“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.