Analyze an advertisement
Not all advertisements make perfect sense. Not all of them promote or imply acceptance of social values that everyone would agree are what we should hope for, in an enlightened and civilized society. Some advertisements appear to degrade our images of ourselves, our language, and appear to move the emphasis of interaction in our society to (even more) consumerism. There may even be a dark, seamy, or seedy side to advertising. This is hardly surprising, as our society is indeed a consumer society, and it is highly capitalistic in the simplest sense. There is no doubt that advertising promotes a consumer culture, and helps create and perpetuate the ideology that creates the apparent need for the products it markets.
For our purposes here, none of this matters. Our task is to analyze advertisements, and to see if we can understand how they do what they do. We will leave the task of how we interpret our findings in the larger social, moral and cultural contexts for another occasion.
It is often said that advertising is irrational, and, again, that may well be true. But this is where the crossover between information and persuasion becomes important; an advertisement does not have to be factually informative (but it cannot be factually misleading).
In a discussion of what kind of benefit an advertisement might offer to a consumer, Jim Aitchison (1999) provides the following quote from Gary Goldsmith of Lowe & Partners, New York. It sums up perfectly what it is that one should look for in an advertisement. The question posed is “Is advertising more powerful if it offers a rational benefit?” Here is Goldsmith’s answer: “I don’t think you need to offer a rational benefit. I think you need to offer a benefit that a rational person can understand.”
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