Analyzing Ads

Analyzing Advertisements
Why Ads Matter
Advertising Matters
• The basic premise of “Cool Clothes for
Identical Zombies,” and other works of
cultural criticism that are about advertising, is
that the way in which products are advertised
and the reasons that people respond the way
the do is significant, and can tell us interesting
things about ourselves as a culture.
Quickwrite #5
• What is the problem that Thomas Frank has with Old Navy
and similar companies? (Remember, Thomas Frank is one
of the men the author interviews in “On Sale at Old Navy:
Cool Clothes for Identical Zombies.”) The reading is on p.
• Do you agree with Frank that advertisements influence the
way that people think about things other than the products
being advertised? (For instance, a car ad might make you
want to buy a car, but it might also make you want an
entirely different lifestyle that has little to do with the car.
Old Navy ads might make you want to buy their clothes, but
they also might encourage their audiences to see
themselves as unique individuals who know what’s “cool”
because they shop in at Old Navy.)
Two types of messages that ads use:
• The obvious surface message is usually pretty straightforward,
and involves the audience doing what the writers of the ad
want them to do.
– Buy this product.
– Support this cause.
– Vote for this candidate.
• The underlying message is much more tricky, and much more
interesting. This is also the message that is more closely
connected to our discussion of identity.
– It appeals to the needs and desires of the audience.
– It connects the product or cause to events, ideas, lifestyles, and
people with which the audience already has positive associations.
– For example: Beer commercials not-so-subtle underlying message is
often: “Drink our beer, and beautiful girls in skimpy bathing suits will
flock to you!”
Things to think about when analyzing
an advertisement or an ad campaign:
Look at the ad critically and try and answer the following
Who is the intended audience? (What demographic is it
aimed at? Teenage girls? Middle aged men? Single
What does the advertisement intend for us to think
about the product being advertised?
What needs or wants is the advertisement appealing to?
How does the design of the advertisement get the
message across to the audience?
What are the consequences of the product being
advertised using these messages?
Questions for “On Sale at Old Navy” p.
268 of Mirror on America
• What does the author mean when he
paraphrases Thomas Frank’s ideas in paragraph 2,
saying, “American business and co-opted cool
anti-corporate culture and used it to seduce the
masses” (268)?
• What does it mean for a piece of clothing or
music or any other product (or even a person) to
be authentic? What do you think about the
question of authenticity that is raised in
paragraphs 8 and 9?
“On Sale at Old Navy”
• How do stores like Old Navy, Ikea, and Starbucks
turn shopping at their stores into “experiences”?
Why does this matter, according to the author
and the people he interviews? (See paragraphs
17 and 18.)
• What do you think of the idea that an obsession
with brands eclipses (gets in the way of) any
possibility for real cultural
discussions/developments? (see paragraph 2325).
“Advertisements R Us” p. 176 of
Everyone’s an Author
• In this article, Melissa Rubin is analyzing one single
image – a Coca Cola ad from 1950.
• The author spends a great deal of time describing the
ad in detail, but she also includes the ad so her
readers can see it. It was a good move to do both.
• If either your Prep Essay #2 for English 28 or your long
English 101 Essay #2 would benefit from images, you
may include them on a separate page (or separate
pages) as long as they are clearly labeled. Images may
not be included in your required page count.
“Advertisements R Us” p. 176 of
Everyone’s an Author
• What are some of her major points about the ad?
– What are the underlying messages of the ad?
– What is this ad saying about class (think about the
different types of men portrayed prominently in the ad)?
– What is this ad saying about Coca Cola’s role in American
• What point is this author making about the connection
between Coke and American identity? (see the last
paragraph on p. 180)
• Do YOU notice anything about the ad that the author
Let’s do some analyzing of our own on
some ads for these two companies…
Write down
you notice
about this ad.
What are
some of the
What is this
ad saying
And now for a comparison of two Coca
Cola ads…
Source for both images
The ad on the left is more modern, but notice how
it references the older, “classic” ad above. It
assumes its audience is already familiar with the
above image, or ones like it.
Also, note the emphasis on authenticity in the ad to
the left.
What is the significance of all of this
for Essay #2?
• You might choose to talk about how ads affect
• Even if you don’t choose to talk about ads, you
can still learn from the way that we focused in
on specifics tonight, and how the example
essays made detailed, specific explanations of
how the pop culture (in these articles, it was
Old Navy/Ikea ads and Coke ads) influenced

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