Write about these ads

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You will need to watch your two commercials VERY carefully. These questions will help you note the details you need in order to interpret the campaign:

  • WHO are the main characters in this commercial? Distinguish between main & background characters. Take notes on the main character(s): age, sex, race, physical appearance, cultural signifiers, etc.
  • WHO are the background characters? Notice the general ages, races, sexes. What is their role in relation to the action of the commercial?
  • WHERE does action take place? Take notes on the setting—can you tell what city they’re in, if it’s an urban setting? How can you tell? Is it outdoors or indoors? Rural or urban? Domestic (inside a house), & if so, what kind of domestic setting–luxurious or plain? Exotic or mundane?
  • LISTEN to the audio for the following things:
    • —what do the characters say to one another? GET THE SCRIPT, either by listening or from this site: http://lybio.net/. Take notes on which characters say what, what their voices sound like, etc.
    • —if there is a voice-over, what is the script? Do you recognize the voice? If it’s a celebrity voice, what cultural meanings are attached to that celebrity (e.g., Michael Jordan = the greatest, hard worker, excellence)? What does the voice sound like—deep, high, male, female, excited, calm…? (www.ispot.tv/browse can help you find out if any celebrities were involved)
    • : if there is music, is it a recognizable song (e.g., Aloe Blacc’s “I’m the Man” in the Beats by Dre commercials) or is it written for that commercial (e.g., music in the Army Strong commercial). What does it sound like—energetic, calm, inspiring? Does the music begin with the commercial or does it come in later—& if so, when? What is happening visually in the story at the moment the music changes?
    • Ambient Sound: ambient sounds are background noises that make a scene sound real, like wind/crickets for an outdoor scene; clinking glasses/a cash register/footsteps for a diner; honking cars for an urban street. What mood do these sounds create?
  • WATCH the composition/framing of the camera shots. Are there close-ups? Extreme close-ups? Wide-angle shots? Medium shots? See for a list of the different kinds of shots that camera-people use. Different shots/frames create different moods.
  • WATCH the camera angles—use for a list of the different kinds of camera angles.

Resources: Your interpretation will be your own, but I do want you to do some background research on your campaign. There are publications that review and discuss ad campaigns—two big ones are Adweekand Advertising Age. I want you to incorporate information that you find about your campaign and cite it properly.

Even though you are writing about TV commercials, you are still making an argument: you are trying to persuade readers to accept your interpretation of the campaign. Your claim will present your interpretation of the commercials; your reasons will explain why you see them as you do; & your evidence will consist of descriptions of what is happening in the commercials




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