Advertising techniques

We live in a world of visual stimulation. In the car, on the metro, or strolling through town, we absorb the invitations to look, buy, do, react, often unconsciously. Because we are so accustomed to the barrage of media stimulation that blankets billboards or floats across our screens, we often take for granted our media savvy. Part of becoming more media literate is the ability to identify the techniques used by advertisers to persuade us. These techniques are the tools of advertisers to convince us to buy their product. Once you become familiar with them, you will see them all around you.

This lesson presents eight advertising techniques and several ads. After studying each technique, you can comment on their use in the ads below. After analyzing the ads, you can discuss the effects of them on their target audience. The case will be made that advertising can lead to social progress. This lesson is similar in many respects to the lesson on propaganda techniques and anti-drug campaigns on this Subject Site titled 'Just say no!' You may want to take a similar approach and organize several ads around a particular theme in order to enhance your understanding of a particular topic for Part 2. 

8 advertising techniques

Below you see eight advertising techniques. They may already make sense to you. Try defining these terms in relation to advertising before clicking through to the glossary. How close is your understanding of the term to the one provided in the glossary?

 8 Advertising techniques

Advertisement What kinds of advertising techniques are used and to what effects?
German Coast Guard
Humor - This ad relies heavily on humor. The joke lies in the misunderstanding between the coast guard man and the sailor aboard the 'sinking' boat. Humor makes the ad memorable. 
Problem / benefit - This ad shows what kinds of problems can arise when people do not understand each other. Learning English is the solution to this problem.
Embrace Life
Fear - The expressions on the child and mother's face are scared, as they watch their father crash is make-believe car. They scare the audience into wearing their seatbelt.
Problem / benefit - If you want to prevent your loved ones from getting hurt or killed in a car accident, encourage them to buckle up. The benefit is that you keep your loved one.  
MTV global warming ad
Fear - The ad scares us about the consequences of global warming. Planet Earth is at first very pristine but eventually very polluted.
Party All Night
Fear - This ad uses fear to warn young adults about the effects of cocaine. We see the girl deteriorating throughout the evening, ending up at the wrong places with the wrong people
Testimonial - The ad follows one girl. It is her story, which is meant to convince us to stay off drugs. 
Anti-advertising - The copy reads: 'Too old to be in an ad'. Ironically this is an ad and older women are in it. This Dove ad comments on the false reality that advertisers present to the public and targets a demographic group that is rarely targeted by ads: older women.
Shock - The sight of men kissing and Muslim women kissing is very shocking for a lot of people.
Conflict - There are physical conflicts in this film that catch our attention and startle the audience. These are resolved, as we have a tendency to want to see conflicts resolved.
Bandwagon effect - Everyone seems to be joining in the celebration of love. People begin kissing and dancing. This joy seems to be contagious. 

Several ads

Below you see several ads. For each ad, state which techniques are being used, by filling out a table like the one above 

  Embrace Life
Sussex Safer Roads

  Party All Night
Drug Free World



The ads in this lesson were selected carefully, as they claim to improve you or the world in some way. This brings up several discussion points worth considering as a class or in groups.

  1. Can advertising change the world for the better? If so, how can they do this?

  2. Do advertisers have a responsibility to promote social progress?

  3. How have advertisements changed in the past 10, 25 or 100 years? What does this say about this history of mankind or the progress of a nation?

  4. Find an ad on YouTube that might instigate social progress. Present this to the class in a mini-presentation. Explain how this ad instigates social progress.

Towards Assessment

Written task 1 - After studying a particular ad campaign closely, write a letter to its art director, praising or condemning his or her use of various advertising techniques to achieve certain ends. Be sure that the written task meets the learning outcomes for Part 2

Further oral activity - Pretend that you are the art director of a particular ad campaign, such as that of Calvin Klein, Benetton or even 'Got Milk?' Ask a classmate to interview you for your further oral activity. Remember that you must demonstrate your understanding of the original ads in your interview. 

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