Writing The Ad Analysis Essay

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Hello, and welcome to the lecture on Writing the Ad Analysis Essay. In this lecture I’m going to be talking about how to go through the Ad Analysis Essay step by step and put together the different information that you’re going to be gathering about your ad into the form of an essay. I’ll also be giving you an example from an ad as a way to think through how to format your ad essay. Please be sure that you’ve looked through the textbook reading for this week and that you’ve already started looking at the ad analysis outline, so that that way you have a good idea about the examples and information that I’m going to be discussing. Before we look specifically at how to write the ad analysis essay, I want to introduce you to the term "multimodal" and talk a little bit about the use of media alongside writing. Multimodal writing means using more than one means of composing. So you can see that in the actual word itself "Multi" meaning "multiple." "Modal" is "ways of composing," so multiple ways of composing.

This is different from traditional academic writing because, while multimodal may involve writing, it also involves using images, music, article or different forms of media alongside traditional writing. So you would compose a text that persuades through more than just written language, and the results will be drastically different depending on what modes you use. So for example in a longer research project, instead of turning in a traditional academic essay, you might create a blog or a webpage, or you might present a series of photographs and write about what is in those photos, or you might do a remix of a popular song and actually create your own music and then write about that. So you would be composing in multiple modes and not just in print text, in language, in a traditional essay form. You’re doing a little bit of this in the ad essay, because you’re writing about an ad, and the actual ad itself is going to be embedded in the final draft as part of the essay. So the image or the article becomes part of your project, and it interacts with the written text and provides a different way of viewing what you’re discussing alongside it, so that that way the audience is looking both at a visual text and reading your print text together.

In your reading for this week, it talked about how using media in your writing can actually help strengthen it. Including visuals provides a vivid presence that words alone are sometimes too abstract to convey, and you can include visuals because they can make us aware of the gravity of a given issue and convey the force strength and urgency of an issue. So it’s important to remember that visuals are doing this extra work that strengthens your writing if you use them correctly, and visuals can really vary from graphs to charts to photographs, and I’m using the word "visual" very loosely to include things like movie trailers or even music that would be visually present as a button to click, and then listen, and then your writing discusses it. So "visuals" and "media" are kind of used interchangeably sometimes. For the ad essay, the purpose of including the visual is as a reference. So you’re going to be writing about the ad, but you want to have that ad right there so people can understand exactly what you’re talking about. The analysis becomes stronger and clearer because the image is there to observe, and it makes your argument less abstract.

So in the future we are going to include media in our longer research essay, and you’re going to be making this sort of visual, or auditory argument, if you just choose to do a song, or you might do an analysis of images. Whatever your choice is in the future is going to be included alongside your written text, and we’re going to be practicing this multimodal type of writing throughout the semester. And when we practice this type of writing, we have to think about being intentional. So media should be designed intentionally and with rhetorical purposes in mind, so that any included media works seamlessly with the written portion presented. So you don’t want to just grab a random chart or a graph or map or an image that doesn’t really relate to what you’re talking about or that you don’t really address in your writing.

When you’re doing multimodal writing, you need to be intentionally thinking through "what does that visual add to your overall writing?" Does it strengthen it? Do you refer to it? Are you going to incorporate it, and if you can’t answer the following questions, then you probably don’t want to include that particular media. So you can ask yourself these questions: What is my purpose for including an image? What story does the image help me tell?

How does the image complement or highlight my written argument? How do I want readers to respond to this image? What ideas or emotions will they have? And then on a more just kind of basic, practical level, should I include a caption to help readers understand the context of the image? So these questions will hopefully help you as you’re starting to think through designing multimodal projects for this class so that you can be really intentional about the way that an image that you include is going to affect your audience. For the purposes of the ad analysis essay, I’ve asked you to include your ad within it, so you have your purpose already set out for you.

