SHORT WRITING ASSIGNMENT #2:
ANALYZING ADS & THE PRODUCTION PROCESS
DUE IN CLASS THURSDAY, March 4th
This is a two-part essay that you should tie together with a few brief comments at the end. If you wish to reverse the order here, with part 2 coming before part one that is also fine.
Write a 2 page, concise analysis of one advertisement found in a magazine or newspaper, or on-line, for a brand name item of clothing you or someone you know owns.
The analysis should address some (but obviously not all) of these kinds of questions:
In doing your textual analysis you can draw upon work many of you have done in English classes by asking questions like: What is the setting? Who are the characters? What are the key images, metaphors, displayed? What is the plot and how is it structured (this may include implied but not shown scenes that precede or follow the scene shown).
What story or "plot" does the ad offer on its surface? (You should summarize this very briefly. Do not dwell on this dimension.)
How does the story told on the surface relate to or differ from underlying stories? What relationships do you see between the manifest "denotations" of the ad and the latent "connotations"?
Where and when did the ad appear? What relation is there between the ad, the place where it appeared and the audience for the ad? What relationships, if any, do you see between the ad and the magazine or newspaper in which you found it?
What cultural assumptions and values seem built into the ad? How are those values and assumptions conveyed?
What associations are implied between the product and some value, lifestyle, person, or place?
Does the ad seem to be aimed to pull in a new set of consumers, or is it appealing to what you think of as its current consumers?
How do the stories told connect to larger stories or Myths told in the culture at large? What key images or symbols connect the ad to one or more of these American stories?
Does the ad simply reinforce these larger myth/stories? Or does it subvert, modify, confuse, reinterpret or redirect these larger stories?
What "subject position" (or positions) is projected by the ad? In other words, what kind of person is constructed as the viewer/reader of the ad? How does the ad convey this positioning?
How are you responding to the ad, and how is your response partly dependent upon your own "subject position"?
What markers of race, ethnicity, gender, age, religion, region, class, and/or sexual orientation appear in the ad? Do the markers seem to align their subjects stereotypically or play against stereotype?
What relationships exist among the images, and between the images and the written text? Do they complement? Contradict? Add nuance? Comment ironically or seriously on each other?
Which features (objects, people, the product) are foregrounded and which are in the background?
What relation exists between the ad and the product? Is the actually product talked about or shown? Or is it more a lifestyle being sold and associated with the visible or invisible product?
Which, if any, of the "advertising techniques" described on our Media Awareness handout seem most prevalent in this ad?
Starting from some of the websites listed below, and using your own research skills on and offline, find out and report in 2 additional pages what you find out about the production process that created the item of clothing in the ad you analyzed in part one.
Questions you might ask include: Where is the product made? What are the conditions for workers? How much are they paid? How is the labor divided up (is it all in one country, or one factory, or are parts made and put together in different places?) What monitors, regulations, or other protections exist for workers? Is there a union? Are unions permitted? And so on.
You may not be able to easily answer all these questions, but do not worry since part of the point of the assignment is to show that it is not easy to find answers to these questions.
Corporate Watch: Hands on Research
Workers' Rights Consortium
United Students Against Sweathops
End with some observations on how you think the reader should understand the relations between "text" and "production context".
The total length of the two-part paper should be approximately 4 typed, double-spaced pages.
DUE IN CLASS THURSDAY, March 4th