Readers, Writers, Texts

The Language of Advertising

“Students, and many teachers, are notorious believers in their immunity to advertising. These naive inhabitants of consumerland believe that advertising is childish, dumb, a bunch of lies, and influences only the vast hordes of the less sophisticated. Their own purchases are made purely on the basis of value and desire, with advertising playing only a minor supporting role. They know about Vance Packard and his “hidden persuaders” and the adwriter’s psychosell and bag of persuasive magic. They are not impressed.

Jeffrey Shrank, The Language of Advertising Claims

Despite what people say, advertisers know that language (and images) work at both the conscious and the unconscious level, and a person unaware of advertising’s claim on him or her is the person least well equipped to resist its insidious attack, no matter how forthright they may sound. An essential underpinning to the language and literature course is the aim for you to become media-literate. The purpose of a classroom study of advertising is to raise the level of awareness about the persuasive techniques used in ads. Ads can be studied to detect their ‘hooks,’ they can be used to gauge values of consumers, and they can be studied for their use of symbols, colour, and imagery. But perhaps the simplest and most direct way to study ads is through an analysis of the language of advertising. Begin your study by reading the following articles: 

Class Activity

Peruse this selection of adverts with strong visual narratives and/or these adverts containing different advertising claims and / or this selection of adverts connecting to the 15 basic appeals. Discuss and explain how the various adverts create narrative ‘hooks’, exploit particular language ‘claims’ or rely on certain ‘appeals’.

Learner Portfolio

Write a full page-spread for a magazine advertising a new product of your choice. Include an image but, as this is an exercise, make sure there is also a body of text. Employ a judicious selection of the basic appeals and language devices you have read about here.

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