Advertising, reviewed

What does advertising do ?

Here is an internet site with vast possibilities :

Ads of the

It is a site for the advertising industry, principally - it acts as a showcase for the latest and the best in advertising campaigns, and so has a wide range of materials available. Its main interest for us language teachers is the extensive archive of ads in all media.

Site survey

The Home Page immediately offers, at the top of the screen, Latest Ads, Top Ads, Collections and Student Ads.

Latest Ads ... ever-changing stock of images and videos, so check for what might be relevant

Top Ads ... the Editor's selection - again, ever-changing, but worth checking and bookmarking

Collections ... groups of ads related by theme, so it's always worth skimming through this section to see if there are useful images and ideas for whatever work you are doing with your class. For example:

14 Modern Family Images That Will Make You Smile

As the world evolved, so did the meaning of a modern family—and we’re not talking about the show. Browse through this collection of hand-picked imagery that shows off contemporary, culturally diverse families at work, home, and abroad.

Student Ads ... a showcase for students studying advertising, it appears ... usually quite high standard, but not always - always it may sometimes be worth discussing why an advert doesn't work ?

Note also...

Search Ads ... a facility which allows you to type in a key word and see what the site's database has to offer

News & Updates ... probably mainly of interest to advertising industry insiders, but you never know...

Clio Awards ... links to major advertising industry annual awards, the Adman's Oscars ... worth exploring past winners as well as the latest awards

Using 'Clio Awards'

The real gold-seam of the site is the Awards section, because here you have the pick of the crop. It is arranged by month+year, and each set of awards covers a wide range of categories - rummage around. 

Here is a rather dated collection from my rummaging some years ago now, arranged by subject :-

About advertising & thinking ... a very unusual ad for Langara College (an art school, perhaps?) which is actually a compendium of advice about creative thinking, expressed with great wit ... could be used as general advice for students in all circumstances ! (Jan 2010)

Allergies ... the Benadryl: War advert sells an anti-allergy medicine, but is mainly interesting for being a brilliantly extended metaphor - makes vivid and real the process of metaphor ... (May 2009)

Amnesty International ... highly visual French ad, making the point that 'Your letters have power' ... raises the idea of public opinion vs tyranny ... (June 2008)

Amnesty International ... using spookily effective visuals, Amnesty International: Death Penalty makes a powerful emotional point ... probably most useful as an introduction to a discussion about the death penalty ... (June 2010)

Anti-tobacco ... Toxic Brainstorming brilliant TV ad (in French, with English sub-titles), using subtle dialogue, even characterisation - and the point only becomes clear at the end (April 2010)

Condom advert ... MTV: The cover establishes an atmosphere, and then there's a twist ... about skilful Narrative Technique (Dec 2008)

[And here's another condom ad - Aides: Graffitti - which is probably unusable, because it's so ...explicit, but is it actually likely to be a more successful advert than the 'tasteful' one above ? (Jan 2010) ]

Domestic Violence / Gender Violence ... a comment under 'News' led to this blog, which has five examples of adverts against gender violence Could lead to interesting compare/contrast or rank order exercise ?

[And a South African variant - the POWA ad - which raises the angle of why people don't interfere in such cases ... not a great ad, as such, but an interesting approach ... (July 2010) ]

Helping the Third World ... clever ad about donating clothes - Humana: Help - but can you sell charity ?

Humour ... actually advertises Nando's Big Meal (?) but is simply a great visual gag, in 36 seconds ! (Sept 2008)

Internet Dangers ... Action Innocence: Alone is a clever, concise ad, using computer-style graphics, warning against children surfing the internet unsupervised ... neat ad, raising a significant issue ... (Feb 2009)

Luxury Car ... but ironic! The Kia: Expectations ad bases itself on the clichés of the car ad - thus suggesting that it's not a cliché (by using clichés) ... useful for talking about the language of ads (Aug 2008)

Mobile Phones ... this ad for Orange The Toys for Grownups is witty, visual (sound-track, a Sinatra song, provides the words mainly) ... could start a good discussion about mobile phones and gadget-mania ... (Feb 2008)

Mobile Phone Network ... selling Movistar in Peru, this long ad uses poetry (in Spanish, but good English sub-titles) and surprising images to sell through emotion ... a very different approach to the Orange ad above - which is better? ... or works best? ... or does it all depend on context ? Good for compare / contrast, then ... (March 2010)

Sports (& shoes) ... ad as hyper-production - Nike: Write the future - but what does it all mean? ... advert as fantasy ... social commentary ... fiction ... enigmatic symbolism ... (and does it sell?) (May 2010)

UNICEF ... the idea behind Tap Project: Desperate is achieved by analogy - what's it like to not be able to find water for your crying child? ... this process of transfering an idea from one context to another is the basis of many ads - but it's actually the basis of most creative thinking ...

Teaching from a TV ad 

TV ads are short. The longest in the list above is the Nike ad, and that's noted as the long version - presumably for cinema, or as the basic material from which shorter ads can be trimmed, as required. On the other hand, good TV ads are dense - they have a lot happening in a tiny space. There are the visuals, and the words ... which combine to produce the narrative, or argument ... not to mention the music / sound-track. Look back at the list of ads above, and note the number of LitCrit terms that have been used (in italics).

Let us look at one of those ads in some detail:

Kia: Expectations

When it comes to luxury SUV commercials you expect certain things.

You expect to see the SUV demonstrating its off-road capabilities in a place you'll probably never go.

You'd expect a gratuitous cabin shot, followed by a string of clichéd metaphors - for precision ... horsepower ... and state of the art sound system ...

You might expect to see the SUV in a scene from a summer blockbuster ...

... or parked next to a mansion, with statues, owned by a man who looks a lot like this ...

And while you might expect an over-the-top ending from a luxury SUV commercial, what you wouldn't expect - is this ...

Introducing the KIA Borrego, a new kind of luxury SUV.

Points to note, and teach:

> This ad uses 114 words in 59 seconds.

> The visuals are expensive ... even if they are apparently being parodied.

> It plays a complicated game - it appears to be commenting ironically on the clichés of car adverts (but uses them anyway) ... and emphasises what you'd expect (i.e. boring clichés), so that it can use the punch-line "what you wouldn't expect - is this ..." (i.e. the price). The combination results in the customer thinking 'Great price - for all the usual expected things!'

A sample teaching sequence

Step 1 ... show the ad, and ask for immediate reactions

Step 2 ... show the ad again, this time focusing on the word-script by using the cloze version (see handout)

Step 3 ... check the cloze answers, then ask the students to read the completed text carefully. Discuss it as a written text. Emphasise sophisticated, and useful, terms like 'clichéd' and 'state-of-the-art'.

Step 4 ... Look at the film again - this time to investigate the meaning and value of the images. What does the script intend when it refers to the "clichéd metaphors"? (the fencers ... the horses ...) Why are these images metaphors? Of what? And why are they "clichéd" ?

Step 5 ... Consider audience and approach: why did the advertisers think this was a good approach to take - ironically commenting on other SUV adverts ? (Separating the KIA Borrego from the rest of the crowd? Aiming at an intelligent, sophisticated, sceptical audience ? )

Other advertising archives

COLORIBUS ... claims to be the biggest ("over 2m ads") ... personally, I find it less user friendly than 'Ads of the World', but perhaps this is just a matter of learning the language of navigation

AdSlogans ... specialises in slogans - which is convenient for us as language teachers, and it actually has a dedicated section 'For Students and Educators' with a useful list of FAQs

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