15 Drafting Your Ad Analysis
Dr. Karen Palmer
Now that you have a solid outline, it’s time to start writing your ad analysis paper! Here we will work through fleshing out each part of your outline–turning your outline into a full draft.
The first part of your paper is your introduction. You may remember from the Writing Formula chapter that an introduction consists of three main parts: the hook, the introduction to the topic, and the thesis. Let’s begin with the hook. A hook does two jobs–it connects the topic of your paper to your readers, and it attempts to capture their attention.
This video highlights some of the most common techniques for writing a good hook:
Now that you have a general idea of what a hook does, let’s focus in on the kind of hook that would be most useful for your ad analysis essay. Let’s say you are doing an analysis on that milk ad we discussed earlier in the text.
Strategy 1: Connect to the topic of the ad: milk. You could say something like, “Do you drink milk?” But…would that really draw in readers? Surely, there is a better way to grab the attention of our audience.
Strategy 2: Connect to the broader topic of advertising. Here you might say something like, “Advertisers are always trying to get our attention.” Sure, this is a broad opening to the paper, but is it really going to make anyone interested in the topic?
A good idea is to brainstorm some current events or topics that link to your ad. A brainstorming list for this milk ad could include lactose intolerance, the concept of looking at TV sitcom characters as role models, the changing role of mothers, and even the pressure placed on moms (and women in general) to be perfect. Choose something that appeals to you and that illustrates a theme that runs through the ad. When brainstorming with my classes, we often land on the idea of perfection with this particular milk ad. It makes a compelling frame for the paper.
Introducing the topic is just that–letting readers know what the paper will be about. ie An ad for ________ located in _________ magazine illustrates this concept. Note that you need to include the specific product advertised in the ad, the name of the magazine in which the ad is located, and include a connection/transition to your hook.
Finally, the last sentence of your introduction is your thesis. Here you make your argument. While you already wrote a thesis for your outline, you want to double check that the thesis connects in some way to your hook. Our example thesis is: “The advertisers successfully persuade the consumer that milk will make them a great mom by using nostalgia, milk branding, and the image of ideal motherhood.” We might make a slight adjustment here to make the connection a bit more explicit: “The advertisers play on the desire of moms to fulfill an image of perfection by using nostalgia, milk branding, and the image of ideal motherhood.”
In the ad analysis, our background consists of two different sections: the description and the discussion of context.
Remember that your audience cannot see the ad you are discussing. If you were in a room presenting to your audience, you might project an image of the ad up on a screen. Since we can’t do that in an essay, we need to describe the ad for our readers. Essentially, you want your readers to be able to draw a basic picture of your ad–or at least visualize it accurately in their minds.
This video from James Rath discussing how people with visual impairments see images on social media gives an important life reason for learning how to write solid image descriptions:
Here are some good tips for writing a description of an image:
1. Start by giving readers a one sentence overview of the ad. For our milk ad, that might be, “In this ad, three mothers from iconic sitcoms sit side by side in a beauty parlor under old-fashioned hair dryers.”
2. Determine in advance how you want readers to see the image–do you want them to look at the image left to right? Foreground to background? Clockwise? Bottom line here–don’t make readers minds jump around from place to place as they try to visualize the image.
3. Choose the key elements. You don’t have to describe every single thing in this paragraph. Tell readers who the three moms are and what show they are from. Give enough basic details so that readers know the setting is old-fashioned. Remember, you’ll be able to bring forward more detail as you analyze the ad in the body of your paper. Readers don’t need to know what color a person’s eyes are unless it’s a key part of the ad.
4. Don’t forget the text! While you should not write every word in the ad in your description, especially if there are lengthy paragraphs, you should include a brief overview of the text. ie placement, basic overview Again, you’ll be able to give specific quotes that are relevant to your analysis in the body of your paper.
5. Write in present tense!
The context of an ad really focuses on the audience of the ad. Remember that advertisers very carefully consider the audience for their product and create their advertisements to best reach that target audience. Let’s look at this from the perspective of a company looking to place an ad:
So, if an advertiser goes to this much trouble to determine the demographics of their target audience, it’s obviously important! The ad (unless perhaps it was published by an inexperienced advertiser) is not “for everyone.” An ad in Newsweek, no matter how childlike it appears, was not created for children. It was created for the audience who will purchase and read this magazine. When we do an ad analysis, we want to share similar information with our readers. What magazine is the ad placed in? What is the general focus of that publication? What kinds of articles appear in the publication? What general types of ads appear? In short, who is the audience? Of course, you can look at a magazine and get some of this information. You can also do a quick online search for the demographics of the magazine or for their media kit, which is what advertisers look at prior to purchasing advertising space to ensure the magazine is a good fit for their ad.
Now that you have the background out of the way and your audiences thoroughly understand the topic, it’s time to begin your analysis. Your thesis should have given at least three advertising strategies used in the ad. Your paper should include a paragraph for each one of those strategies.
The topic sentence should echo the wording of the thesis and clearly introduce the topic. For example, “One way the advertisers use the concept of the perfect mother to convince readers to purchase milk is by using iconic mothers from television shows.” For your next paragraph, you’d want to be sure to include a transition. For example, “Another way” or “In addition to” are both phrases that can be used to show that you are building onto your previous paragraph.
In this part of the paragraph, you want to give specific examples from the ad to support your point.
First, you should introduce the example. “The three moms from iconic tv shows are the focus of this ad.”
Next, you should give specific examples from the ad–this could be pointing out particular details about the images in the ad or quoting from the text–or both! For example, for the milk ad, you might give the specific names of the characters and the shows they are from. You might point out that every detail of their outfits are perfect. That they are wearing makeup and jewelry. That they have their wedding rings prominently focused in the image. You might also quote text, like the line from the ad that says, “Another all-time great mom line.”
Finally, wrap up your examples with a clear explanation of how the example proves your point. For example, you might say that, especially in modern times, it is very difficult for mothers to live up to the standard of perfection set by these three television moms. You might explain how causing readers to feel “less than” sets the stage for them to accept the premise that giving their children milk will make them more like these TV moms.
The wrap up for your paragraph is similar to the wrap up for the evidence provided. Here you want to reiterate your thesis in a simple sentence. For example, you might say, “Using the images of these iconic moms convinces moms that, in order to be a good mom, they must buy milk for their children.”
The conclusion of your paper is essentially a mirror image of your introduction. Think of your paper as an Oreo cookie. The introduction and the conclusion are the cookies that surround the best part–the body of the paper. Like the cookie outsides of the Oreo, the introduction and conclusion should be mirror images of each other.
1. Start with re-stating the thesis.
2. Reiterate the topic.
3. Return to your hook and elaborate.
Unlike an Oreo, the conclusion should not simply copy your introduction word for word in a different order. Try to restate your sentences in a different way. Elaborate on your hook so that you leave readers with something to think about!
Content written by Dr. Karen Palmer and is licensed CC BY NC.