Ten Visual Analysis Activities
Instructors: Listed below are possible activities to precede the visual analysis of an ad. Choose which activities you prefer and/or create your own!
Whole Class Analysis of Ads in Text
Use the examples of ads in Everything's an Argument for the whole class to analyze. You might use the questions on the handout called Visual Analysis of an Ad: Prewriting Notes.
Whole Class Analysis of Magazine Ad
Make an overhead transparency of a magazine ad and have students analyze it. If you wish, you could have the whole class analyze the ad together by using the questions on the handout called Visual Analysis of an Ad: Prewriting Notes.
Small Group Analysis of Ads within a Magazine
Obtain six different magazines (old magazines are available at the Ames Public Library) or ask students to bring in magazines. In groups of four, students can (a) count the different types of products displayed on full-page ads and then analyze the categories of those products, (b) analyze the people shown in the ads (e.g., age, race, gender, physique, activity, etc.), (c) determine an effective ad in the magazine and analyze why it is effective, (d) determine a non-effective ad in the magazine and analyze its detriments, (e) determine what values the typical ads tend to be selling, (f) determine the overall audience of the magazine and why these products have been selected for this particular magazine. Then the groups can report to the entire class. See handout Analysis of a Magazine and its Advertisements.
Record several TV advertisements and ask students to analyze these ads (the handout questions could again be used). Show the ad first so students are familiar with its content. Then ask different groups to look for different types of analysis as you show the ad again: use of color, action, sound (music, narration, etc.), display of brand name, length of time product is shown (often there is fast action and then at the end of the ad, the camera zooms in on the product and holds that shot for a longer time). After each group reports, have the whole class analyze the emotional appeal, type of sales approach, and type of propaganda.
If you are in a computer lab, find ads on the web and ask groups to analyze one particular web site ad. Then groups could show the ad on the screen and analyze it for the entire class. If you're not in a computer classroom, you can bring in a laptop with an Internet connection and display web ads on the screen for a whole-class analysis.
The Parks Library has a variety of films that you can show in class which describe advertising and its effects. Some of these films depict how products subconsciously produce sexual images. The library might have some of the Cleo Award-winning ads that you could use, too.
Ad Comparison over Decades
adflip.com and select an ad from the 1950s and an ad from the 2000s of the same product. Show the two ads side by side on the screen and ask students to analyze the ads to see the difference in ads over the last 50 years (for instance, the older ads include much more text). Then ask the students to work in groups of three to find two other ads from different decades, to move the ads side by side onto a PowerPoint slide, to add a slide with bullets showing the similarities, and another slide with bullets analyzing the differences. Then students can drag their work to the dropbox (in a computer lab), and you can display their mini-slide presentations and ask them to give brief oral presentations. Note: If you’re not in a computer lab, you can print the ads from various decades before class and have the students select from these decade-partnered print ads to analyze and present orally during class.)
Concept borrowed from Lisa Heitzman
Class Discussion Topics or Journaling Topics
- How pervasive is advertising in the United States? How would our personal lives be different if all advertising were banned?
- Could McDonald's have become a multi-billion dollar industry without advertising? (You might discuss the book and/or movie of SuperSize Me.)
- How much is advertising causing other countries (such as third world countries) to change to be like the United States? Is that change positive or negative?
- Does advertising cause people to become more materialistic to desire products not really needed?
Create an Advertisement
Students can individually or with partners or groups create their own ads and then rhetorically analyze the choices they made in creating them.
Create Your Own Activity
Be creative and devise your own activities and then share those activities with others!