Essay No. 1: Ad Analysis
Length: 1200 words; Value: 15% of grade
(Please provide a word count at the end of your essay.)
Bring two, typed and double-spaced copies of your essay to the workshop. Hand in one copy to
your instructor; use the other as your working copy in the workshop.
The draft must be complete and properly referenced and formatted, not in note or outline form.
If you do not arrive to class with a draft of your essay, five percent will be deducted
from the grade you receive for the assignment.
You must actively participate in the workshop to receive full marks.
Analyse a print magazine advertisement of your choice, using as the basis of your discussion
Abraham Maslows hierarchy of needs as described in Kalats Introduction to Psychology (see
English 1204 Moodle page). The ad should be fairly recent, published within the past year.
Where to find your ad:
Look in a print magazine that you have at home. Perhaps a family member reads
magazines if you do not.
Do not use an ad found on the internet or one that has been discussed online or in a
published text. The analysis in this essay should be your own original work.
KPU library. If you do not normally purchase magazines, remember that the KPU library
subscribes to a variety of periodicals, including Rolling Stone (Langley campus) and Elle
(Richmond campus), which might be good sources for ads. There is a colour photocopier in the
KPU library, so you can attach a colour copy of the ad to your assignment when you hand it in. I
need to be able to see the ad clearly in order to mark your essay.
A Public Library. Public libraries often carry popular magazines that contain a lot of ads (e.g.
Mens Health, Mens Fitness, GQ, Cosmopolitan, and many more).
The Course Moodle Page. If you cannot locate an ad, you may choose one from our course
Moodle page. The Moodle page can be found at https://courses.kpu.ca The bibliographic
information for each ad (i.e. the magazine name, month, year, and page number) can also be
found in the list on the Moodle page. If you choose an ad from the Moodle site, you will need the
bibliographic information for your works cited page.
Not all ads lend themselves well to this assignment, so you will need to select your ad carefully,
keeping Maslows Hierarchy of Needs concept in mind. If you are unsure whether your ad is
suitable, consult with classmates and your instructor. Feel free to stop by my office during office
hours if you would like to discuss possible ad selections in advance.
In your analysis consider the following:
Which need(s) do you think the ad appeals to? (note: you do not have to write about
every need on Maslows hierarchy; choose the one or two that work best)
What does the ad suggest about who we are and what we value as a society?
Below are some suggestions on how to approach this assignment:
You should briefly explain Maslows theory of motivation so that the reader will understand the
concept (be sure to identify all five levels of needs) and introduce the ad you will be discussing:
who is the advertiser? what product is being sold? where did you find the ad? to whom is the ad
directed? At the end of your introductory paragraph, include a thesis statement that clearly states
your argument/what your paper will be about. Your thesis must connect the ad with Maslows
theory: you must state which need(s) your ad appeals to. (Remember too that you must reference
the information on Maslows hierarchy, using MLA format.)
Consider the features of the ad and determine what you think they reveal about our needs and
values. In your essay, be sure to describe specific features clearly and explain what you think
they mean. Remember that the claims you make in each paragraph must relate to the thesis
statement in your introduction. Use the present tense to discuss details of the ad. If you quote
from the ad, make sure your quotations are integrated smoothly. Since all the quotes from your
ad will be from the same page (or possibly two), you do not need to include the page number
with each quote.
Some things to consider (though you do not need to directly discuss each of these):
Types of images in the ad, relative size of images, position of images, use of colour, use
of light and dark, type of activity portrayed, symbolic value of any items, relationship
between images and text, meaning(s) of words that are used, size of words, position of
words, typeface, ideas expressed by the words, grammar of the text (e.g. fragments,
parallelism, rhyme, and so on). Things like peoples facial expressions, clothing,
hairstyle, or body position might be significant as well.
In your conclusion, be sure to reinforce the significance of your discussion. Try to answer the so
what? question. How do the things you have written about relate to broader concerns in the
world of the reader or the world as a whole? Does the ad accurately communicate something
important about our society? If so, is this message something good or something that should
motivate change in the future?
A Tip About Language: How to Discuss Appeals. Student writers often have difficulty
expressing in writing their ideas about Maslows hierarchy in relation to an ad and its audience.
We can say that an ad appeals to safety needs and esteem needs. In a different sense, we could
also say that a reader might find an ad or product appealing (i.e. interesting or desirable), but
this would be to use the word appeal as an adjective, not as a verb. To prevent confusion, it
might be best to use the word appeal only in relation to ideas on the hierarchy. Many other
words (e.g. interesting, attractive) can be used to indicate other types of ideas.
Another Tip About Language: How to Refer to the Source. Be careful not to confuse the
company that produced the product with the product or brand itself or with the advertising
company that likely produced the ad. See the sample student essay as well as the ad analysis
templates below for possible strategies. Remember, too, that the word company when used to
refer to a business is a singular collective noun: a company is an it not a they.
Organization of Ideas
Be sure to read the sections on Essay Guidelines, Essay Organization, Essay Development,
Quoting, Parenthetical Referencing, and Titles in your Selected Readings manual, page 125-136,
for information on how to organize and reference ideas in your essay.
If you are used to writing five-paragraph essays, you might be tempted to organize your
discussion according to three things (for example, type, images, and, perhaps, colour). However,
this organizational strategy is not very effective because it oversimplifies the way an ad
communicates. Type often works together with an image to express an idea and the two cannot
be separated so easily. Also, if both type and image express the same idea and you have used
separate paragraphs to discuss type and image, your paragraphs may contain unnecessary
A better strategy would be to begin with simpler, more obvious ideas and build up to ideas that
are more complex. Consider using transition words that indicate spatial relationships (e.g. above,
below, to the left, and so on). Be careful not to structure your whole essay around the readers
experience of reading the ad, commenting on what the reader looks at first, second, third, or
what the reader thinks or imagines. The details of the adnot the readershould be the focus of
your discussion. Perhaps use your first body paragraph to provide a general overview of what is
contained or depicted in the ad, along with discussion of some larger idea of what is significant
about the ad. Subsequent paragraphs can expand your argument and include more details from
Give your essay a title that identifies your subject matter and something about the theme of your
argument. Your Selected Readings manual provides some suggestions and guidelines as well as
examples. Two good examples from recent student essays include Old Spice: Smellf
Actualization and Sobieski Vodka: Self-Esteem in a Bottle.
Remember that the course Moodle page offers a sample student ad analysis essay to help you
understand how to approach this assignment. Be aware that the works cited page in the sample
are now out of date as we will be using the style guidelines described in the eighth edition of the
MLA Handbook, not the 7th edition. The ad discussed in the sample essay for Smartwater can
also be found on the course Moodle page.
Ad Analysis Templates
(These are suggestions only, possible strategies to avoid using too much language to refer to the reader
and his or her responses or to the company or brand name or advertiser. These templates are
offered for your use to adapt and fill in the blanks as you wish, and you do not need to reference anyone if
you use them.)
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