In this paper, you will select and analyze an advertisement (either a print or online image), creating your own argument about its purpose and significance. The main question you will answer is, ‘what does this ad want its target audience to believe about themselves and how does it generate that response?’ The authors of Signs of Life claim that “ads work…by substituting signs for things.” Look out for whatever substitutions are being made—what definition or meaning is being substituted for a particular product?
Over the course of this week, your writing process should go through several stages. These stages will include:
Step 1: Research/Brainstorming
–Select an ad. I highly recommend choosing one that is visually interesting and that makes its appeal in some kind of complex way (not just a simple picture of a product with the instructions “buy me”!). Magazine-style full page advertisements tend to be good choices.
–Using multiple strategies, gather evidence and details about the advertisement you have chosen. Try to notice as many important details, patterns, repetitions, and binaries as you can. View the powerpoint for this week and consider the questions from page 31 of Signs of Life.
Step 2: Developing Ideas
Start with the “denotative meaning” (what kind of ad is this, commercial or informative? what is it trying to accomplish? where/when did it run?). Then move to connotative meaning–identify what you think is the main message of the ad, the specific target audience (using information from the ad itself as well as from the context it comes from), and the main visual strategies the ad uses to get its message across.
Step 3: Writing a Draft
Craft a multi-paragraph essay that includes the following:
An introduction that identifies the context that the ad comes from and its target audience, describes the advertisement itself, and concludes with a statement of your main thesis/claim about what you think the ad is trying to accomplish.
Multiple paragraphs that organize the information you have gathered about the ad for your reader and explain how the specific details of the ad work to achieve its overall goal.
A conclusion that attempts to answer the “so what?” question, placing the ad or the ideas from your analysis back in a wider cultural context.
The most successful papers will include an insightful thesis that offers an interesting, complex idea about the primary text, detailed and clear analysis of various visual components of the primary text, and a title. They will be clearly organized, formatted correctly, and free of sentence-level errors.
Length: 300-500 words (or 1 1/2 to 2 double-spaced pages)
Formatting: 12-point font, 1-inch margins, MLA style heading at the top left of the first page that includes your name, your instructor’s name, the course, and the assignment.