Ads to Icons: How Advertising Succeeds in a Multimedia Age (2nd edition)

Nancy Furlow (Marymount University, Arlington, Virginia, USA)

Journal of Product & Brand Management

ISSN: 1061-0421

Article publication date: 19 July 2011




Furlow, N. (2011), "Ads to Icons: How Advertising Succeeds in a Multimedia Age (2nd edition)", Journal of Product & Brand Management, Vol. 20 No. 4, pp. 328-329.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Ads to Icons is not your typical case study book. The collection features 50 different case studies from around the globe that highlight various aspects of today's advertising industry. The book is actually divided into two distinct and separate parts – the first six chapters offer short, concise examples from the industry; the last four provide a bit more analysis and theory devoted to new media.

From the first chapter, Springer discusses the fact that the playing field has changed for advertising. Chapter 1, “Rethinking mass media,” explores campaigns that embrace new technology and social media or that have exceptionally creative components of traditional marketing communications such as Lego's posterscapes. Chapter 2 continues to examine out‐of‐home campaigns that capture their target audience's attention, such as Nike's 90 Swift football vending machines, while Chapter 3 focuses on event‐driven campaigns like Adidas’ vertical football played along the side of a building in Tokyo.

The examples Springer uses focus on non‐traditional formats of advertising. Examples of experiential marketing from Nike, Skoda, and Sony Ericsson (Chapter 4); viral campaigns such as Burger King's Subservient Chicken (Chapter 5); in‐game promotion from DTM (Deutsche Tourenwagon Masters) (Chapter 5); and even a social marketing example from the Singapore Cancer Society (Chapter 3) are used to demonstrate just how far away from 30‐second television spots the world of advertising has come. Chapter 6 discusses campaigns that were predominantly online, through the company's web site or a micro site. One of the cases used to demonstrate this concept is the much‐discussed Dove Campaign for Real Beauty targeting women with the goal of raising their self‐esteem.

Creativity is key in these campaigns. Although labeled as “successful” by the title of the book, there is not much evidence used to support the effectiveness of these campaigns, though they are undeniably creative. Springer does a fine job of capturing the essence of global advertising by highlighting cases from around the world, including the USA, UK, Poland, Spain, Singapore, South Africa, Japan and Germany. The majority of the cases originated in the USA and the UK, but as Springer points out, “‘world advertising’ has often been taken to mean Western – US and European, the community of old capitalist economies” (p. xiv).

Beginning with Chapter 7, “The new media landscape,” the book shifts focus and format and looks at online media in terms of advertising opportunities. “This section addresses the new online advertising environment and considers what the impact of video streaming, personal web space and user‐generated content will hold for advertising” (p. 239).

One of the most relevant chapters in Ads to Icons is Chapter 8, “The new job landscape.” Springer discusses job opportunities in today's advertising industry – a rarely addressed topic, especially in a case book. Springer takes a close look at how today's agencies operate and offers some insight on the developments of the industry. “In the past decade, a rapid growth in digital messaging and direct marketing has led to the emergence of new advertising specialisms” (p. 245).

In Chapter 9, “Closer,” Springer “outlines the significant developments in direct and digital campaigns that paved the way for ‘wrapping’ ads around targeted consumers” (p. 269). These developments are broken down into five distinct phases:

  1. 1.

    Talking to consumers – broadcasting messages to consumers.

  2. 2.

    Dialogue – digital communication addressing consumers one‐to‐one.

  3. 3.

    Involvement – interactive consumer involvement.

  4. 4.

    Advocacy – heavy use of user‐generated content.

  5. 5.

    Enablers – branded online systems offering access to information (pp. 273‐4).

The title of the book is misleading. Ads to Icons conjures up images of Mr. Clean, Ronald McDonald, and Tony the Tiger; however, this volume actually represents mostly current and unique advertisement examples. While many of the campaigns center around new media, they are not exactly iconic – yet. It is not until the final chapter, “Where advertising stops […] and marketing begins,” that the title of the book becomes evident. Springer emphasizes new media and advertising techniques to express how advertising has reached beyond television and radio and now encompasses our culture to “blur the boundaries between advertising and everyday life” (p. 314). This chapter tackles the role of advertising in the broader scheme of marketing communication. “Where a big advertising idea distils ideas into a single tangible message, the message carriers in their various media are versions of advertising. Whether people creating promotional content for whatever media have brand consultant, marketing, or communications on their business card, they are effectively advertisers” (p. 306).

The author valiantly “tried to avoid using jargon” (p. xviii), but that is nearly impossible to do. To make up for the heavy use of advertising and media‐specific terminology, Springer italicizes the terms and includes them in a thorough glossary in the back of the book. Additionally, in an attempt to keep up with the changing times, Springer includes a link to the accompanying website ( The site is not fully developed as of this writing, but shows great promise to continue the dialogue of new media's role in advertising.

Ads to Icons would be a nice supplement for the classroom. Both undergraduate and graduate students studying advertising will be able to take away information from the case studies used throughout the book. The international aspect is especially important for today's scholars. The book would also be helpful for faculty teaching advertising and marketing communication courses. Young advertising professionals may find the book a good tool to bring with them on their first step into their career. It also would appeal to anyone interested in advertising's place in popular culture.

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