Advertising and Advertising as a type of discourse

Essay, 1998

16 Pages

Angelika Felser (Author)


Advertising and advertising as a type of discourse

Cook considers advertisements to be a type of discourse. A discourse analysis consists both of an analysis of language and an analysis of the context of communication.

The reason for this is that there is no act of communication without participants, intertext, situation, paralanguage, etc.

Advertising is not static, but a dynamic synthesis of many components. Acccording to Cook, one has to take into account

- the co-text (text which precedes or follows the text under analysis)
- the function
- music and pictures
- the paralanguage (the behaviour accompanying language such as facial expressions, gestures, the voice quality)
- participants (are part of the context and observers) are senders - addressers - adressees - receivers the advertising agency: sender - actor: addressor the adressee: might be a specific target group the receiver: anyone who sees the ad the receiver is not always the adressee (for ex. a man watching a tampon ad)
- situation (relation of objects and people)
- the substance/material.

Generally speaking, there are a lot of different discourse types such as consultations, conversations, jokes, lessons, plays, prayers, stories, etc.

Since there are different ways of categorising these discourse types (by function, participants, situation substance, etc.), the discourse types can merge into each other. That is, a discourse can be several types at once.

Characteristic features of an advertisement

- ads seek to alter adressées’ behaviour
- ads are contrained by the need to fulfill the wishes of their clients
- ads foreground connotational and metaphorical meaning and make use of paralanguage
- ads are embedded in accompanying discourses and are, therefore, parasitic [they often occur in the middle of a TV broadcast together with other ads]
- ads in their use of language are multi-submodal and can use writing, speach, song either singly or in combination as the medium permits:

within the language of TV ads there is a preference for the sub-modes of song and speach over writing, as music and song are able to create specific connotations such as cheerfulness or gloominess [for example: music accompanies ads for ice cream to evoke cheerfulness and summer]

- ads constantly change and have the typical restless instability of a new discourse type

Advertisings as a type of discourse

First of all, it is wrong to say that advertizing differs from other types of discourse by its selling function, given that its aim is to persuade people to buy a particular product.

There are ads which don’t sell anything; their functions are to amuse, to inform, to warn or to worry: Exaples: „Your best friend is the one who won't buy you a drink when you are driving“

In a German ad advertisers showed a child's face with sad eyes and a sign covering his mouth saying „closed because of loneliness“:

Just like all types of discourse, ads can overlap with other types of discourse types, such as conversation, films, political propaganda, songs, etc.

Ads are very often not valued as highly as other discourse types, such as journalism, law or science. They may be described in terms of their social function, but it is interesting to see that societies may be categorized in terms of the types of discourse they use and in terms of the way they use these types of discourse: Ads can reflect differences between cultures and different values, for instance,

In a Japanese ad for a marriage agency a woman says „As I would like to have a bright child, maybe I could meet a graduate of Tokyo University“.

However, it is important to see that the ad mirrors a different but by no means any inferior way of thinking, and that and that ads can also indicate social changes:

Ads were quite rare in Eastern Europe under communism. Their absence particularly struck visitors from capitalist countries - and the other way round: Visitors to the West were overwhelmed by the quantity of ads in daily life, for example, in newspapers or on walls of metro stations.

Ads also have the power to change society. It depends on our attitude towards ads, our personality, our social and ideological position if and to what extent we are influenced by ads.

Adverts often appeal to ambition, greed and worry. Many of us urge to consume more and more because ads might make us feel dissatisfied or inadequate:

Ads can make you feel unsatisfied, as before you watched a particular ad on television, you haven't even had the slightest idea that you were lonely.

“Fortunately”, there are alcoholic drinks, and on TV, people having such a drink never seem to be alone. They are always involved in society, that is, surrounded by good friends. Paradoxically, in reality, alcoholic drinks consumed in excess make you lonely, as you are avoided by society “Fortunately” the lack you now realize is liquidated by the product.

Thus, ads have got two functions: The articulation of fear and lack ( failure, loneliness) and the liquidation of the lack articulated before.

The world of the sender is to manifacture the product.

The fictional world of characters are secondary participants on a TV commercial or in a newspaper ad. This, however, is the phantasy world of the addressee whereas his real world is the place where to buy the product.

