Advertising trends of information products in a Nigerian newspaper.

Author:Ibikunle, Opeyemi Ibidun


The attention being given to information has experienced a quantum leap for some decades now. This is because the role information plays in the society cannot be overestimated. Freiden, Goldsmith, Takacs and Hofacker (1998) noted that the time has come for information to be treated as a unique product in order to maximize the usefulness of information. Therefore, recent decades have witnessed an explosion in the quantity of information products (IPs) produced, which came as a result of advancement in information and communication technologies (ICTs). There is also no doubt that the information age is experiencing a significant growth in the volume and variety of print and electronic media that carry adverts of all types of products and services, and that an increasing proportion of these adverts are IPs. This explosion brought about the need to focus specifically on the marketing and advertising of IPs in order to ensure the products get to the intended users. Thus, the production, selling, transporting and manipulation of IPs have become a huge business for many information industries. IP is defined as any product (either good or service) whose core or primary product is information or knowledge (Rowley (2006). IPs are tangible information goods, which are designed to express, store and/or convey information symbols from a particular source to another source or sources.

One of the tasks of IPs designers is to create awareness for his products; and advertising plays a significant role in creating awareness of the IPs to the users. Through advertising, information about the existence of IPs is brought to the notice of potential buyers. Advertising is described as any paid form of non-personal communication about an organisation or its product to a target audience through a mass/broadcast medium by an identified sponsor (Adekoya, 2011). It should however be noted that, for any promotional activity to be called advertisement, it must be paid for. Thorson and Duffy (2011) defined advertising as paid communication from an identified sponsor using mass media to persuade an audience. Advertising announces the availability and location of products, describes their quality and value, and reaches communities and individuals beyond those with whom the organisation already has a relationship, or with whom direct contact is difficult or expensive (Rowley 2006). Advertising helps in selling new ideas, products and services through the art and strategy of persuasive communication (Dhar, 2011). Advertising calls the attention of consumer to buy product or service, persuade user to buy the product or service, show them the uniqueness of the product, create awareness and brand loyalty to the user and remind user of the existence of the product in the market. Companies spend a large part of their budget to produce and run advertisements (adverts) or promotions to communicate information about their company and products. As Oyekunle and Tiamiyu (2010) noted, successful organisations, whether competitive or not, have found that effective dissemination of information about their existence, products and services is a critical success factor, and advertising has proven to be a vibrant tool for disseminating such information.

In advertising, messages or information about the product or service are transmitted through various advertising media, which could be print or electronic. Before electronic media emerged, print media has served human society very well over the ages for dissemination and exchange of information. Burtenshaw, Mahon and Barfooot (2006) identify some types of advertising media. These are posters, ambient media, newspaper and magazines, television and cinema, radio, direct mail and Internet (online) advertising. Among these media, the newspaper has been one of the oldest advertising media. Oyekunle and Tiamiyu (2010) mentioned that the newspapers have certain beneficial features that make messages placed in them very convenient for consumers in that readers can read at leisure without a real-time mental constraint. Readers also have the opportunity of giving the message or information more scrutiny than the other various advertising media. The newspaper has a permanent nature and wide accessibility which makes messages placed in them very convenient for consumers to use. IPs provided in media like the television and the radio relatively lacks a form of permanence in terms of accessibility and storage of IPs because they often times convey transient auditory and visual messages that are thus likely to target emotions and would not be easily amenable to careful interpretation and evaluation unless recorded (Dominick, 1998). Babalola (2002) described the newspapers as useful tools for promoting literate communities because of their invaluable functions of informing, educating, entertaining and constructively bringing the activities of the government nearer to the people. Babalola (2002) further state that newspaper has a built-in capacity to motivate readers and that is the reason why it is a common practice in most parts of Nigeria where people congregates around newspapers stands and vendors every morning reading and discussing the contents of the newspapers.

This study seeks to analyse the trends of advertisement of different IPs in a Nigerian advertising medium by analysing the nature of the adverts, as well as the strategies used to convey messages about the IPs to users. This is because a search through literature found that very few studies have been carried out to look at the trends or patterns of adverts of IPs in advertising media, especially the Nigerian newspapers. Two studies, which looked at the trends of IP adverts in some Nigerian newspapers, had some limitations. Oniyide (2010) examined the trends of advertisements of information technology (IT) products in Punch newspapers, and found that the number of advertisement on IT products increased significantly over the years and the quality of the adverts also improved significantly. Oniyide's study was limited to only the Punch newspaper for a period of ten years (1999-2008), and suggested the need to investigate the trends in some other Nigerian newspapers from the period she reviewed, which is the main aim of this study. Oyekunle and Tiamiyu (2010) examined the patterns of IPs advertisements in two Nigerian Newspapers (the Guardian and Tribune newspapers) for just two years (2006 to 2007), and observed that messages communicated through adverts and other formats in the media often reflect development trends and issues in the societies where they are used in which Nigeria is no exception. The study showed that IPs were advertised more in the Guardian than Tribune newspapers. They also found that conduit IPs were much more frequently advertised in the newspapers than content IPs. The study however found that there was relative lack of adverts of video and music on CD/DVD, even though there were thriving markets for these products in the Nigerian market. This study tried to investigate if this trend found by Oyekunle and Tiamiyu (2010), with regards to Guardian newspaper, is sustained beyond the period they covered. The study is also aimed to find out if the adverts of video and music on CD/DVD have improved over the years. Hence, this study analysed the trends of advertisements of IPs in the Nigerian Guardian from 2008 to 2012 to fill the gaps identified by these aforementioned studies, ascertain if there is improvement in the advertisements of IPs from year 2008, in addition to providing an exposition into the other advertising strategies that are being used in the Nigerian newspapers.

Research Objectives

The first objective is to analyse the nature and trends of IPs adverts in the Guardian newspaper from 2008 to 2012. The second objective is to identify the various advert strategies used by the advertisers of the IPs to deliver their messages. Therefore, the study provided answers to the following research questions:

* What types of IPs were advertised in the Guardian from 2008 to 2012?

* Where were the IPs located on the pages of the newspapers?

* What were the sizes of the IPs advertised in the newspapers?

* What types of techniques (advertising appeal) did the advertisers use?

* Which category of IPs (content/conduit) was prominent in the newspapers?

* What is the frequency of IPs advertised during the period?

Literature review

Information Products: Meaning and Types

Information products are objects or events through which information is communicated in information systems, organisations and societies. They are essential means by which organisations express and communicate their values to the outside world and internally. IPs are being defined in terms of both tangible information goods and intangible IS. Tiamiyu described IPs as "techno-physical objects designed by man to express, store and/or convey communication/information symbols from a particular source to one or more target destinations" (Tiamiyu, 1993, p. 209). Among the examples he gave are books, newspapers, sound recordings, paintings and computer databases or software. Orna (2001, p.302) expressed a similar view. Orna defined IPs as visible products, print on paper or electronic through which information is presented for use. Tiamiyu (1993) noted further that IPs also include, discrete, real-time events or activities designed to express, convey and transfer information. Such IPs are usually referred to as IS. Griffiths (1992) explained that IPs could be recorded messages that convey meaning to both creators and intended users of the messages and that the two essential attributes of such messages are content, i.e. the meaning of the message, and the type and structure of the symbols used for the message.

Typologies of IPs

McLaughlin and Birinyi (1984) suggested a popular approach to classifying IPs. IPs can be classified along two main dimensions: the nature of...

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