Reading Advertisements Study Guide

Updated on Aug 25, 2011

Practice exercises for this study guide can be found at:

Reading Advertisements Practice Exercises


Advertisements use many techniques to persuade the reader. In this lesson you'll learn how to identify several advertising approaches. You'll also practice evaluating advertisements for logic, effectiveness, and hidden agendas.

Chances are, you're surrounded by advertising right now. The brand logo on your T-shirt, the label on your juice bottle, and the characters on your folders or notebooks are all sending silent messages. You run into advertising every time you pick up a magazine, turn on the television, or walk down a city street.

It might seem like these advertisements are designed to give you information. But their true purpose is to persuade you to buy their product, order their service, or believe their message. They might tell you the whole truth, or part of the truth, or no truth at all! As a reader and viewer, how can you make sense of advertising?

First, you can learn the tricks and techniques of advertising. Then you'll be more prepared to interpret what you read and hear. Second, you can use the strategies you've already learned for interpreting arguments and persuasive writing. By reading carefully, you'll notice how the writer says things and what effect the advertisement is meant to have on you.

The World of Advertising

Can you name the product that's represented by a gecko? How about a polar bear, or a caveman, or an orange cheetah? Can you sing the jingle from the latest soft drink commercial, or repeat the slogan for a major insurance company? You'd be surprised at how many advertising slogans, mottoes, and jingles you know! Even when you're not paying attention to advertisements, they can affect how you think and act.

Where do advertisements come from? Companies that sell products or services generate the most advertisements. But political groups and politicians running for office also put promotional ads in the newspaper and on television. Religious groups might advertise in a radio commercial or in fliers and books. The military runs advertisements on the Internet and roadside billboards urging people to enlist or learn about its programs. Advertising is so widely used that you probably see more than 100 ads each day. It's important to know how to interpret this type of writing.

Advertisements work just like other types of persuasive writing, except that they might also use pictures or sounds to help convince you. All advertisements have a subject, a main argument, and supporting details. Because they are often very short, they use the fewest possible words to create the most powerful message. Rather than trying to communicate lots of information, advertisements often try to convey an image instead.

Building an Image

To help promote their goods, services, or ideas, advertisers try to build an image for the company. They're hoping that you'll like the image and buy their products. Advertisers have countless ways to build their image. For example, a soda company might use a cute, cuddly bear as a mascot. The bear doesn't make the soda, or drink the soda, or have anything to do with the soda. But if you think the bear is cute, you will probably form a good impression of the company and may buy its products.

Advertisements are often designed to build a persuasive image rather than give you information. A magazine advertisement for a chewing gum might show people doing extreme downhill skiing. The gum doesn't make them ski better or have more fun. But the advertiser is hoping that the next time you think about skiing, you'll remember the chewing gum, too.

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