Ad Analysis: Contemporary Ads Paired With Novels

I think all teachers cringe when they hear “when I am ever going to use this again.”  I like to believe the dumbfounded look combined with annoyance is part of a teacher’s DNA.  I can’t help it.  It is unnatural for me to respond any other way.  Even though I think yesterday’s discussion of using primary source advertisements in the classroom is valid and important, I think a lot of students feel so detached from them because of their publication.  But that doesn’t mean the skills are lost.  It just means that, as teachers, we need to find current advertisements that connect thematically to the literature.  Today we are celebrating Digital Literacy Day and suggesting online print ads that are much more striking and argumentative than advertisements from previous decades.  When using ads with thematic ties to literature, still encourage students to do a thorough analysis of the advertisement by determining the following:

  • What are the different elements or aspects that make up the advertisement?  How is it constructed?  Analyze the different sections of the advertisement and consider why those elements are included.  How do they impact the viewer?
  • Who is the intended audience for this advertisement and what alerts the viewer to this?
  • What is the implicit argument?  What does this advertisement suggest about human nature, man, society, nature, etc?

This last question should serve as a transition into the literature they are studying.  Ask them to draw parallels between the literature and the advertisement; however, remind students that the advertisement wasn’t created to reflect the text, thereby making the discussion more of an exploration of the ways in which it is aligned or disparate from the text.  The key is that these are considered parallel, not absolutes.  Yet, I think this is what is key about the activity.  It forces students to evaluate the ways in which and the extent to which the argument is true in the text (causing them to use textual knowledge and analysis).  To make your lives easier, below are a series of advertisements and the titles of works to which they are indirectly connected.  They can be saved below or found online through a search engine.

Ad:  Amnesty International;  Text:  Lord of the Flies, Kite Runner, To Kill a Mockingbird, Othello

Ad:  BMW Ad Showcasing Wealth;   Text:  Great Gatsby, Count of Monte Cristo, Pride and Prejudice

Ad:  Dr. Pepper Ten;  Text:  The Importance of Being Earnest, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Daisy Miller, A Doll’s House

Ad:  Mercedes Benz Left Brain v Right Brain;  Text:  Brave New World, Picture of Dorian Gray, Hamlet, Frankenstein, Heart of Darkness

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