The story that you’re telling with that image is not necessarily a story narratively, but more so as a reference: "I’m referring to this ad in my writing so that is why it is included, and it’s helping me to demonstrate the ad and argument." How does the image complement or highlight? As I just mentioned, it’s necessary to make your writing less abstract. And then how do you want readers to respond? You want them to compare your argument to the ad, to understand the rhetorical appeals that you’re seeing in that ad, and that you’re arguing for. And then the ideas or emotions that they’re having should be belief in what you’re saying, right, accepting your argument based on seeing the comparison between the ad itself and your writing.

And then you may or may not include a caption to help understand the context. In this case, since the entire written portion is going to be devoted to explaining and arguing about the ad, you probably don’t need a caption, although you’re welcome to include one if you like. One of the main reasons that we’re using multimodal writing in this class is because one of our goals with media literacy is to begin reading images as texts. So what I’m asking you to do this week, as you complete the ad analysis outline and then begin preparing for the draft, is to also be thinking through those media skills that we’ve been learning so far this semester. You should be thinking through asking questions about a creator’s purpose, the rhetorical appeals of the ads that you’re encountering, and as you’re selecting which ad that you want to write about, you want to be thinking, "Am I reading this visual media of ads in the same way that I would read a printed text?" So, interpreting it, making sense of it, not just consuming it, but actually thinking through the way that it was created, designed, the purpose that it has, what effect it has on an audience, who the target audience is, and then being able to decipher and understand it.

So that’s the purpose of, really the goal of this essay, and for us to think through why we’re incorporating images into our text, so we can begin critically thinking about the media that we consume. So I’m going to walk us through an example for the rest of this lecture, thinking through how to put together some of the different questions and topics that I’ve asked for this particular essay. And I’ve chosen the ad on this slide so that you can think about following along with my argument as I decipher this particular ad and show how I might put together a sample essay. sS this ad is featuring NBA star Steph Curry, and if I’m seeing this for the first time, I could ask questions like "what does it mean to tell an audience, as we have here across the center of the ad, You are the Sum of All Your Training." What does it mean to "Rule yourself," in the smaller font at the bottom, and who is speaking? Who is saying "Rule yourself" and who is saying "I will"? Is this a response that we’re supposed to have to Curry’s words? Is it Under Armor the company who’s speaking this? Why would Curry, if he is the one speaking, say this to me, the consumer?

So I should be asking questions as I’m selecting the ad that I want to write about, and it should generate questions for me that I can write about in an essay. If you’re finding an ad and it doesn’t really generate a lot of questions for you, then you probably don’t have a lot to say about it, and you might want to think about choosing a different one. So this is the ad that I’ll be referring to throughout the rest of the lecture as I talk about how to build the essay. So let’s take a closer look at what the ad analysis essay might look like. I do want to note here that my example in this lecture, of course, is going to be much shorter than your actual essay will be. I’m not going to write out the entire essay as an example, but I’m giving you just different points of reference that you can use as you start to build your essay.

So you might have a longer introduction or a shorter introduction. You might have more examples or less examples, right, so you’re going to use your best judgement as you go through writing and answering the questions, and then as we do peer review next week, another audience of your peers will help you understand maybe what’s missing or what you’ve written too much of. But for the purposes today, you don’t want to mirror exactly what I’m doing. This is more a general idea, and you’re going to build off of it as you do your own work. So the purpose, then, of the introduction, if we’re starting out the essay, is to give your reader the context for your analysis by explaining the ad in detail.

You want to make sure that your introduction could and probably will be several paragraphs, because you’re going to be describing the ad. You don’t have to say every single thing that’s in it, but you want to pick out some points that you think are the most important for analysis. So in my example, I have, "The Under Armor ad featuring Steph Curry tries to sell shoes and clothing to young, male athletes and fans ,especially those interested in basketball. The ad appears in sports magazines and online on sports websites." So in that paragraph what I’ve started doing is describing what’s called the "rhetorical situation": the creator, the purpose, and the target audience. You do need to mention all of these. I’ve put this into two sentences, just to kind of condense for the purposes of this lecture. You might have more to say, and your paragraph will probably be longer, but you do want to describe what the ad looks like and where it appears.

