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Essay #1

Analyzing an Advertisement

 Context:  When you write, whether you’re trying to persuade, entertain, or inform, you engage with an audience; therefore, you need to learn how to tailor your writing to meet your particular audience’s interests and needs.  To help you practice that skill, this first assignment will direct your attention to advertising: a field which depends upon persuading a target audience.  In addition, it will provide practice in close reading (or close listening), critical thinking skills, and formulating a thesis.

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Assignment: Write a 3-4 page paper in which you analyze a print or radio advertisement of your choice.  (Please note, I will not accept television commercials.) Briefly explain what the advertisement is selling and to whom, but focus most of your paper on how the advertisement uses the rhetorical strategies of persuasion (the Greek triangle). Your thesis should be an evaluation of the advertisement’s effectiveness or ineffectiveness based on its use of the three elements of the Greek triangle (logos, pathos, and ethos). If you use a vintage ad, you should also discuss its historical and cultural context (kairos). You should also point out at least one logical fallacy, exaggerated use of pathos, OR misuse of ethos (often all referred to as fallacies). These issues are discussed in Chapter 2 of Envision in Depth. You may also wish to review the PowerPoint we discussed in class, which is posted on Moodle.Some radio ads can be found here:  HYPERLINK “

You must choose a real advertisement, and not a parody or satire of an advertisement. (If you do your research online, you’ll find many fake ads; don’t be fooled.) When in doubt, it’s better to choose a different ad. In addition, make sure you understand the product or service the ad is selling as well as the target audience. 

To support your thesis (which will relate to your ad’s effectiveness or ineffectiveness), consider the following: 

What are the goals and purpose of this advertisement? Is it attempting to persuade this audience to take action, or is it attempting to influence the way this audience perceives the advertiser? 

Who is the advertisement’s intended audience? Why do you believe the ad is aimed toward this particular audience? What are the assumptions the advertiser is making about its particular audience? How does the advertiser structure its appeals to reach this particular audience? 

What is the literal meaning of the images in the ad? How is the audience expected to interpret these images in the context of the accompanying text? Is there something particular about the image’s point-of-view, composition, or tone that forces the audience to interpret it in a specific way? 

If you are analyzing a radio ad, what are the literal meanings of the sounds heard in the ad? (For example, a revving auto engine is a literal sound.) How is the audience expected to interpret these sounds in the context of the actual script? (For example, a revving engine might signify its power.) Also think about the credibility of the actor reading the script, the emotions in his or her reading, the music, timing, and other sound effects and what role they play in the ad’s logos, pathos, and ethos.

Please note:  You must attach a copy of your advertisement to your final draft of your paper.  No paper will be accepted without a copy of the actual original advertisement. If you use a radio ad, please include a link to the radio ad on your Works Cited page.


Required elements:

Your advertisement must be carefully described so that a person who cannot see the ad would be able to visualize it and understand your analysis clearly. 

Your essay must have a thesis statement in which you analyze how the advertisement uses logos, pathos, and ethos (at least two of three) to sell its specific product to its targeted group. You may mention the fallacies in your thesis or not, as long as you analyze one or more fallacies in the body of your essay.

Your paper must be a minimum of 3 pages (not 2-1/2 or even 2-3/4).

You must attach a copy of the original print advertisement.

Your paper should include a Works Cited list.
This Works Cited list is NOT included in the 3-4 page “count,” so that if your paper is 3 pages exactly, it would be a fourth page; if your paper is 3-1/4 pages, it would be the fifth page. Works Cited lists are always on a page by themselves.

Notes:  The main goal of this essay is to say something about the advertisement that would not immediately be obvious to someone else who saw it. 

Rather than describing the advertisement in exhaustive detail, selectively focus on those specific aspects of it which pertain to your thesis—without, of course, leaving out key information which might contradict your thesis.  In that case, your thesis itself needs reformulation.



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