HOW TO READ AN ADVERTISEMENT
Reading advertisements is a complex skill, but some ads are easier to read than others, and it sometimes helps to ask a series of questions about an ad in order to make sense of its meaning and to understand exactly how it works.
These questions are a framework which you could use with any print or TV advertisement. You will not always want to ask all of them; you will not always need to read every ad this closely. However, they are here for you to use whenever you need to, as a checklist of the different techniques by which ads construct meaning.
a) Reading the image; what’s in the picture?
What can you tell about the age, sex, class, race of the different people shown in the ad from:
What other objects are featured prominently in the ad, and what do they suggest?
Where is the ad set?
What is the product?
b) Technical codes – how was it constructed?
What visual techniques does it involve?
Use of the camera in print ads
Use of the camera in TV commercials
Composition and framing
c) The text of the advertisement
Brand name of the product
Copy in print ads
Soundtrack in TV or radio commercials
Typography and graphics
d) The genre of the advertisement
Who is the ad aimed at?
How can you tell:
Where might the ad be seen?
If TV and radio:
Who was it made for?
Why was it made?
Is it part of a larger campaign?
How does it relate to:
What overall message does the ad give?
What roles, models or stereotypes are represented in the ad?
What ideas, lifestyles or desires does the ad seem to suggest?
What values are associated with the product?