So I also have a second paragraph here with a little more detail about what the ad looks like: "The color ad shows multiple images of Curry, some in different outfits, engaged in practicing basketball. White text in all caps covers the center of the ad, saying ‘You are the sum of all your training,’ and in smaller font the tagline reads, ‘Rule yourself. I will.’ So I’ve given a sense of "here’s what it looks like," and I understand the way that the ad is being constructed, so I want to give that context before I begin introducing what my argument about the ad will be, which is my thesis. So the introduction also includes your thesis, and that for this essay is going to be your claim about the most effective appeal and whether or not the ad will be successful in persuading the target audience. Because this essay is so short, you don’t need to give an overview of your main points of how you’re going to prove that particular thesis.

In a longer essay you would include what’s called a "forecast" of what you plan to argue, but since this is just a very short essay, you really don’t need to go through those points because you’re just going to launch right into them. So the introduction will include the thesis, but not necessarily a forecast: "The ad effectively uses both ethos and pathos to persuade the audience that purchasing Under Armour products will improve their performance." This is a possible thesis that I could use if I wanted to argue that the ad was successful, but I could also argue the other side: "Overall this ad does not persuade the viewer to purchase Under Armour products because it lacks good logos." So just because you are choosing an ad that appeals to you does not mean that you have to argue that it is successful overall. It could be that you have an easier time picking out flaws in the ad than you do arguing about why the ad works. Really just pick whatever side you feel most comfortable talking through and arguing through and whichever side you feel like you have the most examples. So it’s perfectly fine if you want to argue against the ad being effective or if you want to argue for that ad being effective. It’s just whichever one you have a personal preference for. Once you’ve chosen what your thesis is going to be and which side you’re going to argue on, you have to decide which rhetorical appeals you’re going to focus on.

So in my thesis on the previous slide I really was dividing those rhetorical appeals into which ones I thought were effective and which ones were not effective as I wrote my thesis. So I had ethos and pathos as being perhaps more effective, while logos was the less effective rhetorical appeal. So after you have chosen which appeals you want to talk about, you’re going to draw your examples out of the ad by being really specific about which ones you think are effective and not effective. So the body of the essay is going to be the place where you support that thesis by giving your specific examples about the rhetorical appeals. So you want to show, remember, that popular culture ad and how it’s persuading using the rhetorical appeals, through popular culture. So the body is the place where you’re going to describe those appeals in action, and it’s going to vary in length, in number of paragraphs.

I know a lot of times we get used to writing what’s called the "five paragraph essay" or "the introduction, three major points, and conclusion" for a total of five paragraphs. That is a fine structure to use for short essays, but that doesn’t always neatly fit all the points that you need to make. So I don’t want you to cling to that particular structure, but instead think through, "how can I describe the ad complexly, addressing all three of the rhetorical appeals, making sure that I mention all of them, but then specifically honing in on at least one to really describe in detail the effectiveness or ineffectiveness"? So at a minimum, you need to address all the appeals, even if you state that one of them is not present. So in my example here, "The ad attempts to use Curry’s ethos to create credibility. Curry is generally regarded as likable and is well known as one of the most talented players in the NBA. As such he’s becoming a pop culture icon in sports." And you’ll see also in my instructions, make sure that you’re explaining how your ad connects to popular culture.

That is part of this assignment. You need to have pop culture figures or trends in the particular ad, and then part of your analysis is how the ad is using that popular culture figure or trend in its appeals. Examples of this could include lifestyles, points of view, and values shown through popular culture. For my purposes I’ve chosen a pop culture celebrity, so in the next paragraph I’m going to make that connection to how popular culture is working rhetorically. "Under Armour hopes to profit by associating Curry’s reputation with their products, making the audience feel happy about purchasing from their company." So in a longer example I would write more about that, but for the purposes of this lecture I’ve condensed it very briefly here. But I might talk more in depth about Curry’s reputation, about his excellence in playing, and how Under Armour is trying to pull from his kind of "icon" status and associate his ethos with their products in more detail. So that’s what they’re trying to do, is make people feel a sense of satisfaction or pride: "Oh, if I’m wearing this product that Curry endorses, I am like Curry.

