Whenever we study and analyze magazine ads, it may be useful to ask ourselves some of the
1.What is the atmosphere or ambience of the ad? What mood does it create and how does it
create a mood?
2.How would you describe the overall design of the ad? How are the various components of the
ad arranged? Where are we asked to gaze? How are we "directed" by the design of the ad?
3. What is the relationship between pictures (images/signs) and written material (text/language)?
What about the language used in the ad-does it provide information, create some form of
emotional response, present its message authoritatively, humorously etc. ?
4. How does the ad appeal to our emotions and our sense of justice or right or wrong? How does
the ad establish its credibility?
5. If there are women, men, children, and/or animals in the ad what are they like? What do they
represent socially or culturally? What can be said about their facial expressions, poses,
styles, education, occupation, or ethnicity?
6.What does the background of the ad tell us? What and where is the action in the ad? What is
the relationship between the background and the action of the ad? What about the use of
space ("white space" in particular)?
7.What theme or themes do we find in the ad? What is the ad About? (The plot of an ad. may
be about a man driving a sports car down a winding mountain road but the theme of the ad
could be the desire for power, control, and virility).
8.What is the object or item that is being advertised and what significance and role does it play
in American culture and society?
9.What social, political, or economic attitudes and values are directly or indirectly reflected in the
10.What else besides the item or product is being sold in the ad? Does the ad seem to propose
a particular standard that a reader might apply to beauty, body type, gender roles,
parenting, work, or leisure? How are these standards "sold" along with the product?
From: Berger, Arthur Asa. "Sex as Symbol in Fashion Advertising and Analyzing Signs and Sign
Systems." Reading Culture: Contexts for Critical Reading and Writing 2nd. Ed. Diana
George and John Trimbur, eds. New York: HarperCollins, 1995. pp. 162-4.
11. What is the idealized image of people in a particular social category?
12. How do people in the idealized category relate to others?
13. What is the quality of relationships depicted? How is the social hierarchy depicted?
From: William M. O'Barr, Culture and the Ad