Nalyzing the Visual Argument of an Advertisement

Today the average person in the United States is saturated with advertisementsa on television, billboards, buses, and buildings and in magazines and newspapers. While advertisements are used for non-profit reason (to promote a charity or support political leaders, for instance. And, of course, they are used to sell commercial products. Think of all the products you use in a day: toothpaste, cereals, tissue paper, shampoo, blow dryers, jeans, t-shirts, soft drinks, bottled water, radios, computers. The list goes on and on. How many of these products do you absolutely need? How many of these products feature brand names? Why do people want Calvin Kleins name on their underwear, Levison their back pocket, or a favorite team logo on their caps?

Because advertising works by appealing to viewersa sometimes-unconscious values and beliefs in order to persuade us to buy or support something, it is crucial that todays informed citizen carefully analyze the strategies used in advertisements. Through the critical analysis of all kinds of commercial communication, the informed citizen can address fundamental questions like these:
a? What is the ad really trying to a?sella?? This goes beyond the product or service being advertised to a set of values associated with a lifestyle or aspirations viewers are judged to hold in common. (Remember that you may or may not be a member of the actual target audience, so you will have to think beyond simply whether the ad works for you.)
a? What visual and verbal strategies are used to convey the ads message?
a? Are the message and its rhetorical means both honest and ethical?

The audience for this paper will be your teacher and classmates, and the purpose will be to explain how the ad helps to sell the product.

Nalyzing the Visual Argument of an Advertisement

Locate a magazine ad that you would like to analyze. Colorful, full-page ads will be easier to describe. You might consider ads for vehicles, cosmetics, food, clothes, alcohol, or charities.
a? Jot down notes that describe the ad.
a? Since the customers eye goes immediately to the visuals, think about how the advertiser has used visuals: people or places in the ad, uses of color, choice of font, movement of customers eyes, etc.
a? Examine the brand name (and its display), the products slogan, and other print information and analyze why this slogan was chosen.
a? Consider the types of emotional appeals that are meant to entice the customer.
a? Consider the overall impact of the ad and decide upon a thesis sentence for your upcoming paper.