Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Check List for Analyzing Print Advertisements

“The tendency to interpret everything in an artistic text as meaningful is so great that we rightfully consider nothing accidental in a work of art” (1977:17).

Yuri Lotman in The Structure of the Artistic Text.

1. How would you describe the design of the advertisement? Do we find axial balance or an asymmetrical relationship among the elements in the advertisement?

2. How much copy is there relative to the amount of pictorial matter? Is this relationship significant in any respect?

3. Is there a great deal of blank (white) space in the advertisement or is it full of graphic and textual material?

4. What angle is the photograph shot at? Do we look up at the people in the advertisement? Do we look down at them from a height? Or do we look at them from a shoulder-level position? What significance

does the angle of the shot have?

5. How is the photograph lit? Is there a great deal of light or is there a little light and very dark shadows (chiaroscuro lighting)? What is the mood found in the advertisement?

6. If the photograph is in color, what colors dominate? What significance do these colors have?

7. How would you describe the two figures in the advertisement? Consider such matters as facial expression, hair color, hair length, hair styling, fashions (clothes, shoes, eyeglasses design and jewelry), various props (a cane, an umbrella), body shape, body language, age, gender, race, ethnicity, signs of occupation, signs of educational level, relationships suggested between the male and female, objects in the background, and so on.

8. What is happening in the advertisement? What does the “action” in the photo suggest? Assume that we are seeing one moment in an ongoing narrative. What is this narrative and what does it reveal about the two figures?

9. Are there any signs or symbols in the photograph? If so, what role do they play?

10. In the textual material, how is language used? What arguments are made or implied about the people in the photograph and about the product being advertised? That is, what rhetorical devices are used to attract readers

and stimulate desire in them for the product or service? Does the advertisement

use associations or analogies or something else to make its point?

11. What typefaces are used in the textual parts of the advertisement? What importance do the various typefaces have? (Why these typefaces and not other ones?)

12. What are the basic “themes” in the advertisement? How do these themes relate to the story implied by the advertisement?

13. What product or service is being advertised? Who is the target audience for this product or service? What role does this product or service play in American culture and society…or any other culture and society?

14. What values and beliefs are reflected in the advertisement? Sexual jealousy? Patriotism? Motherly love? Brotherhood of man? Success? Power? Good taste?

15. Is there any background information you need to make sense of the advertisement? How does context shape our understanding of the advertisement?

Adapted from Berger, Ads, Fads & Consumer Culture Rowman & Littlefield.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

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Breaking News

I just started a new journal, number 84, which I've ironically titled "Breaking News," because nothing newsworthy happens in my life...Only minor events from time to time...the only news is that my friends are beginning to suffer from various ailments of a serious nature...this one got cancer, that one was in a car accident, a third is suffering from early stages of Alzheimers, and so it goes. Old age is a shipwreck. But when does a person get old?

I am sending a book manuscript, Bali Tourism, off to my publisher and it will be out in a year or two. Things often move slowly with publishers, even though the book has been accepted.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007


It's a curious thing...I only write in my blog every couple of years, or so it seems...and yet I've kept a journal and written in it just about every day for the last fifty years. I had hoped to be able to send selections from one of my novels to the blog and have my blog run as something with new chapters every week, or something like that. But I don't know how to upload text so I just write a bit every once in a while. When I find out how to upload text, rather than retyping it, I'll turn my blog into a novel.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

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Return of Decoder Man. I've been busy writing books and chasing about the world
but now, with a new version of Blogger that I can use more easily, I intend to return
to the blogger wars.

I've been speculating on the irony of our political situation...that we elected a president
who we would be more telegenic and now, so it seems, millions of people can't stand
to look at him. The Republicans put in a bumbler but someone who they thought could
win and help destroy the Democrats and now it seems he's destroying the Republicans.
Of course a lot of people think he wasn't elected but "selected" by the Supreme Court.
And so we're deep in a hole in Irac and 43 got us into...and he's made a terrible mess
of the middle east.

I am a confirmed ironist. When things are going too well, be careful...because there's
a good chance that something will happen to change things around. Reinhold Niebhuhr
wrote a book about the irony of American politics. He was right. Things have changed
since 43 pranced around on the aircraft carrier under a sign "mission accomplished."