Background to the Study
Advertising is a form of communication used to encourage or persuade
on audience (viewer, reader or listeners) to continue to take some new
action. Most commonly, the desired result is to influence consumers’
behavior with respect to a commercial offering, although, political and
ideological advertising is also common. The purpose of advertising may
also be to reassure employees or shareholders that a company is viable
or successful. Advertising messages are usually paid for by sponsors and
viewed via various traditional media: including mass media such as:
newspaper, magazines, television commercials, radio advertisement,
outdoor advertising or direct mail, or new media such as websites and
Advertising has been defined as “a powerful communication force and a
vital marketing tool helping to sell goods and services, images and
ideas”…. (Wright, 2003:8). Similarly, Roderick (1980:4) defines
advertising as “a message specified by its originator, carried by a
communication system and intended to influence and/or inform an unknown
audience.” Advertising may also be seen as “a group of activities aiming
at and including dissemination of information in any
paid product or service to compel actions in accordance with the intent
of an identifiable sponsor” (Doughuge, 1985:8).
Advertising has a long history, with some options tracing its origin
to the story of Adam, Eve and the serpent in the Bible (Okigbo, 1985:10
and Weffer, 1985:6). Wright (2000:4) however, opines that advertising
started in ancient Babylon at about 3000BC when inscription for an
ointment dealer, a scribe and a shoe maker were made on clay tablets.
Sandage and Fryburger (1963) argue that Egyptians first wrote
runaway-slave announcements on papyrus at about 3200BC. In Africa, town
crying and hawking were the earliest forms of advertising. These have
survived in many Nigerian villages till date. With respect to media
advertising, which is the focus of this paper Sandage and Fryburger
(cited in Okeke, 2006:24) suggest that the first media advertising was
done in London in 1477 when a prayer book was announced for sale, while
the first newspaper advertising appeared in the Boston Newsletter in
The print media came into Nigeria in 1859 with the appearance of a
Yoruba language newspaper “Iwe Iroyin” published by Reverend Henry
Townsend at Abeokuta. The publication carried an advert in form of an
announcement for the Anglican Church.
It is noteworthy that the earliest forms of newspaper advertising
were crude and unsophisticated. But they not only help the local
merchants to sell of his goods, or services, but also set a pace for the
modern methods of advertising, which have over a long period of time
undergone tremendous changes such that today, a lot can be written on
the language of advertising in Nigeria. This is possible because
advertising has become more professional, involving copywriters who
exploit all the available linguistic devices to make their adverts not
only persuasive, but also aesthetically appealing. This paper therefore,
attempts a linguistic analysis of the language of newspaper advertising
in Nigeria, highlighting the phonological, morphological, syntactic and
semantic features that make them attractive and persuasive.
Statement of the Purpose
The structure of language in advertising has a peculiar form. Many
factors predispose the copywriter (i.e. one who writes advertisements)
to choose his vocabulary this in some sense implies that copywriter does
not have a free flow of lexical items.
It is worthy to note that some important points about newspapers is
that they are businesses, and businesses need to make a profit. They can
only do that if they have readers. So newspapers have to provide us
with the most up-to-date information: news, features and also movie
listings, the weather, sports scores, and so on. The greater the
circulation, the more advertising a paper can sell which means more
profits, but less space stones. Newspapers need to balance these needs
It is however clear that the copywriter is restrained to the use of
language in advertisement, and the owner of the advert has a primary
motive of making profit out of the adverts. It is obvious that in good
adverts language matters in this context; therefore, purpose of this
study is to critically analyze the most suitable language for newspaper
The following will help guide the research study in achieving its objectives:
1. What makes you stop and look at the adverts?
2. What kind of adverts do you place on newspapers?
3. What kind of caption should be given to adverts?
4. What kind of message should be driven out through advertisement?
5. Should adverts be short or lengthy?
Purpose of the Study
The purpose of this study is to examine the following:
1. To know how to construct adverts to attract readers or viewers.
2. To be able to distinguish the terminology to use in different adverts.
3. To be able to determine the right choice of language used in newspaper advertisement.
4. Understand the need for long or short newspaper adverts.
Significance of the Study
This study will be able to unveil some of those hidden facts about
the use and choice of languages used in newspaper advertisements, and
also bring about a more refined advert outputs.
This research study will highly relevant to the readers, and
especially to the world of journalism in the way and manner in which
adverts are to be constructed and be placed on newspapers for public
The study will also help to ensure that the choices of languages of
newspaper adverts are properly selected so that those who pay for the
adverts will be satisfied with the publications, and that the readers’
attention will be captured at the sight of such adverts.
Scope of the Study
This study is basically limited in space to the Vanguard Newspaper of
Nigeria, and also to the world of publication and journalism.
Definition of Terms
1. Advertisement: A public notice or announcement
2. Newspaper: A printed publication containing news, advertisement and correspondence
3. Announcement: To make publicly known