I have the same ethos. I have the same sense of happiness about that product that I would about supporting him as a fan." So I could talk a little bit more about that, and that’s going to address both the rhetorical appeals, together with the popular culture aspect. So make sure that you’re doing that in your writing, that you’re connecting the pop culture elements of your ad to the way that it’s working rhetorically. Now I have more of a support for my thesis. I’ve chosen the negative thesis, that the ad overall is not successful. So I have here, "However, the overall ad lacks logos, making it less persuasive.

The words "rule yourself" and "I will" are confusing when placed directly beside each other. Only those already familiar with Under Armour’s "I will" campaign would understand this tagline. For new viewers, the text becomes illogical." So I’ve mentioned ethos. I’ve mentioned pathos, and now I’m going to focus in on logos, and that one is going to be my main example that supports my thesis, which was the second thesis on the last slide, that it’s not effective because it lacks logos. So I really could have taken the essay either way. I could have spent more time arguing that the ethos and the pathos work because of Curry’s reputation, but instead I’ve decided to focus more on the logos, and the negative. Again, in a longer essay I would spend more time discussing logos.

I would have more examples, but for the purposes of this lecture, I’ve just given this one example, but I encourage you to go beyond this, because really this would not be sufficient for a longer essay. I would need to talk about it in more detail, but this gives you some idea of how you could structure the three different rhetorical appeals to connect to popular culture and to support your thesis. So use this as a guideline, but go beyond it. After you’ve used a lot of different examples in support of your thesis within the body of the essay, you’re going to get to the conclusion, which sums up your position without introducing new information. It also reflects on your own role as a consumer or viewer of the ad.

So it is perfectly fine when you get to this point to use "I" in describing your response to the ad. And you’ll notice on the assignment sheet for the ad analysis essay, I think I asked you there to think through your biases and how what you believe as a viewer or a consumer might have influenced your interpretation of the ad. So this is a place where you can talk a little bit about that and it’s all going to still be in support of your thesis. So you’re not really introducing any new information, but you’re just giving sort of a summing up of why you’ve made this argument. So in my example I’ve said, "Although I’m not the target audience for this ad, I do enjoy basketball and appreciate Curry’s role in the NBA. I may have been interested in buying Under Armour products for family members.

However, I find this ad ineffective overall because of the confusing use of text, which did not communicate a clear message. While it may appeal to fans that will respond to Curry’s ethos, overall this ad is not effective, as it would need stronger logos to reach a broad audience." So if you compare that last sentence in particular with my thesis, it’s essentially saying the same thing: that the ad needs better logos in order to be effective. But I haven’t restated it in exactly the same words. I’ve now explained in a little more detail through the body of the essay that ethos is strong, however the logos is not good, so I’ve incorporated the same argument, but I’ve just restated it in slightly different language to give a better sense of closure. So I do want you to consider as well your own ethos, pathos, and logos as a writer. It would probably be helpful for you to review the lecture on the rhetorical triangle and make sure that your writing is employing the rhetorical appeals at the same time that you’re analyzing those appeals in the ad. So thinking through your own ethos and your own credibility.

That’s part of assessing your own biases and admitting to maybe why the ad did or didn’t work for you. Thinking through the pathos or your tone that you’re describing the ad with, and making sure that you’re using a balanced tone. And thinking through your logos and your organization and making sure that you’re crafting things in a way that leads from one point to the next and that provides a logical conclusion for readers to follow. So hopefully what this overview has done is given you a sense of structure. That’s the main goal for this lecture, is "how can we structure the ad analysis essay?" You can use this as a guide, but again, go beyond it in terms of your examples and the details that you’re going to use. Your textbook has given you a good list here of different questions that you can ask in order to analyze the rhetorical appeals in your ad.

