Every day we are surrounded by a relentless barrage of advertisements, and
most of the time we just try do to our best to ignore them. Rarely do we think
seriously about what the ads are trying to accomplish and the strategies they
use in doing so. For this assignment, I want you to get together in groups and
analyze how magazine ads make meaning in the minds of their readers, using the
following list of questions as a guide:
- What is the product being advertised? What does it do? What does it realistically
offer to the reader? Apart from "buy this product," what is the
central point the ad is trying to make?
- What is the audience for that ad? How can you tell? What assumptions does
the ad make about what is "appealing," "good," or
"desirable" to that audience? By extension, what is "unappealing,"
"bad," or "undesirable" to that audience? How does
the ad use these values to achieve its goal?
- What are the images in the ad? How does your eye scan the page, and how
does that affect your "reading" of the ad? Does the ad use any
special visual techniques to grab your attention? Does the ad use any sort
of visual "trickery"? What mental associations do you make when
you look at the images—what do you think of or feel? What ideas do these
images convey? How does it convey them? What are the values behind those ideas,
that is, what makes them "good" or "bad," particularly
in the minds of the target audience? Does the ad use any widely-recognized
symbols (apart from trademarks)? What do these symbols mean?
- Which elements of the ads employ logos, ethos, or pathos appeals?
- In what ways does the ad depart from the reality of the product it is selling?
Why does it do this? Does it do this in a believable or convincing way?
- What sense does the ad convey about the company? How does the ad or ad campaign
fit into the company's larger marketing strategy?
- How does the ad fail to achieve its purpose? What could be changed in the
ad to make it more effective?
For Wednesday, I want you, as a group, to prepare a presentation to the rest
of the class on what you have found in your ad analysis. Your presentation should
diagram how the ad "works": it should identify the purpose of the
ad (again, beyond simply "selling the product"), and it should demonstrate
how it goes about achieving that purpose (or not). Please defend your assertions
using the ad itself.
This assignment description is
by Jim Nugent under a
Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License.