells out near-instantly.


Here is an example of a non-ad negative text.




This shirt brand sucks. They say each shirt is custom made but really they are just printing different logos on shirts made from x supplier which makes low quality 2$ mass produced shirts. They are lying to their customers.


Despite mentioning the brand or logo explicitly this is not an ad, it is too negative and damaging to the brand.


Keep in mind that ads do not have to be orchestrated by the brand. Successful companies are so ubiquitous in our every day lives that we create ads for them all the time in conversation and our social media posts.


So How Is This Post an Ad?

This post is a level 1 ad for Loop (our company)


This post is a level 4 ad for Mcdonalds, Burger King, and other fast food companies


This post is a level 4 ad for Mercedes, Toyota, and other car brands


This post is a level 2 ad for Google


This post is a level 2 ad for Starbucks


This post is a level 1 ad for Little Caesar’s


This post is a level 1 ad for ABC 15 news


This post is a level 1 ad for Reddit


This post is a level 2 ad for Facebook


This post is a level 2 ad for Kleenex


This post is a level 4 ad for T-Shirt companies


And I probably missed a few.


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