So I’ve set these up for you just as a reminder that as you’re going through your ad, if you’re not sure what to say or how to begin that essay, these questions plus the questions that I’ve written on the ad analysis outline, the assignment sheet, and in the rhetorical triangle lecture, should give you a lot of ways into thinking through the different appeals of the ad. So I suggest as you’re starting to write the ad analysis outline that you begin with some of these questions and just making notes and going through and then seeing which rhetorical appeals you have the most to write about, and what you have the most to say about, and then craft your thesis from there. So in terms of ethos, you can ask questions like "what does the ad say about the creator or sponsor and how they wish to be perceived?" You can think through their mission, their values, their purpose. For pathos, "how do the actual images and words appeal to your personal emotions"? In pathos a good point of analysis is always to start with yourself. What emotions do you actually get ,and what did they prompt you to do? And then, do those emotions appeal to all audiences in the same way?

For logos you can think through, "Is the ad actually even logical? Does it have an appeal to reason, and if so, what is the reason that you’re supposed to follow? How did the images and text work together to persuade, and then, what is the overall message?" And as in my example with the Steph Curry ad, the message for me failed. It didn’t work because I didn’t really get a clear sense of who was speaking and what I was supposed to think about the text that was used there. Overall you also need to think through, "Where does the ad appear?

What does the publication space tell us about the ad’s target audience?" And then, just in terms of design, "Where does your eye go? What do you focus on first, and second, and what elements are given prominence and why and how? And what holds your attention?" So all of these things are different points that you can talk about in your ad analysis essay, and it will be up to you to determine what order you want to put them in and what you want to emphasize. I really suggest going with what appeals to you most. You will have more to say if you feel strongly about it, whether you really like an ad or really dislike an ad. Going with your stronger feelings will give you a better sense of persuasion, because you will have more examples and stronger and better examples. So try to answer some of these questions and then just look back at your notes and see, "Oh well, I’m actually really responding to this ad’s ethos," or "The pathos in this particular ad has nothing to say to me, so I probably don’t want to write about pathos." Think about answering questions, and by really sorting through your notes you’ll be able to see more clearly the direction that your essay should take.

This week you’re going to be completing the ad analysis outline and submitting it to the Dropbox, and I really recommend being as detailed as possible on the outline now, because it’s going to help you create your first draft. So I’ve listed out several different questions that really echo a lot of what we’ve been talking about the last couple of weeks in terms of thinking through your ad for its rhetorical situation, the context, the different appeals, and then a possible argument that you can make at this stage, and then over the next week you’re going to expand and revise a draft based on your outline before submitting it to peer review on the discussion board. You’ll talk over your draft with a peer, and then you’re going to revise again before submitting your final draft. So right now is the time for you to really begin focusing in detail on creating a set of notes, taking those notes and transferring them to an outline form so that it gives you more specific structure, and then beginning to write through that draft, so that you have some good examples developed, and that you’re ready to submit a full draft by next week’s peer review date. So remember to keep in mind as well our Academic Habits of Mind: composing, drafting, revising, reflecting, and giving yourself the time that you really need in order to create all parts of this project successfully.

Thanks!

About Post Author

Professor Cram

Professor Lawrence Cram is a Visiting Fellow at the Australian National University working in the Department of Applied Mathematics. His interests include astronomy, mathematics, engineering, computing, and physics. Due to his extensive expertise, professor Cram has worked as a Professor of Physics at the University of Sydney and as the Deputy Vice-Chancellor at ANU during 2004-2012. In 2013, he retired as a Master, University House and Graduate House. In January 2014, he was appointed as an acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor at Charles Darwin University. Professor Cram is also a Fellow at the Royal Astronomical Society and the Australian Institute of Physics.
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