Printed Ad Analysis
Choose a print ad from the web (Google print ads) and analyze some or all of the following: its structure, its content, its explicit and/or implicit meaning, its manipulation of meaning (innuendos created through the placement or composition of objects or people), its audience (what type of magazine), and its use of persuasive techniques (ethos, pathos, logos). You may also use Fowler’s list of desires to discuss what “desire” or “state of mind” the advertisement is selling.
Jim Fowler says that advertisements tie into people’s “deep lying desires,” their “sub-rational impulses” and that visual texts are better suited to tap into the “primal level of the brain.” Some desires that Fowler identifies are: the desire for Sex, Affiliation, Nurturance, Aggression, Dominance, Attention, Affection, Freedom/Escape, Prominence, Power, Safety or Protection
Create a Thesis Statement: just as your textbook, Exploring Perspectives, suggests, analysis begins with an assertion. You are going to make a claim about the ad you chose, a claim that reveals how you think the ad is manipulating or persuading the reader to purchase a product, adopt a belief, or take a certain action.
Even if your claim is as simple as the old adage, “sex sells,” make sure to clarify and expound on this idea. For example, with a Carl’s Jr. advertisement using a sexy model to sell hamburgers, we could say, “even when selling something as mundane and sexless as a fast food burger, sex seems to sell.”
Another example: using the DKNY perfume ad (with the models on the motorcycle) we reviewed in this unit’s content, we could suggest that the ad’s scenario positions the female as more dominant, having subverted or subdued the male’s phallic power, which puts her in the “driver’s seat,” so to speak. Our thesis could read: “By using apple mythology from the Bible, this ad by DKNY undermines male sexual authority and promises women the power to overtake the patriarchy through sexuality and through the use of DKNY perfume.
Describe the Ad: as your textbook also suggests, after making an assertion you need to offer an example. In order for the reader to “see” your advertisement, you need to describe it in detail. The visual composition of your advertisement is extremely important, so describe the layout of the ad, the size of the objects in the ad (the proportion), the colors, the font and words used, the expressions on people’s faces or their bodily stances, whether their entire bodies are shown or just portions of them. Remember to employ strong, concrete descriptive words.
Analyze the Ad: or as your textbook says, explain . . . explain how the ad is working, how its visual content is working to persuade the audience. Some questions you might answer:
Does the intended audience match the desire being projected?
What is the means of persuasion—pathos, ethos, logos? how so?
Is the persuasion implicit or explicit?
Which of Jim Fowler’s list of needs/desires is being promoted?
If a story is being told, what is it?
Are there cultural or historic connotations being used? (like the DKNY apple)?
How does the composition or placement of people or items help the message get across?
Where is the viewer’s eye being directed?
What does the body language of the models’ positioning suggest?
How is the lighting, the shadowing, the color working to create meaning?
Is there word play or innuendo being used? how so?
Significance: as your textbook suggests, you not only need to point out the workings of the ad, but you must also indicate the significance of what you have analyzed. If a Carl’s Jr. ad is using sexy female models to sell hamburgers we could suggest that there is an implicit connection being made between hamburger meat and the female body, a connection that equates women’s bodies to being meat for the sexual consumption of men.
Use analytical words such as: conveys, suggests, implies, projects, infers (we infer, the author implies), shows, symbolizes, presents, reflects, represents, depicts, emphasizes, exemplifies.
Take your feelings out of the essay. Even though the essay is really about your analysis of the ad, do not use “I” too much and don’t use “I feel.” You may say, “in my opinion,” but very sparingly. We are trying to move toward scholarly analysis, so no comments like “when I look at that ad.” Instead, write “when looking at the ad, the viewer notices.”
If you are quite comfortable with analytical writing, you may weave together the description of the ad and the analysis of the ad. If, however, you are new to analysis or are uncomfortable writing, then you may want to describe the ad in its entirety and then analyze it in separate paragraphs
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