Advertising is a fact of life for almost all humans in the twenty-first century. As such, it is also a possible IELTS topic. In this exam, you might find questions about advertising in any part – speaking, writing, listening, or reading.

Today, I am going to explain a little about advertising and IELTS. I will talk about how it could arise in the exam and what you should do to give a great answer. I will also cover some aspects of IELTS vocabulary.

Advertising Vocabulary for IELTS Students

First of all, let’s look at some useful words and phrases that might help you in your next IELTS exam. These are all related to the topic of advertising.

Advertisement(noun) a notice or announcement in a public medium promoting a product, service, or event or publicizing a job vacancyWe need to design a better advertisement to help sell our product.
Advertise(verb) describe or draw attention to (a product, service, or event) in a public medium in order to promote sales or attendanceThey are really trying to advertise this new phone but I don’t think people are impressed.
Brand(noun) a type of product manufactured by a particular company under a particular nameThey are very protective over their brand and will sue anyone who develops anything similar.
Campaign(noun) an organized course of action to achieve a goalThey have an amazing online ad campaign right now. Everyone’s talking about it!
Commercial(noun) a television or radio advertisementI saw a great commercial at lunchtime.
Slogan(noun) a short and striking or memorable phrase used in advertisingLet’s meet this weekend to come up with a great slogan for our next ad campaign.
Viral(adjective) suddenly and widely popularNo one had even heard of this company two months ago but after their ad campaign went viral they suddenly blew up!

Here is a PPT of vocabulary related to the IELTS topic of advertising. I made this a few years ago when I was teaching IELTS in China.

Because advertisements are so common in daily life, we tend to shorten the word to make it easier to say and spell. Instead of “advertisement,” we usually say “advert” or “ad.” The meaning is the same in each case, but they are shorter and easier to use.

However, remember that for IELTS writing you should use a more formal kind of English and this means using the longer form of words. Thus, you would be better avoiding “ad” and saying “advertisement” instead.

An Important Note on Pronunciation

The word “advertisement” is pronounced differently in British and American English. In British English, we place emphasis on the second syllable, but in America they say it with an emphasis on the first. You can read more about it at the Cambridge Dictionary website.

Add vs Ad

One final note on vocabulary: The word “ad” is short for “advertisement” but “add” means to put things together, such as numbers. Also, “ad” is a noun” while “add” is a verb. These words are pronounced the same but spelled differently. Do not confuse these in your IELTS writing test!


  • Just add the milk to the flour and then mix them together. You can add the egg later.
  • I say a funny ad on TV earlier today. A gorilla was playing the drums!
Sample Ad from Canva

IELTS Speaking

In the IELTS speaking test, you might be asked about advertisements. This could occur in any of the three parts. For part one, it would be a pretty straightforward question about your experiences or opinions. For example:

Q: Have you ever bought something because you saw it advertised on TV or the internet?

A: Yeah, sure. I think most people have. Off the top of my head, I can think of a miniature tripod that I saw online last year. I looked up some reviews and then bought it, but I wouldn’t have known about it if it weren’t for the ad.

In part two, you would be asked to describe an advertisement. There are various possible cue cards but this is one that you might encounter:

Describe an advertisement you like.

You should say:

– what type of advertisement it is

– what product it advertises

– when you first saw it

and explain why you like it and think that this advertisement is effective.

You can watch this advert and then look at my sample band 9 answer below.

Sample Answer

Like most people, I have seen countless adverts in my life and many of them have stuck in my mind, but the one that I can think of now is for John West’s canned salmon. It was a TV commercial that I saw a long time ago and it was really funny so I always remembered it.

The premise of the commercial was highlighting the efforts that fishermen go to in order to bring back salmon for their customers. However, instead of showing this in a serious light the company opted to depict a fisherman comically fighting a bear! The fight is choreographed so that it is clearly fake, as though the bear understands Kungfu. In the end, the fisherman beats the bear and steals its salmon.

I really like this advert for the same reason I like many others: because they are so funny that they are memorable. I think this is a very effective method of advertising. Traditionally, companies show off the quality of the product but nowadays there is so much competition that it is better just to get your brand into people’s minds. Even if the commercial has nothing to do with the product, it could still boost sales.

Notes on my Sample Answer

This is a pretty straightforward answer and it took me 01:20 to read it, which would be fine for IELTS. There is no particularly difficult vocabulary here except the word “choreographed.” However, this word was only important for my answer and would not necessarily help you with yours.

