Visual Analysis Essay

Purpose: The goal of this assignment is to practice your ability to analyze—to break down and examine—the rhetorical techniques of two advertisements and present your analysis in a clear, specific closed-form essay.


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Assignment: Choose two video advertisements (below) of two different companies that attempt to sell the same product to two different audiences and write a thesis-driven essay that both describes the ads in detail and analyzes the rhetorical strategies they are using to sell their products to their audiences. Remember that your analysis should be organized around a thesis that makes a clear, specific claim about these ads. Perhaps you will explore why one ad relies on ethos while another relies mainly on pathos to sell similar products to different audiences. Or perhaps you can make a claim about what you think these ads say about the audiences or cultures they’re trying to persuade. Make sure you have chosen ads you feel are complex, with many of the rhetorical elements we’ve discussed in class and in the readings, such as appeals to logos (logic), ethos (credibility), and pathos (emotions/values). What is each ad trying to get its audience to think and feel? Why?


Audience: Your audience should be your classmates and your professor, but you should assume that your readers have not seen the ads you are analyzing. With that in mind, your ad descriptions must be clear and vivid so that your readers can really understand the ads and the claims you’re making about them. Don’t be afraid to make strong, arguable claims about the ads, but remember to support those claims with evidence and logical thought. Don’t just assume that your audience will know what you mean. Explain yourself.


To help form an arguable, interesting thesis, ask problematic questions about…

-purpose and audience: Who is the intended audience for each ad? How do you know? What values does each audience hold? What might the context of the ad (where it appears) tell you about the audience?

-use of type, layout, color, and image: What effects might these elements have on the ad’s audience? What’s the relationship between the images and the text?

-the appeal to logos, the logic of the ad: Does the ad make sense? Does it have to?

-the appeal to ethos and the credibility of the advertiser: Does the ad seem professional? Is it relatable? Is there a celebrity endorsement that might add credibility, for example?

-the appeal to pathos: Does the ad try to evoke certain emotions or reinforce certain values? Why?

-the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of the ad: Is it persuasive? Why or why not?

-the advertiser’s cultural perspectives: How does each ad reflect the culture or society that produced it? Does the ad include any popular culture references?

-the angle of vision: Is there anything conspicuously absent from the ad? Why?





Tentative Structure for Essay:


Introduction: General background info of the type of products you have chosen and the kind of ads they generally use. Narrow down to the two specifics companies/products you are analyzing. End in thesis stating how they are different.

Body Paragraphs

Description of ad 1

Analysis of ad 1

Description of ad 2

Analysis of ad 2

Analysis of ads together: Why one works better at one rhetorical argument? Why the other doesn’t? How could one or both be better?

Conclusion: Closing arguments, ideas about why these ads work or don’t, etc.


Grading criteria:


I will grade your work on the following criteria:

A good introduction that clearly summarizes the ads

A clear, specific thesis

Body paragraphs that address the rhetorical strategies of the ads

Logical support of the thesis

Length – No shorter than 3 pages, no longer than 5 pages, double spaced

Proper use of grammar, sentence structure, and MLA format



Links to the ads:

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