Critical analysis of an advertisement

Advertising plays a big role in today’s society and producers know all too well that the best way to sell a car, a tube of toothpaste, or a cartoon of hair dye is to appeal to consumer’s anxieties and aspirations. In 1957, Vance Packard’s book ‘The Hidden Persuaders’ generated no end of controversy with its discussion of how advertisers and marketers carefully crafted copy and images in ads to persuade consumers to buy – without even knowing they were being persuaded. The neologism “subliminal advertising” is still with us today, an indelible part of everyday business and consumer culture. Packard revealed that marketers had discovered myriad ways of selling that played havoc with consumer’s brains, ways of which have been explored in this essay.

The main objective of my advertising essay was to critically analyse the most commonly used techniques used in the advertising of hair colourants. To achieve my objective a series of advertisements of a visual printed nature in addition to video clips of television advertisements were collected and closely analysed. Repetitive patterns quickly evolved in both visual and written language techniques and it soon became obvious that all hair dye advertisements were in fact directed at women, through the use of attractive and famous women such as Nutrisses – Sarah Jessica Parker (Sex in the City) in order to sell the product.

Once the target audience of women had been established readers were subjected to direct address through the use of the second person pronoun ‘you’ and it’s corresponding possessive ‘your’ in phrases such as “it’s actually good for your hair” (Garnier, Nutrisse) and “what ever your unique style” (Viva Colour, Wella). Personal pronouns are employed by various colourant producers to identify with and persuade the reader into thinking that they are alike the stunning L’Oreal models Heather Locklear, Ande McDowell and Laetitia Casta and can have gorgeous colour and shine – “Because I’m worth it” (L’Oreal, Paris). Famous people are used to endorse the products to create a sense of security; it leads the consumer to think that if ‘these’ beautiful people use it, it must be good.

The repetition of knowledge and rank are also pre-eminant throughout hair dye advertisements. L’Oreal, Wella, Nutrisse, Sebastian, Feria and Swarzkoph all imply bold assertions to endorse their products. The most common claim being that they are “experts”, which is reinforced by Garniers repeated catch-phrase “The European Expert in home hair colourants”. L’Oreal states in their Superior Preference, Recital Preference and Excellence Crime ads that they are the “World number one in hair colour”. This technique is used to suggest importance and status; it attempts to gain the readers trust and approval in the product. Schwarzkopf attempts to attract customers by claiming their product has been “Formulated and guaranteed by laboratories”.

Advertisers commonly use pre and post adjectival modifiers such as ‘Vibrant’, ‘Rich’ and ‘Radiant’, in conjunction with superlatives to attract the reader and imply a quality that exceeds that of the competitors. Superlatives are most frequently used in the advertisements when referring to grey coverage and each respective brand appears to offer greater coverage than the other. Viva colour by Wella and Nutrisse Garnier both offer “100% grey coverage”, where as L’Oreal’s New Excellence Crime has “New premium quality” and “Superior grey coverage”. The use of the statistical “100%” is used to validate the producer’s claims.

My personal research revealed that hair colourant adverts are directly marketed towards a common target audience of women through the use of beautiful women – with healthy, shiny hair. This is reinforced by as Vance Packard once stated – by appealing to consumer’s ‘anxieties and aspirations’. Hair colourant producers attempt to do this through the use of language techniques such as the second person pronoun ‘you’ and ‘your’, bold assertions and pre and post adjectival modifiers combined with superlatives to persuade this audience of women to buy the particular hair colourant, whether it be on television or in magazines.