Advertisements are one of society’s most influential forms of media. Advertisement and advertising derive from the Latin word ‘advertere’ which actually means ‘turns towards’. The way in which adverts actually make people ‘turn towards’ them, is usually by the use of language and imagery.
Adverts have two foremost functions, firstly they are there to provide relevant information about the product being advertised and secondly, to persuade audiences to buy the advertised merchandise. A key way in which advertisements achieve this is the effectiveness of the devices employed for the representation of speech. However, not all adverts merely aim to inform and sell their product. A vast majority are those for charities, political parties and public welfare. Again, the representation of speech is vital in order to make the advert a success in gaining support or raising issues for the audiences.
Advertising language is considered by a vast array of scholars to be “loaded language”. Cook (1992) states that “any analysis of the language of ads immediately encounters the paradox that it must and cannot take the musical and pictorial into account as well.” Cook points out the importance music plays in moving ads. However, print ads obviously lack this element which establishes the relevant mood for the desired advertisement. Therefore, print ads need more emphasis on the use of speech in order for the mood and effects of the advert to be fully appreciated by the viewer, enabling audiences to decode the advert the way the encoder intended it to be.
Adverts break the rules of the English language, not only is this eye catching, but it also makes ads memorable. Playing on words is often used whilst making up new words which can be associated with the company the advert represents. The three main aspects of the English language which are most commonly used in advertising are morphology, syntax and rhetorical devices.
English morphology in advertising is commonly used. Morphology includes aspects of the English language such as innovative spelling. This enables language to stand out as it is not what is conventionally normal to society, enabling the audience’s attention to be drawn to the advert. By using innovative spelling allows devices such as rhythm to occur more naturally.
This enables the catch phrase of the advert to be remembered, especially in the case of an incorrectly spelt word which is new and uncommon, enabling the advert and its company to become unique. The use of innovative spelling is evident in an advert for Rimmel London (Cosmopolitan magazine, December 2006). The advertisement is advertising the ‘new magnif’eyes mascara’. The play on words here is on the word magnifies, it implies that your eyes will be magnified, connoting ideas of big voluptuous lashes. This invented word will remain in the readers head, and the next time they are out shopping and see the mascara they will identify with it and remember the ad, this is also reinforced by having ‘Magnif’eyes’ printed onto the mascara pot as well.
The use of playing and inventing new words is very popular when relating to celebrations during the year, such as Christmas. This is evident in the GAP advert, advertising cashmere jumpers (Cosmopolitan magazine, December 2006). The eye catching slogan states ‘Merry cashmere’. Apart from this, there is no supporting text and from this eye catching slogan the reader is able to decode the message that the advert is advertising cashmere jumpers, as modeled by the two models. By being a fairly short slogan, makes it even more memorable and nearly everyone reading the magazine will take note of the advert due to it being short and relative to the time of year.
Another element of morphology which is commonly used in advertising is the use of verbs. Leech (1996) lists some of the most common verbs used I advertising; get, have, see, look, love and need. These are but a few of the most common verbs used however, Leech concludes that the verbs used most regularly ‘denote a relationship between the consumer and product’.
This creates in a sense a relationship between the reader and the advert, making them feel at ease and in a sense related and therefore engaged with the advert. The use of the personal pronoun “you” and sometimes “we” also creates the same effect. This is apparent in the Garnier advert (Boots Health and Beauty Magazine, November/ December 2006). It states that the cream advertised makes ‘your skin look brighter’ while also supplementing ‘your skin’. The personal pronoun ‘your’ is used in two consecutive sentences really making the reader feel as though they are being personally addressed, the advert is therefore aimed at only them and as a result they feel as though they should purchase the advertised product.
Another aspect of the English Language which is commonly used in advertising is syntax. This is closely related to sentence levels and adverts which use syntax generally have the following features. They use simple sentences, so as not to bore the reader, integrative and imperative sentences and the use of exclamation. Due to the limited amount of space adverts have, and the fact there are thousands more adverts trying to gain the readers attention, they need to be as forceful as possible. As a result of this the most common form of syntax used is interrogatives and imperatives as they require an active response from the audience.
The final and most broad aspect of the English language is the use of rhetorical devices. According to Dyer (1982) the word rhetoric suggests that writing in advertising can “clarify or add strength and impact to persuasive oratory and come up frequently in any analysis of advertising since it refers to those techniques, usually verbal, that are designed and employed to persuade and impress people.”
Unorthodox language is often a technique used in Rhetoric. Devices such as the play on words, personification, allusion, parallelism, assonance, alliteration and hyperbole, are all aspects of Rhetoric, to name but a few. Puns are a common rhetoric device and are used to attract the attention of bored readers. Puns usually provoke humour and interest keeping the audience engaged. Not only this, but the figure of speech is also commonly used. This device includes similes’, metaphors’ and metaphors’. For example the Kellogg’s Cornflakes advertisements make the use of metaphors in their adverts when they suggest that readers ‘eat a bowl of sunshine’. The use of the metaphor ads colour to the text, making it interesting to read while also connoting joyful images.
Other rhetoric devices are the use of hyperboles which aid rhythm and rhyme For example the Heinz Baked Beans advert slogan ‘Beanz Meanz Heinz’ is a form of assonance, featuring the repetition of vowel sounds, making it rhyme therefore, making it memorable for readers. Due to the fact that the vowels are open sounds, it creates a more soothing effect, not harsh and unattractive, again attracting the reader even more, but very subtly and unconsciously.
The types of rhetorical devices used are vast. They are used to retain audience’s attention and to persuade consumers to buy products. As well as this, the language is made attractive, diverse and interesting, all for the same purpose, to attract possible consumers of the advertised product.
The language used in advertising is far from what is classed as normal within the English language. It breaks norms and conventions adopting many forms of controversy and paradoxes. However, people’s reactions towards adverts are never predictable. It is in many cases that readers do not decode the advertisement in the way the coder intended, resulting in the point of the advert to be missed and possibly result in a lack of interest for the advert. This can usually be related to cultural differences and understandings.
“Advertising, then, is magic and magically associates extra, non-essential meaning with perfectly ordinary, serviceable goods” (Schudson, 1984). The way advertising engages the audience through language and speech is essentially the most important aspect of print based advertisements, along with the image. English language is the only part of the advert which can establish the mood and reflect the views and words of the target audience.
* Boots Health and Beauty Magazine. (Novermeber/ December 2006). Pg35.
* Cosmopolitan Magazine. (December 2006). Pg 2-3 and 268.
* Goddard, A. (2002). The Language of Advertising. 2nd edition. London, Routledge.
* Roman, K and Maas, J. (1992). The New How to Advertise. London, Kogan Page Ltd.
* Tanaka, K. (1994). Advertising Language. A pragmatic Approach to Advertising In Britain and Japan. London, Routledge.
* Xin Su. (2004). Advertising English as a Means of Representation: Its Features and Effects on Thought and Action. Available from: http://www.linguist.org.cn/doc/uc200408/uc20040802.doc