Authenticity in Advertisement
to gain insight into a current issue in advertising as social communication;
to become competent in identifying, deconstructing and critiquing advertising codes, conventions and strategies;
to practice close, textual analysis in the context of larger social issues and past or contemporary cultural trends.
Basic Requirements (see also General Requirements below)
Approximately 1800-2400 words or 6-8 pages
Analyze a small set of ads that are somehow related
Format according to APA style
Include a bibliography or works cited page
Papers will be assessed on their originality, creativity and organization as well as on the demonstrated mastery of basic writing and research skills including: development of a thesis and clear argument, effective use of research sources and relevant advertising examples, and ability to express ideas clearly. Your professor and TA are resources, so is the Student Learning Commons http://learningcommons.sfu.ca. Draw upon those resources early in the writing process.
Suggestions to guide your analysis:
You should choose your ads carefully; select ads that will allow you to make substantial and relevant arguments about past or recent trends in advertising and consumer culture.
For this longer paper, 3-4 ads is probably ideal but you might choose fewer or more depending on your topic and findings. More print ads, fewer TV ads is a good rule. Keep your analysis focused on your arguments. You will not be able to say everything there is to be said about 4 or 5 ads unless you focus on the most relevant issues and develop these into a thesis.
If you chose television advertising, you will need to access to multiple viewing; working from memory of an ad seen on TV will not be adequate.
This is to be a critical analysis; you will be required to provide a reading of the ads based on argument. Do not duplicate the rhetoric of the ads; I want to hear your voice, not the ads’. Emphasize analysis rather than description. In other words, in addition to briefly describing what is in the ad, analyze how and why things are significant.
Begin the process with your observations and from those develop specific, arguments and substantial conclusions. Spend very little space describing the ads. Please include originals or photocopies of any print ads you write about or provide links to television ads. If you encounter a problem with access or references, email email@example.com
Make claims as to the significance of the ads and the strategies they employ. You must go well beyond such observational and obvious statements as “sex sells,” “it is eye-catching,” “it grabs your attention” or “it is designed to sell product x” (in fact, avoid such simplistic, observational and clichéd phrases at all costs). If an ad breaks with convention or uses a particular strategy to stand out in the cluttered landscape of advertising, your task is not to simply identify such strategies but rather, like all the authors we have read, to make arguments about the significance of its particular strategies.
Use the methods and ideas from the course readings and lectures. Use only those methods and ideas that are relevant to the ads you will analyze.
Some Topic ideas
How is authenticity used in advertising?
What forms does authenticity take?
How is it coded: what social, photographic, televisual codes are used?
How does an ad or ads differentiate “authentic” products from mass production?
How is the production process represented?
How does artisanal or craft values operate in the promotion of mass produced goods?
How does authenticity reinforce the ideology of consumer culture?
Find an example of a social or cultural space that is branded and discuss its implications with reference to Moor.
1. Some ground rules when writing on advertising:
When analyzing advertising do not use the words “reality” or “real.” Realism is okay.
Never write about the effects of advertising on its viewers or audience; remember this is about social communication, not individual psychology.
This may be about social communication, but avoid that vague word “society.” Be specific about what social structures and what social institutions are relevant to your analysis: patriarchy, traditional cultures, the advertising industry, advertisers, etc. Don’t say: “society limits roles for women.” Do say, “these advertisements represent women in traditional, patriarchal roles as wife and homemaker.” Don’t say: “Society encourages us all to be consumers.” Do say: “Advertising addresses us as consumers, rarely citizens.
Avoid all metaphors of reflection; use metaphors of representation.
2. Draw upon the ideas and methods of relevant course readings/lectures incorporating them into your own analysis. Your primary research is watching TV/youtube, reading magazines and scouring the internet for relevant advertisements. While outside research is not required, it is encouraged and will enhance your grade. It is appropriate and expected that you borrow ideas so long as you cite your sources. See the MLA Handbook or any other style guide for proper format of references. Underline or italicize
titles of books, advertisements, TV shows, journals or magazines, put individual episodes or article titles in quotation marks. Plagiarism shows a lack of integrity, is dishonest, and is poor scholarship. The minimum penalty for plagiarism is an F on the assignment.
