Deconstructing an Ad

For your first essay, you will analyze, pick apart, deconstruct, and generally shatter the carefully-wrought effect of one full-color advertisement.

You must make your thesis statement arguable and specific. You will be viewing your ad as a “sign,” so you will need to decide what the hidden meaning of this “sign” is. Be sure to go beyond the denotative meaning of the ad to discuss its connotative meaning or your thesis will not be arguable. Be sure to discuss how your ad is different than other ads of its kind or your thesis will not be specific.

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In order to come up with an argument, you can use the “rules” discussed earlier in this module, the short versions of which are, “Everything is Connected” or “Question Authority.” If you use the first rule, you will argue that the ad, rather than existing in a vacuum, is an example of a larger trend in American society. If you use the second rule, you will argue that the effect of the ad is other than the advertisers of the product intended, or that it has a motive or effect to which the advertisers would resist admitting. The video, “The Dangerous Ways Ads See Women,” is a good example of the “Question Authority” rule: Jean Kilbourne argues at one point that advertisers encourage consumers to objectify women by literally “hacking apart” the female body in their ads. Obviously, the advertisers themselves are either unaware that they are doing so, or would disagree that their ads have such an effect, so Kilbourne is effectively questioning their authority.

After you have developed an arguable and specific thesis, the majority of the essay will be spent supporting it by analyzing carefully-chosen DETAILS from the ad. Just as you would use details such as plot, theme, dialogue, word choice, characterization, etc. from a movie or book to support an argument about that movie or book, your argument will not hold water unless you show the reader how the ad demonstrates your thesis. Ad details will be elements such as color, layout, font, the appearance of models or absence of people, body language, tone, etc. Also be sure to analyze the copy (the words in the ad), even the “fine print” if there is any. How does the copy support, contradict, undermine, and/or complicate your reading of the visual imagery?

In grading this essay, I will look in particular for an “irresistible” introduction using one of the first two methods from the Introductions Powerpoint: carefully describing a scene or object (CDSO) or hypothetical situation.

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