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Paper #3: Report on Manipulation in Advertising

Robert Harris
Version Date: December 16, 2000

Description. This "paper" will actually be ten separate paragraphs of analysis, applying your knowledge of logical fallacies and semantics to ten magazine advertisements which use fallacious or manipulative appeals. You will need several magazines published during this semester that you own (and can therefore tear apart). You must find ten different fallacies, emotive appeals, or other tactics. Note that most advertisements utilize multiple appeals. Feel free to make any other comments about each advertisement as well: its general effectiveness (or offensiveness), use of color, symbols, humor, or design.

Method. Locate ten magazine advertisements suitable for your analysis and tear them out carefully. For each advertisement, write a typewritten, double-spaced analysis of at least a healthy paragraph explaining what fallacies or appeals are being used. Each analysis should include the following labels and information:

Presentation Format. Obtain either a half-inch notebook and a set of sheet protectors or a 12-pocket presentation book (Acco makes some, for example, part 42123). Use a title page. Then use the left-hand side for a page containing your analysis and the right-hand side for the advertisement (making the analysis face the advertisement). Be neat and professional: be sure your spelling and grammar are correct.  Points will be deducted for errors of grammar and mechanics.

(50 points)

Example. [Photograph of a man in a suit looking into a mirror and attempting to cut the back of his hair with barber scissors. Barber implements are on the table in front of him. Headline: "Are you also managing your own business software?"]

Product Name: Infinium ASP
Manufacturer: Infinium
Magazine Name and Issue Date: Information Week, June 12, 2000
Apparent Target Market: Information technology executives

Analysis: The main appeal in this advertisement is a faulty analogy, implying that managing your own business software is like cutting your own hair. There may actually be very good reasons for a company to manage its own software, and at any rate the comparison between managing software and hair cutting is ridiculous, with essentially no commonalities. The fact that the man in the photograph is wearing a business suit, tie, and gold cuff links is an associative appeal: you, dear reader/executive, are like this man--only hopefully not so foolish. The body copy includes the claim, "Take your eyes off the ball these days and you're headed for trouble." This statement, together with the faulty analogy, also create an appeal to fear: if you manage your own software, you might be headed for "trouble." Infinium's claim to "take technology hassles out of your hair" is no doubt designed to be humorously appealing, though the degree of humor is open to question.


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Robert Harris is a writer and educator with more than 25 years of teaching experience at the college and university level. RHarris at virtualsalt.com