Academic sources can be found on the Internet – start with google scholar. Wikipedia is a great tool and a good starting point but it is not an appropriate source for academic papers. Other kinds of Internet sources should only be used as examples of your arguments; approach them critically. Avoid citing journalistic or personal opinions unless they are evidence of an argument about reception. Advertising trade journals can be a great source can give you insight into strategies, target audiences and how advertisers understand those audiences. But be aware that advertisers will make exaggerated claims about the effectiveness of their campaigns. Advertising trade journals offer insight into how advertisers see and understand their audiences, they tell us nothing about the actual audience. Treat this information as you do the ads themselves, with a critical attitude – just like Marchand does.
3. Be sure your introduction clearly sets out your thesis or main argument. Make sure your introduction contains a precise, concise thesis statement. Be sure to signal to the reader exactly what you propose to argue in the main body of your paper.
In the introduction you should use only two or three sentences to describe the set of ads you are working with. Here an example of a brief description of a set of ads:
This paper will study seven advertisements taken from 3 mainstream woman’s magazines: Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan and Elle. These ads are for a wide range of products that pertain to body care: fashion, fitness, make-up, health spas, food, hair, skin care and diet services. Despite their obvious differences in the products advertised, they all employ a similar strategy. They all represent women’s empowerment at the workplace or within male/female relationships and suggest that the purchase of their products can serve as a catalyst for that empowerment. [Notice how this moves from description directly into an argument.]
Your thesis should be an argument, not an observation:
To signify feminism, these ads all assemble signs that connote sexual independence, participation in the work force, individual freedom and self-control. All these ads offer the means by which women, through the selection and purchase of appropriate goods, can negotiate the difficult contradiction between validation through will-power and self-discipline and the achievement of individual freedom and social equality. These ads are part of a consistently contradictory message in advertising aimed at modern women: that self-discipline equals freedom and that self-denial equals equality. This contradiction has its basis in a reframing of feminism as individuated self-empowerment so that the political logic of feminism can be reworked to fit in with the individualized logic of commodity relations.
[A thesis should establish important arguments and make claims as to the significance of your findings. Notice how an observation quickly moves to analysis and then to substantial argument.]
Following paragraphs should offer fully developed arguments that support your main thesis. Most paragraphs should be at least 4 or 5 sentences long or about half a page. Conclude with a summary of your arguments and a restatement, in different words, of your thesis. I hate writing conclusions too but it must be done. Rewrite your introduction after you finish the paper.
4. You will not be judged on your opinions, but on your arguments. Begin with insights and arguments and support those with observations and conclusions. Take a stand; challenge yourself and your readers toward new insights and ideas. A string of observations does not constitute an academic paper. Description should always be in the service of analysis. Only describe elements, images, layout, narrative structure, etc. when you need to support an argument. In order of importance: 1) arguments, 2) analysis, 3) observation.
5. Avoid informal language: “basically,” “I mean,” and vague terms: “society,” “the media,” “the viewers,” etc.
6. Be careful with first person pronouns; focus attention on your arguments about advertising or issue in question, not on yourself or your process of writing this assignment. As long as you don’t write about yourself or the process of writing, 1st person is okay. To say “I will argue that…” is to call attention to your argument, rather than yourself. To say “I watched six ads and I noticed how products were always shown…” draws attention to you, not the ads or their structure and strategies.
7. Demonstrate all the effort, thought and care that went into writing your paper with a good looking presentation. Double space with a 10 or 12 point serif font like Palatino or Times, use one inch margins on all sides, number your pages and staple your paper. Embedded images are cool, plastic covers are not. No folders or paper clips — just a simple staple. If you don’t know how to create a footnote or put automatic page numbers in the margins, learn it now! Don’t you dare graduate without good word processing skills – you’ll be a very unhappy worker on your first day on the job.
8. Most important: take pride in your ideas and express them in the clearest, most convincing way you can.
Also make sure you talk about the signifier and signified in the ad (check the reading semiotics)