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Using Ad Analysis to Build Analytical Skills

Assignment Summary

For homework, ask students to select a magazine advertisement to bring to class. They should choose an advertisement that is engaging, and that has some text as part of the ad. Also for homework, they should examine their advertisement and then write the following in paragraph form:

1. Describe the advertisement. What do you see? What are you, the viewer, being persuaded to do?

2. Audience: Who is the target audience? Consider where the ad was placed (what magazine or newspaper?).

3. Analysis: How does the ad persuade you? How does the ad use color? Text? Images?

Finally, pretend you were to write an analysis paper using this advertisement. Write a one to two sentence thesis statement for that paper. Your thesis statement should be an analytical thesis, not a descriptive thesis. In other words, it should not state WHAT the ad is doing, but rather HOW the ad is doing what it is doing.


In class, students then present their advertisements to the class, along with a synopsis of their write-up and their thesis statements. We then discuss how this process is similar to creating a thesis statement and an analysis for a textual analysis (there is also the need for summary, a consideration of audience, and an explanation of HOW the analysis works).

10. Instructor's comments (add your own observations, anecdotes about how the assignment has worked in the past, anything that would add to the presentation).


Getting students to generate a thesis statement for a "pretend" essay on their advertisement is a key part of this assignment. Writing an analytical thesis statement is tricky. Students often resort to writing descriptive statements about the text they're analyzing. By getting students to articulate analytical thesis statements to the class, they will learn by example and repetition.

Instructor's Comments

Analysis is a tricky concept for some students. By introducing students to analysis through advertisement analysis, students realize that they already know how to analyze a visual text. They begin to realize that making the leap to written texts is not that difficult.
genre textual analysis
course WRT 101, WRT 102
activity type homework and class discussion
duration 1 class
handouts: n/a
contributor: Leanne Warshauer