Easy Commercials To Analyze An Essay

Advertisement Analysis Essay Writing Guide

Advertising plays a huge role in modern life. It interrupts TV and radio programms, decorates (or defaces) the sides of buildings and sometimes it seems like it’s the main function of the internet. It’s estimated that over $450 billion is spent on advertising every year, nearly a third of it in the United States alone.

The advertising industry hasn’t always been measured in US dollars either, because it’s old; Roman sesterces used to pay for quite a lot of it (both political and commercial advertising materials have been found in the ruins of Pompeii) and archaeologists have discovered ancient Egyptian posters that they think were advertisements.

With all this history and money involved it’s no wonder that advertising is a much-discussed subject, and a common essay topic is the analysis of an advertising campaign. Most essay writers aren’t advertising professionals though, so what’s the best way to go about it?

Introduce the product or service being advertised

It doesn’t matter if it’s an insurance company, a political party or a new brand of salad dressing; don’t assume that your reader has heard of it. Make sure to give a short history, a description (and perhaps how it compares with some competitors) and an idea of its market share.

Discuss who the advertising is aimed at

It’s almost impossible to make an advert that’s going to appeal to everyone, unless you’re selling a tree that money really does grow on, so every advert has a target audience. The target audience will influence its style, so in turn the style can be used to work out the target audience. For example an advert that uses skateboarding images is aimed at teenagers; an offer of payday loans is aimed at people who can’t manage money and don’t look like learning any time soon.

Estimate how popular the advert has been

This used to be quite difficult to work out. Often it was a matter of seeing how many people bought a newspaper that the advert was in (or watched a TV programme that it interrupted) and guessing what percentage paid any attention. Now, though, the internet makes it much easier to track. Popular adverts, especially if they’re amusing, often go viral. When this happens social networking sites like Facebook and YouTube make it easy to see how often they’ve been viewed and forwarded. Just make sure it’s not being forwarded with a tag that says “Look at this dumb advert LOL!”

You can also look at the history of similar adverts, if any exist, as well as new techniques or media that have been pioneered. Before you start adding these refinements, though, make sure you’ve covered these three basics thoroughly.

98.1% (1) of American households have a television, while 99% of people in America can read (2). This means that being able to read barely beats out having a television in your home. Most of us were taught to read when we were very young, but did we ever learn how to watch television?

We watch our television shows, and many of us get annoyed when a commercial interrupts our program. But what if we stopped to consider for a moment, that maybe we have it all wrong. Maybe the television show is an interruption to the commercial? This is because the main way for a television station to make money is to sell commercial time.

We're exposed to these commercial everyday, but we rarely realize their true impact on us. They can influence us to buy things we don't need, to vote a way we might not normally vote, and to desire a lifestyle that we wouldn't necessarily agree with. 

This is why analyzing television commercials is so important. Below are some things to consider to help us better understand the messages in television commercials. Since commercials are more complex than many other types of media (including the addition of motion mixed with sound), there are more things to consider.

1. What is the product or service being sold? Can you easily figure out what the product is? 

2. What is the general mood or feeling of the commercial? Since we know the product or service being sold, what methods are the advertisers using to make us interested? How do they portray the product or service in a positive light.

3. How does the soundtrack play a role in your interpretation of the commercial? Is the music cheery, dreary, suspenseful, whimsical, fun, or exciting? Does the music affect our perception of the mood? Is there a voice-over of someone telling us something? What is the voice over trying to tell us? Does the person speaking coincide with the overall mood of the commercial? Would our perception of the voice change if the voice was of a different gender or race?

4. How do the actors playing the characters affect your interpretation of the commercial?Would your interpretation change if the characters were of a different race or gender? What if the characters dressed differently or spoke differently? How would that change your perception of the character?

5. How does the commercial try to get your attention? Does it use flashy graphics with fast music? Does it alter the way we see the world, either through the use of special effects or through the story line?

6. Who is this commercial aimed towards? Is it you or someone like you? How do you know? Why do you think the advertiser created this commercial the way they did? Would it have been as effective if it was just black and white text on the screen? Why or why not?

Here are some television commercials that might be worth analyzing.

Classic Television Commercials (from Archive.org)

A History of Coca-Cola Commercials (from the Library of Congress)

Ads from Super Bowl XL (from AdvertisementAve.com)

Want more ideas on how to analyze advertising? Visit our forums and join the discussion.

You can learn a lot more about this topic by buying our book, Practical Media Literacy: An essential guide to the critical thinking skills for our digital world. You would be supporting our work so that we can bring you more great resources.

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