Find an advertisement. Just one. THIS MUST BE IN A MAGAZINE AND BE HARDCOPY. DO NOT SELECT AN AD FROM THE INTERNET.
The advertisement can be one that you like; one that you hate (those can work extremely well for this project, by the way); or just one that you think would be readily analyzed. Ads that include humor, parody, or an outrageous or outlandish circumstance often make good candidates for analysis. Ads with many elements (interesting layout, text message, different images, unusual text fonts, striking colors, unexpected perspective, sharp or fuzzy focus) are actually easier to analyze than those with just a bottle of perfume or cologne reclining against a silky background.
Analyze your print ad by answering the following questions to help you brainstorm.
- What’s the ad’s central idea? Everything in that advertisement is going to have been placed there because the “authors” felt it would most effectively get that thesis across . . . believe it or not.
- What’s the ad’s tone? Is it humorous, formal, serious, or sarcastic? What’s its personality?
- Ads usually arrange their elements in space. Break the ad into its parts. (For a print ad you can literally do this with a pair of scissors.) How much space is given to each part? What’s put in the most eye-catching place? Is it the product? Something else? Does that “something else” have anything to do with the product?
- How do these elements relate to the thesis? In other words, what do you associate with the elements? How is the ad trying to transfer these associations onto the product? Does color play a part? (Is the product even shown at all? Why or why not?)
- Besides the obvious, are there words, designs, etc. which aren’t immediately apparent, but which still might help sell the product in some way? (This question speaks to those “subliminal messages” some people claim are placed in ads . . .elements the advertisement implies rather than states right out.)
- Who is the audience for this ad?
- Is the ad telling a story? If so, try to put that story into words.
Then organize your thoughts from your brainstorm to answer the following questions:
- What is the ad saying? (making an argument/sending a message/making a selling point)
- Who is the ad addressing? (age group and/or consumer group)
- Why is the ad saying it that way? Is it trying to be logical, ethical or emotional? Is it being humorous, flashy or serious?
- What is the ad saying about the company itself? Is it trying to impress on the audience a certain “image?”