Some commercial advertising media include: billboardss, printed flyers, radio, cinema and television ads, web banners, skywriting, bus stop benches, magazines, newspapers, town criers, sides of buses, taxicab doors and roof mounts, elastic bands on disposable diapers, the opening section of streaming audio and video, and the backs of event tickets. Any place an "identified" sponsor pays to deliver their message through a medium is advertising.
Covert advertising embedded in other entertainment media is known as product placement.
The TV commercial is generally considered the most effective mass-market advertising format and this is reflected by the high prices TV networks charge for commercial airtime during popular TV events. The annual US Super Bowl football game is known as much for its commercial advertisements as for the game itself, and the average cost of a single thirty-second TV spot during this game has reached $2 million (as of 2003).
Advertising on the World Wide Web is a recent phenomenon. Prices of Web-based advertising space are dependent on the "relevance" of the surrounding Web content. E-mail advertising is another recent phenomenon. Unsolicited E-mail advertising is known as "spam".
Some companies have proposed to place messages or corporate logos on the side of booster rockets and the International Space Station. Controversy exists on the effectiveness of subliminal advertising (see mind control), and the pervasiveness of mass messages (see propaganda).
Unpaid advertising (also called word of mouth advertising), can provide good exposure at minimal cost. Personal recommendations ("bring a friend", "sell it by zealot"), the unleashing of memes into the wild, or achieving the feat of equating a brand with a common noun ("Hoover" = "vacuum cleaner") -- these must provide the stuff of fantasy to the holder of an advertising budget.
Advertising ultimately seeks to establish what is called "mind share". Mind share is the status a brand can achieve when it co-exists with deeper, more empirical categories of objects. Kleenex, for example, can distinguish itself as a type of tissue. But, because it has gained mind share amongst consumers, it is frequently used as a term to identify any tissue, even if it is from an opposing brand. One of the most successful firms to have achieved this is Hoover (as mentioned above) whose name was for a very long time synonymous with vacuum cleaner (and Dyson has subsequently managed to achieve similar status, having moved into the Hoover market with a more sophisticated model of vacuum cleaner).
Mind share can be established to a greater or lesser degree depending on product and market. In Texas, for example, it is common to hear people refer to any soft drink as a Coke, regardless of whether it is actually produced by Coca-Cola or not (the more accurate term would be 'cola').
Other objectives include short or long term increases in sales, market share, awareness, product information, and image improvement.
Advertisers use several recognizable techniques in order to better convince the public to buy a product. These may include:
A popular belief among many segments of society is that subliminal messages are commonly used in advertising, though this is seen by experts as little more than an urban legend.