In this assignment, we will look at print advertisements from newspapers and magazines and what they say about their products, their consumers’ lifestyles, who is included and excluded from these products demographics, how we personally respond to these ads and what these products’ ads are saying about our culture and our society.
You have THREE options for the focus of this essay:
Discuss how your ad promotes a positive or negative social message. Does the ad make statements that support multiculturalism and diversity or does it promote stereotypes based upon race, gender, or class that promote prejudice and division? Does the ad empower or disenfranchise a minority group by its inclusive or exclusionary message? These same concerns can be addressed in body type, age, disability, or religion.
Does the ad promote healthy or unhealthy lifestyle choices? Doe it ignore health risks of the product or does it promote dangerous actions (drunk driving, smoking, promiscuity to name a few)? Does the ad promote good habits? Are the model’s body images healthy or extreme? Does this same standard apply to both genders?
Is the ad playing on audience fears to sell a product? Are these justifiable fears or extreme and paranoid fears? Who is targeted with the cautionary tale of this ad? Who is left out? How does class play a role in the paranoia or caution? How does race, age and gender play into the ad’s concerns?
You will move from a personal reaction or response to an analysis of the overt and covert messages presented in this ad. In order to analyze this ad effectively, you will need some terms, directions and a final draft discussion.
Demographic: In advertising or entertainment products, this is the desired and expected audience. Gender, race, age, income, marital status, sexual orientation, body type and ethnicity define the audience. Remember, there are no accidents in advertising. Each choice is deliberate and sends a message about the company’s views on our society and its typical or desirable consumer. You may feel like you’re, “Reading too much into this ad?” But in most cases, you are not. Form a hypothesis and then discuss and defend it.
Key Terms: These are terms defining the consumer and the lifestyle each consumer hopes to achieve when purchasing the item. These terms are both explicitly and implicitly presented. First, look at any wording or “copy” noted in the ad. List significant words that tell you about the product. Then free write and see what terms spring to mind from the images and layout of the ad. Key terms tell you who are the accepted consumers of this product and how you fit into this demographic.
Alternate Terms: These are the opposites of the Key Terms. What is polar opposite of the above terms and who is, therefore, omitted from the audience or demographic? Why are they omitted and what effect does this omission have on that portion of our society? Imagine yourself omitted and therefore, labeled undesirable by a product or group of products; how would this affect you? What does being consistently labeled as undesirable, through invisibility in the advertising or other media, do to one’s self image and perceptions?
Stereotypes and Cultural Myths: What are general assumptions made by the advertisers about their consumers’ lifestyles and life goals? In a cultural myth, the audience is regimented into a behavior or attitude by showing the only desired outcome for the consumer. In a stereotype, the members of the audience are broken down into vague generalities and are categorized by superficial criterion.
When examining your article, find the SURFACE. This is defined as the obvious factors that can be seen at a glance. Respond to images, text, use of color, warning placements, overt emotions the previously mentioned items evoke and the attention getting devices of the ad. In this part try to look at a print ad as a speed bump, trying to make you stop on it before you finish flipping through the magazine or newspaper. Look at the surface items to see what caught your attention and made you look at this ad.
Then move to the SUBSURFACE. What images or words are key terms? Who is the desired consumer or audience for this ad? Who is included in the ad? What is their life style, race, gender, ethnicity, social and political affiliation, sexual orientation and/or age? Now look at alternate terms. Who is omitted? What type of consumer is not included in the target audience or demographic? What age is not represented? What sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, body type and/or race is omitted? How do you feel about being included or excluded from this world? How would you feel if you were in the opposite or alternate world?
Now make an ANALYTIC LEAP. What effect does the above inclusion or exclusion have upon the consumers of this product? What does this inclusion or exclusion say about our society? What trends do you notice in our society to make certain groups “invisible,” and how is this reflected in your ad? Does the ad collaborate with social norming or does it rebel? What is the effect of this ad on the “invisible” in our society? Why does this ad ignore them? Can this be accounted for by the publication this ad was in? (i.e. An ad for age-concealing make-up would be inappropriate in Teen People.) What behaviors may be encouraged in the audience, if they are desperate to belong to this ad’s demographic? How will this audience react to people outside of this media world when they confront them? What sort of prejudice does this invisibility reinforce? Will one gender be more susceptible to this behavioral influence than the other?
