Ad Analysis

Let’s do some pondering. Why is the following commercial effective?

Take a look at the American Research Group’s “10 Rules for More Effective Advertising.” Does the commercial use emotional appeals? Iconic images? Celebrity endorsements? Does it show rather than “tell”? What about this commercial:

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What is it about this one that’s the same / different from the previous ad?

So, it this ad effective? Why / why not?

Baran and Davis (2009) explain advertisers generally use these tactics:

Name calling – giving an idea a bad label to deter message recipients from examining the item or issue more closely.

Glittering generality – associating something with a virtue word to win approval without the recipient examining the evidence.

Transfer – associating an item or claim to someone or something of authority or prestige to in effect create admiration by association.

Testimonial – having a respected or hated person say that a given idea or item is good or bad.

Plain Folks – having an idea or item be associated with a person who is “of the people.”

Bandwagon – convincing others some idea or item is acceptable because “everyone” thinks so.

Card Stacking – careful selection of facts or falsehoods, illustrations or distractions, and logical or illogical statements in order to give the best or worst possible case for an idea or item; for example, selecting arguments or evidence that supports a position and ignoring those that do not support the position.

These techniques are not unlike those of propaganda:

Propaganda – no-holds-barred use of communication to propagate specific beliefs and expectations.

White propaganda – Intentional suppression of potentially harmful information and ideas, combined with deliberate promotion of positive information or ideas to distract attention from problematic events.

Black propaganda – Deliberate and strategic transmission of lies.

Gray propaganda – Transmission of information or ideas that might or might not be false. No effort is made to determine their validity.

Disinformation – False information spread about the opposition to discredit it.

Engineered consent – Official use of communication campaigns to reach “good” ends. (Baran and Davis, 2009)

20th century propagandists believed that people’s ideas were malleable and could be influenced through adroit information manipulation. In this sense, propaganda is identical to persuasion. Only when it is perceived that an act benefits the source, but not the receiver, can the act or message be called propaganda. To use Brown’s definition (1958), persuasion is “symbol manipulation designed to produce action in others” (p. 299). Persuasive efforts become propaganda “when someone judges that the action which is the goal of the persuasive effort will be advantageous to the persuader but not in the best interests of the persuadee” (p. 300).

By this thinking, propaganda includes much of advertising (where the aim is not the good of the receiver but greater sales for the advertiser), most political campaigning (where the aim is not the good of the receiver directly but the candidate’s election), and much of public relations (where the aim is often not the good of the receiver but the most favorable image of the message’s sponsor. Lasswell (1977) defined the major purposes of propaganda as:

to mobilize hatred against some enemy
to preserve friendships
to procure cooperation
to demoralize opponents
In one way or another, all propaganda devices represent faulty arguments. Knowledge of the devices can make people better consumers of information. (For more on how to detect propaganda, you might take a look at this classic article.)

Before you tackle the following activity, please make sure you have read the materials at all of the links in this discussion question.

(To deepen your understanding, you might also review the advertising theories in the Encyclopedia of Communication Theory and Tony Purvis’s essay, “Advertising – A Way of Life” (Chapter 1) in Advertising As Culture.)

Scan the Internet or the resources in our university library’s periodical databases, such as Adflip or this one from Duke University, for an advertisement (in any medium–print, radio, TV, the Internet, etc., so long as you will be able to share it in class).

Analyze the ad using those “10 Rules for More Effective Advertising” or the questions in the media literacy lecture. Present your conclusions.

You can present your conclusions as a text response to this discussion prompt, or try your hand at a multimedia presentation, such as a narrated PowerPoint, unnarrated PowerPoint with Speaker’s Notes, infographic, Animoto, video, or Prezi. (Please check with your instructor on the preferred format for responses in your class.)

Make sure to include the advertisement in your presentation or a link to it, so that we can look at it, too.

Preferred language style Simple (Easy vocabulary, simple grammar constructions)

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