• Notes & Activities
  • Vocabulary


Notes & Activities:

The reason why we study advertising is because advertisers use language and images to persuade us.  They do it so well that sometimes we don’t even know we’re being persuaded to buy a product ... we just HAVE to have it!  We need to be aware of the 'tricks of the trade' so that we don’t get unduly influenced.

A Definition of Advertising:

So what exactly is advertising?  It could be defined as follows:

                Advertising is any (1) paid-for, (2) persuasive communication that uses the (3) mass media to promote a (4) need-satisfying product to a (5) specific target market.

Let’s break that down:


Adverts are paid for - they are not free.  Companies have to pay for their adverts to appear in the media.

Adverts are persuasive.  They tell us what they want us to do and then motivate us to do it.

Adverts communicate with us via the mass media (i.e. radio, television, magazines, newspapers, internet, outdoors).
4.Adverts try to sell us a specific product / service that we may need.

Adverts are aimed at specific groups of people (e.g. the youth market, housewives, etc).

The Purpose of Advertising:

So what exactly are advertisers trying to achieve?  They could have as their goal any one of the following:

  • Attract people to a store, website or office;
  • Increase awareness and knowledge of the company, product / service or a socially important message (PSA);
  • Increase positive attitudes towards the company or product.

In achieving their goals, advertisers can either use a hard sell approach whereby they encourage potential customers to take action NOW, or they can use a soft sell approach whereby the make their adverts so memorable that, even though the potential customer may not be ready to make that purchase yet, when they are in the market for the product / service, they will remember that particular product.

Memorable adverts usually don't appeal to our rational minds.  Instead, they appeal to our emotions (our inner-being).  Advertisers use various advertising appeals to unlock our emotions through emotive text, pictures, graphics and music.

Advertising Appeals:

An 'advertising appeal' is the emotional heart of an advert.  It links a product to a need that we all have and convinces us that buying the product will satisfy that need. 

You can tell which advertising appeal is being used by looking closely at the images and the wording, which would be very emotive.

There are many different advertising appeals, each aimed at addressing a different need or desire that we have.  Here are some common advertising appeals:

The 'bargain appeal' addresses our need to save in tough times:

The 'beauty appeal' addresses our need to look beautiful:

Additional Resources:

The most photoshopped ads

The worst Photoshop mistakes

The 'duty appeal' addresses our need to look after our loved ones:

The 'endorsement appeal' addresses our need to be like our favorite celebrity:

The 'fear appeal' addresses our need to protect our loved ones:

The 'sex appeal' addresses our need to feel attractive and desirable:

The 'snob appeal' addresses our need to feel like we're part of the social elite:

The 'green appeal' addresses our need to be environmentally responsible:

The 'humour appeal' addresses our need to laugh and thereby makes a positive association with the product:

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Activity 1:

Look through magazines to find your own examples of the 9 appeals outlined above.  Paste them in your workbook and label them.

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How to Analyse an Advert:

What should you look for when you’re analyzing an advert?

  • Identify the product / service ... What is the advert trying to sell?
  • Identify the target audience ... Who is the advert aimed at?
  • Identify the appeal ... Which appeal has been used?  How is it appropriate to the target market?
  • Identify the central message of the advert ... What is the purpose of the advert?  Has the advertiser used a hard or soft sell approach? What outcome does the advertiser desire?
  • Identify the persuasive (emotive) language that the advertiser has used ... How is the appeal communicated to you in words? What words / phrases are aimed at getting an emotional response out of you?  What is communicated about the actual product?
  • Look at is the graphics ... What photos / diagrams / drawings have been used? What did the advertiser hope to achieve by using those particular graphics? How do they contribute to the overall aim of the advert?

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Activity 2:

Analyze a selection of print adverts according to the 6 steps above:

Analyzing Adverts

Now analyse the following television advert according to the 6 steps above:

Old Spice

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Does Advertising Work?

Does advertising really inspire us to change our buying habits?  Research suggests that it does.  Consider the following news article:



New York - Television ads for junk food really do make children hunger for those treats, especially if they watch a lot of television, according to a study.

The findings, published in Pediatrics, come amid growing calls to ban junk food advertisements aimed at children in order to combat obesity - most recently from the American Academy of Pediatrics, which issued a policy statement on junk food ads on Monday.

In tests with 6 to 13-year olds, researchers led by Emma Boyland of the University of Liverpool in the UK found that a DVD featuring commercials for fast food and junk food seemed to whet children's appetites for sweet and high-fat fare.

"Exposure to television food commercials enhanced high television viewers' preferences for branded foods and increased reported preferences for all food items [branded and unbranded] relative to the low television viewers," she wrote.

The children involved in the research reported a greater desire for sweet and fatty foods after viewing the junk-food ads compared to days when they watched commercials for toys.

This was especially true for children who usually watched a lot of TV in their everyday lives, with "a lot" defined by the researchers as over 21 hours a week.

"This study confirms the cumulative, sustained effect of food marketing on TV: The more children watch TV, the more susceptible they are to advertising," said Lori Dorfman, who directs the Berkeley Media Studies Group in California and has studied food marketing to children.

- Reuters
  • Do you think it is ethical for companies to target children in their advertising campaigns?  Why / why not?
  • Considering that children have no income, who are the real targets of the adverts and how does the advertiser aim to 'get to them'?
  • Which adverts have you been influenced by?  What did they influence you to do?What was so persuasive about the advert?

[insert beer advert]

  • What event is taking place in the advert?
  • Describe the people in the advert.
  • What is the relationship between the product and the people?
  • Comment on the slogan: It all comes together with a Castle.
  • What is the underlying message of the advert?
  • What effect do you think continual exposure to this underlying message will have on the minds of impressionable youth?
  • Do you think that alcohol adverts should be banned?  Why / why not?
  • What other products should not be allowed to advertise?

Regulating Advertising:

The Advertising Standards Authority of South Africa (ASASA) regulates our advertising industry. 

Any complaint about an advert that makes false claims or crosses the line of good taste can be directed to them.  They will investigate the complaint and, if they agree, will force the advertiser to pull the advert. 

Magic Pill


It's quite interesting to take a look at their website and see who is complaining about what:




You will never be able to master a subject if you don't have the vocabulary to support it.  So, please learn the following words (contained in these notes).  You will be examined on them.


Vocab Quiz - Advertising