Thus, the aim of the advertiser is to introduce the product into the audience's worlds via their phantasy or dream world. The product is the bridge between d of the ad and the reality of the adressee.

According to Torben Vestergaard and Kim Schroder adverts function on the level of a day-dream, as they make use of our desire for identity and a better world. The ultimate desire of advertisers is to make athe consumer to attach the desired identity to a particular product and, thus, to transform the need for identity into a need for commodity.

This is called “the added value” of a product, since the product can give you more.

They also claim that the product is no mass product:

In an advert for the coffee “Dalmeyer Prodomo” , for example, a woman adjusts apron-strings while enjoying her coffee.

In the advert for the beer “Roling Pilsener”, the advertisers ad the slogan “als wärs für Sie allein gebraut” (“As if it has been brewed only for you”) . By addressing the consumer directly, the advertising slogan is intended to make the customer believe that the product has been produced for the individual customer only. This is called the “You-Pathos”, a direct appeal to the consumer suggesting individuality.

Another important fact is that advertisers adapt their ads to the context of culture („Zeitgeist“). As a result of a changing society, ads change in turn - like a circle.

According to Cook, the consumer, a short or long copy, the frequency, the medium, the product and the technique used can serve as parameters to categorize ads.

He points out that printed ads are static and enable us a closer observation of the text [exceptions: ads on subway trains and platforms which are longer copies]

Spoken ads, like TV commercials are non-static. The spoken and written text disappears quickly, so that the emotions being evoked remain elusive.In these texts a large variety of modes are offered at once ( music, pictures, print, speech), and the interpretation of the text can be manipulated.

Cook differenciates between different techniques for different products.

Thus, he differenciates between product ads and non-product ads.

Within product ads, he makes the distinction between luxuries (chocolate, holidays, perfume) and necessities (cars, household: eggs, fridges, soap, etc.).

Non-product ads are, for example, ads for charities or political parties.

The choice of technique clearly relates to the product, the medium and the copy lenghts.

A “reason ad” is more useful in a long copy, for exaple in a magazine. It wouldn't work on a 30 second TV commercial. A reason ad is often used for expensive items which merit a long consideration (for example a car).

The “reason ad” makes a practical appeal:

a washing liquid is better than all the others as is washes more dishes and is more economic than any other product.

In contrast to the “reason ad”, the “tickle ad” makes an appeal to emotion and mood:

Marlborough ad: „Come to Marlborough county”. It promisses adventure and total freedom.

As far as “short copies” and “long copies” are concerned, one can categorise ads also according to the consumer or better the “Target group”: “Tickle ads” may work better on younger people than older people (see the various ads concerning the Anti-Aids campaigns or ads for products generally bought by women, for example sanatary towels. “Jewellery” is probably rather bought by the richer part of the population than by young people.

Cook also différenciâtes the so-called “hard sell” from “soft sell”.

In a “hard sell-ad” a person makes a direct appeal to the audience.

For example, a man in a suit standing in front of a pile of carpets talks loudly and directly to the camera about cost, availability and guaranteed reliability]

In a “soft sell-ad” the audience is given a reason without any direct appeal. It rather relies on the mood than on exhortation. It implies that life will be better with this product, and contains un unspoken premise.

For instance, the Visa Card seems to make life so easy and convenient, so that you've always money wherever you go - even if you go swimming.

Another technique frequently used has to do with the frequency of ads release.

Cook differenciates between “slow drip” and “sudden burst”.

Advertisers make use of “slow drip” when products are to be offered that are not dependent on seasonal variation. These products suggest reliability and durability (for example cars).

The technique of “sudden burst” is used to scamble wildly for attention, for instance before Easter or Christmas.Before Easter the industry offers chocolate in particular shapes, such as in forms of hares or eggs.

Before Christmas, not only chocolate is produced in various shapes, but also toys. These products diminish in January.


Excerpt out of 16 pages


Advertising and Advertising as a type of discourse
University of Münster  (Englisches Seminar)
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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892 KB
Advertising, types of discourse, Jacques Dubois and the Groupe µ, Isotopy and Metaboly
Quote paper
Angelika Felser (Author), 1998, Advertising and Advertising as a type of discourse, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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