Visual Analysis

Advertising is a special use of rhetoric that often tries to promote an idea about the product more than it promotes the product itself. Advertising agencies understand that consumers want to feel good about their purchases. Consumers are more likely
to buy a product that connects to some bigger idea, goal, desire, or value the consumer holds.

However, when we are shopping in our local grocery store, we are not usually telling ourselves, “Oh, I’m going to buy this particular sports-drink because it will make me just like the pros I admire.” Even though we might not state this outright, it does become part of our association with the product. We associate the desires of success, power, skill, attraction, and others with everyday products.

Visual Analysis Directions:

For this essay assignment, you will select one magazine advertisement and write a well-developed visual analysis of that ad, explaining what value the ad is using to persuade its customers. Your essay must answer the following questions:
What is the central value being defined in this ad? How is the ad using that value in association with its product?

Your essay should be well organized and well developed. This will require you to use concrete evidence from the ad itself in order to justify your thesis. Your analysis should use the language of rhetorical analysis as well as the specific concepts of visual analysis we have discussed in class. The advertisement you select must come from an actual magazine, not any other type of advertisement.

I recommend that you spend some time looking at lots of different ads and choose one that gives you plenty of interesting details and suggests something bigger than just obvious ideas about what the product does. The best essays will examine the relationship between2 the visuals of the ad and the written text. You should also consider such factors as color, layout, style, tone, context, time-period, and any other relevant details associated with your selected advertisement.

*I recommend avoiding parody style ads for this particular assignment.

Visual Analysis Research:

This essay requires the inclusion of at least one outside source in addition to your magazine advertisement. You may find it helpful to examine sources that could provide background information on the product and/or company promoted in the ad. You may also choose to research further concepts of advertising, such as historical relevance, organization, layout, color schemes, popular themes, controversies, or any other useful details associated with your analysis. All sources, including the advertisement itself, should be documented both in the body of the essay and on the Works Cited page using appropriate MLA style citations.


Every advertisement targets a specific audience. You should consider the audience of your essay to be composed of the same target audience as the original audience for the ad itself. For example, if the advertisement targets middle-class senior citizens, then you should target middle-class senior citizens in your discussion.


How should your discussion affect your target audience? What do you want them to do with the information? You should consider how your analysis of the ad could influence their impression of the ad itself, the manufacturer of the product, or themselves as consumers. Your essay should work toward accomplishing a clear purpose with your audience.


Last Updated on April 19, 2020