I have switched back and forth between “commercial” and “advert(isement)” in order to vary my language but please note that they are not always interchangeable. Make sure that you only use “commercial” for TV adverts.

IELTS Essays about Advertisement

Of course, the topic of advertisements could also appear in IELTS writing. There are many possibilities for this but I think that the ethics of advertising would be the most likely to arise. This means that you would be asked about advertising to children or issues like false advertising. (These topics could also occur in IELTS speaking part 3.)

Here is an example question:

Some people say that advertising is extremely successful at persuading us to buy things. Other people think that advertising is so common that we no longer pay attention to it.

Discuss both these views and give your own opinion.

This is a pretty simple task. You have to talk about two perspectives:

Advertising influences people to buy things.Advertising does not really influence people anymore.

You also need to give your opinion and make it clear throughout the essay.

Here is my sample answer to this question:

Sample Band 9 Answer

Since the early twentieth century, advertising has held tremendous sway over people’s lives. Some people think that it persuades us to buy things, but others claim that it has lost its effectiveness. This essay will look at both views but ultimately conclude that advertising is still as powerful as ever.

To begin with, people argue that advertising has lost its impact because it is so prevalent, and there is certainly some basis for thinking this. It is hard to deny that most people nowadays are aware of advertising and that many of them make efforts to avoid it. When using websites or apps, it is so common to see adverts littering the page that the average person can basically ignore them, which obviously diminishes their power to some extent.

However, it should be clear that the advertisers are aware of this and constantly innovate in order to attract attention. Although people are now aware of them, adverts still have a strong influence over what people buy because the people who create them are incredibly gifted at implanting subtle messages. Data harvesting by search engines and social media sites has also made advertising much more targeted, allowing companies to pitch products to specific demographics rather than attempting to show their product to the greatest number of people. This means that even people who avoid adverts are likely to be influenced after seeing one. Advertising is a science that is developing quickly and will continue to dictate our shopping habits for years to come.

In conclusion, people are generally more aware of advertising than they used to be and many try to avoid it, but that does not mean that it has lost its power. Adverts still exert influence over our lives because they are more intelligently designed than they used to be.

Advertising Essays – Sample #2

advertisements and ielts

Here is another IELTS writing task 2 question about advertising. This one is really interesting so I wanted to include it here:

Today, the high sales of popular consumer goods reflect the power of advertising and not the real needs of the society in which they are sold.

To what extent do you agree or disagree?

While our first example was very straightforward, I find that this one is much more challenging. It has some subtleties that people might overlook. We can come to a better understanding by paraphrasing it:

To what extent do you agree that people buy things because of advertising?

My personal opinion is that people buy things partially because of effective advertising. I do not believe that it is purely because of this, but I think I could write a good essay that leans towards agreement.

Remember: You can give a strong opinion, a weak opinion, or a balanced opinion. Just be consistent throughout your essay!

Sample Answer

As globalization sweeps the world in the twenty-first century, people appear to have become more materialistic. Expensive consumer goods produced by companies like Apple and Nike are sold in all corners of the globe, and for many people they are must-have items. Some people believe that this is all down to advertising rather than actual necessity. This essay will argue in support of that position.

It should be abundantly clear that many of the popular consumer goods that dominate markets around the world are not items of objective importance, but rather ones of purely superficial appeal. People need things like food and clothing, as well as some items that enable them to work or travel, but certain products are just luxury items. Take, for example, the iPhone. There are countless other devices on the market that can fulfill the main functions of an iPhone without the jaw-dropping price tag. However, in almost every country, people want to own one of these status symbols. The reason is simply that it has been marketed well, and owning one makes a person look successful and wealthy.

If the real needs of society were reflected in sales, rather than the popularity of certain luxury items, our economies would look very different. Fashionable brands would not be as wealthy as ones making affordable, simple products. Yet it is those items that are carefully advertised on TV, on the internet, and at sports events, which captivate people and cause them to make unwise purchases or form irrational brand loyalties. Look at how Apple overtook Microsoft, or how Nike easily outsells any humble, local shoemaker.

In conclusion, it is clear that sales are dictated not by a product’s necessity, but rather by its appeal to consumers, and this appeal is created through slick advertising campaigns.

Advertising in IELTS Reading and Listening

It is pretty difficult to predict the sort of material you would encounter for these parts of the exam because the possibilities are nearly endless. However, you can prepare by going on news websites (like the BBC) to read or listen to articles about adverts. This will help you learn new vocabulary, perfect your spelling or pronunciation, and get ideas to use in your own IELTS answers.