Deconstruction of Ads

In the morning workshop Hard-Core Media Literacy at the SPARK Summit,  we deconstructed ads with these three framing questions that I think will help people become aware of what they are watching on television and in the media. The three questions are:

  • What is the ad selling?
  • How are they selling the product?
  • What does the ad want me to feel?

These questions help open up the minds of the people who are unaware of how much these advertisements affect people everyday, including people who are close to them. During the workshop, we discussed how in many of the advertisements women are usually objectified by or dependent on men, while men are positioned to look independent and strong and not care about women. In the workshop that Melissa ran, we broke down a Victoria Secret’s advertisement, an Usher advertisement, and an Equinox advertisement. All three advertisements were selling sex and the image of what a perfect woman should look like. This workshop seemed to me to be like a continuation of Andrea Quijada’s who visited our feminism class from the Media Literacy Project in New Mexico; except this time, the group was able to take part in breaking down the ads. This workshop was a real eye-opener because it made me see how a lot of ads on TV have some kind of hidden subtext.  There is one image I attached to this post because I just found it really disturbing. The ad above is for Equinox Gym.

6 thoughts on “Deconstruction of Ads

  1. Those three questions are so important for consumers (both those who purchase, and those who visually consume these ads) because they’re exactly what the advertisers and merchants are asking themselves, as well. As someone who works in advertising, I try very hard to do no harm with the answers to these questions. If the answer to the ad is “how do we want the consumer to feel?” is “bad about themselves,” it’s time to take a step back.

    Unfortunately, as a 23 year old copywriter, I’m frequently writing for products that rely on consumers to feel bad about themselves, to feel ashamed of their bodies, and to feel like they’re not enough.

    When consumers are able to deconstruct these potentially harmful ads for potentially harmful products, it puts the power back into the hands of the consumer.

    A very important lesson, indeed!

  2. I completely agree with the comment above me. Knowledge is power. If people are unaware of these hidden messages they are incapable of rejecting them. However, if they know what the advertisers are trying to do, they will be able to refuse caving in and buying these messages (and products).
    It’s surprising how many ads have this negative subtext. I genuinely hope that after this workshop, I will be able to recognize these ads and dismiss all feelings and desires that they may evoke.

  3. I think the third question is REALLY important. I think everyone can figure out what the product is that they are selling though there are times the product’s name is mentioned once for a split second at the end of the commercial. If we can figure out what we feel from the commercial and we can really analyze the commercial, we can begin to understand whether or not we want it because of how they are selling it to us or if we actually need it.

    I think the image can (for some people) give off the vibe that these women still aren’t perfect because of the surgery marks they have on them. Shouldn’t a gym be about improving self-confidence not making you feel like ****?

  4. I was also in this workshop, and found that it was both shocking and also obvious that sex does sell. It is sickening that advertisers have latched onto this destructive idea of sex, and use it in such a way that does harm to their viewers. It really is a wake-up call realizing that despite what the media says, they do not care about the viewers at all; instead their eyes are glaze over with money signs. Money truly is a powerfully absurd object that entrances even the most well determined person.

  5. I was part of that workshop too and found it every interesting. One thing I took away from that workshop was something you cited that I had never noticed before, how “in many of the advertisements women are usually objectified or dependent on men, while men are positioned to look independent and strong and not care about women.” That was something that wasn’t shocking, but a small detail I had never noticed before. And it is very true, women are often a “pair of legs,” like in the usher Ad we discussed, and nothing more than an object or an accessory to men. And as for that third question, how does the ad want me to feel, whether it means to or not it makes me feel pissed!

  6. What’s scary is I see things like this everyday up close and personal. What makes it even worse is I see it exactly because ads like this help shape the way we in society idolizes these women and how men see ourselves. For instance, my own mother asks me every few days if I think she’s fat. In my opinion, she is old enough not to care, yet her mind like my mind and so many people’s minds have been embedded with this shit our whole lives. Every magazine is telling us how to be “better” or look “better” or feel “better” or have sex “better” when the truth is people were doing each one of those things on their own more than well enough long before magazines like Vogue ever existed. Anyways that’s my opinion and the last thing I would like to say is that it is easy to blame simple ads like this for everything. What’s difficult is looking at this ad and seeing how it helps shape our society but also is a reflection of what it thinks that we want. And until we stop ourselves from wanting it, it will remain constant.

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