You will need one primary source: the advertisement(s) you analyze is your primary source. And you will need three secondary sources. Your secondary sources can come from print or the web. But you will need two print sources: one article from the database and one from a book.
Each paragraph needs to use at least one source and no more than three. You need to quote, summarize, or paraphrase a source. You need to unpack your source, meaning explain how your source connects to what you are analyzing.
FINAL DRAFT DISCUSSION
PROCESSED 6-8 pages of text (typed and double-spaced, using legible, 12 point font). This essay will discuss the ad from the surface and then explain how the subsurface justifies your analysis. Your body will react to the messages you are comfortable and uncomfortable with. Use the ad as a springboard for cultural study. Also tell the reader how the ads messages may be damaging or enriching to its audience. Since this is a 6-8-page paper, I suggest focusing on the strongest observations you have made about this ad and its message about our culture. Try to see the ad from various perspectives. If you are included, imagine yourself as left out. If the reverse is true, what benefits are there in inclusion? We will discuss the functions of your introduction, thesis, body and conclusion in-class. Your peer editing session is VERY important in this assignment, because you are looking at an issue that deals with multiple voices. Your classmates will give you valuable insights into a broader audience reaction. USE THEM. Since this input is important, one letter grade will be lost for failure to come with a full draft to the peer editing class session.
Rules of Research
While these are arbitrary rules that may be abandoned later in your college career, they are a good model for academic writing at the undergraduate level and will help you outline and structure your essay. I will grade you on following these rules PRECISELY throughout the semester:
Only the first paragraph can begin with a quote. ALL OTHER PAPRAGRAPHS MUST BEGIN WITH A TOPIC SENTENCE IN YOUR WORDS, telling the reader what the paragraph contains and framing the reason for the paragraph’s inclusion in your essay!
ALL PARAGRAPHS in a research paper must have at least one quote or documented source use.
No paragraph may have more than three quotes or source uses in it.
No paragraph can end with a source use.
Each QUOTE or SOURCE USE must have a sentence setting up its maker and why it is valid to your argument. Imagine you are introducing this quote to your audience and then giving its content. This will aid your audience in gaining context and meaning from your writing.
Each quote or source use must have at least 3-5 sentences discussing how the quote fits into your argument. Think of this discussion as an interpretation of the quote in light of your thesis. What is the significance of the data within your quote or source use, and how does it relate to proving the validity of your thesis?
Avoid attack language. This is an academic essay that explores a position, not a talk radio show that annihilates your opposition. You need to spend you energy and your verbage on supporting your opinion in a solid manner, not diminishing an opponent that your audience might be sympathetic towards. Remember your audience is uncommitted to a side and may have historic and personal connections with your opposing views. Be careful not to alienate them by being overly hostile to views you disagree with.
Us a mixture of sources re: viewpoints and organizations. Don’t rely on only extremes which support your view. Your best evidence will often come from neutral or even opposing writer’s who agree with your contention. Don’t be lazy using only author’s who mirror your thoughts completely. Also remember that your assignment sheet allows for various types of source use. Don’t be afraid of interviews, documentaries and news programs.
There is no unbiased source. All sources are written by people who either have a personal interest in the topic or who are working for a publication with a definite viewpoint. If you are luck, the course will tell you directly wither through authorial declaration (I personally feel that…) or the publication it appears in (The Advocate: a national magazine for gays and lesbians). Realize this and note where bias is occurring so that their bias doesn’t sell you half-truths or weak facts.
Do not use author-less sources! Each source should have a definite author or come from a reputable agency or organization. Sources given by an agency or organization are acceptable, but if you don’t know who wrote the source, it’s a HUGE red flag about reliability of the information.
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