Analyzing Advertisements: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Elizabeth Hance

Elizabeth has taught elementary and middle school special education, and has a master's degree in reading education.

Advertisements are one way that companies try to convince people to buy their products. In this lesson you will learn how to analyze ads to understand the strategies behind them and maybe even learn how to use those persuasive strategies yourself.

Introduction to Advertising

Have you ever watched a commercial and immediately thought, 'I have to have that'? Then you have been the victim of a successful advertisement!

Advertisements are pictures, commercials, flyers, and more, made by companies that are trying to persuade, or convince, people to buy a product or a service. You must be careful when watching, reading, or listening to different ads, because they may not always be the most honest representation of a product or a service.

Companies want your money and they don't necessarily have their customers' best interest at heart. One reason to analyze ads carefully is to be an educated consumer. However, you can also learn great ideas about the powers of persuasion and apply those to your own writing or art!

Pathos: Appealing to Emotion

If an ad makes you feel like this little girl, it is probably using the technique of pathos
child crying

Chances are you have seen a commercial showing animals in cages, with sad music in the background. The spokesperson begs you to help save these poor dogs and cats who are suffering. This type of advertisement is using pathos, meaning it is trying to appeal to your emotions and feelings. It could be trying to make you feel sympathy, pity, or anger. Political ads attacking candidates often use pathos to associate strong, negative feelings with an opponent.

Logos: Appealing to Logic

Do you want a smile that is 40% brighter? An ad using the technique of logos will often use numbers, statistics or historical references to make the product or service seem logical and reasonable. They will use what looks like straight facts to prove their point. Surveys or other scientific tools may also be mentioned. Logos advertisements may also use vague words that sound good but have very little meaning, like 'natural' or 'pure'.

Ethos: Appealing to Ethics

A doctor in a lab coat might be included in an ad using the technique of ethos

Have you ever seen a commercial bragging that 4 out of 5 dentists would recommend a certain type of toothbrush? Or recognized your favorite celebrity in a makeup or perfume advertisement? Then you have seen an ad that is using ethos, coming from the Greek word for character. They may also use a quote from an expert or a trustworthy source.

Some brands build their business on the ethos technique. For example, TOMS shoes uses the slogan 'One for One': for each pair of shoes a customer buys, another pair is donated to a child in need. In this way, TOMS shoes appeals to the character of the person choosing which shoes to buy.

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