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How to analyze an ad Essay

Analysis of how a particular advertisement attempts to appeal to consumers By giving form to audience motives and desires, advertisers have the best chance of arresting attention and affecting communication. This is an analysis of the lift advertisement for Maxwell House Coffee created by the design agency Ogilvy Beijing of China. When the doors opened, sleepy people in an office building were shocked awake, providing a tongue-in-cheek metaphor for the effects of drinking a cup of Maxwell House Coffee. The marketplace has grown increasingly congested in a frenzied competition for the consumer’s attention.

Within this context advertisers believe that in order to get consumers to buy their product ads need to have two orders of content: an appeal to deep seated emotions and information on the product. A sales pitch is used to attract attention and effectively convey the virtues of the product on offer. Elements of good layout are necessary to control the message. Emotional appeals seem to fall into several distinguishable categories. Every ad uses a variation of these appeals: the need for sex, affiliation, guidance, prominence, attention, autonomy, or the need to nurture, aggress, achieve, dominate, escape, or to feel safe.

This ad totally circumvents all conscious reaction when the lift doors open to reveal a gaping hole. The illogical link between a gaping hole in the floor and a cup of Maxwell House Coffee is embedded in the metaphor: a better way to wake up. The link is forged pre-logically in the mind of the person who steps into that lift. Ones primal instinct is to protect oneself from falling. This is so deep-seated and spontaneous that the advertiser leaves no other option for the onlooker. This ad relies on aesthetic sensation for its appeal which, needless to say, has been executed with perfection.

Nothing in this layout could be added or left out. Apart from the initial “shock” the onlooker has to admire the optical illusion and the cleverness of its presentation. The impact of this ad on all of one’s senses is undeniably large. Other appeals that are present in a lesser and overlapping degree are a need to nurture; a need for guidance; a need to escape; a need to feel safe; and a need for curiosity. Stylistic features are not appeals in themselves but influence the way the basic appeal is presented. This ad could be classified as avant garde. This ad is innovative, experimental and unconventional.

The most striking element of the ad is the floor graphic which instantaneously grabs ones attention and penetrates the mind so profoundly, you’ll never forget the experience. The viewing angle on this ad relies on the premise that people instinctively look down when entering a lift, not only to look where they are stepping, but to avoid eye-contact with strangers. When they do look up, they look straight into the solution: a cup of steaming hot Maxwell House Coffee to “wake up”. Targeted customers: sleepy office workers. All the elements of the ad come together in a single appeal: drink Maxwell House Coffee to wake up.

The vast majority of ads employ a common set of textual features: headlines, body copy, and slogans. Copywriting has a function: to sell the product. This ad epitomizes the words “art in pursuit of a business goal”. The floor graphics replace the need for a headline. The body is presented in a most refreshing way (no pun intended) and consists only of two words embedded in the steam to further engage ones imagination of the aroma of freshly brewed coffee. Body copy follows a picture and caption style. The traditional need for a slogan is sufficed by the placement of the logo of the product on the coffee cup.

The elements of the layout of this ad totally control the way the message is received. The message is delivered in a uniquely creative and totally unexpected way. There is no competitive “noise” as the presence of the ad takes up the whole space within the lift. All layout elements have been used to maximum effect: attention, balance, proportion, movement, unity, clarity, simplicity and emphasis. Balance is achieved by proper weight distribution. In this ad the weight is on the floor. One’s knowledge of the effects of gravity plays a subconscious role.

The tonal quality of the floor graphic and its fear inspiring content visually pulls one “to the centre of the earth and back again”. The poster is optically centered so the reader cannot miss the “sales pitch” and the artistic composition is nothing short of excellent – the floor graphics, the bare lift, the metallic surface of the lift walls and the design and placement of the single poster. In a highly original way forceful emotions are brought forth in an experience of uncontrollable surprise. The presentation of the information in the poster is reserved, dignified, formal, clean, uncluttered.

One’s emotions guide the consumer through the ad, from beginning to the end. Directional impetus favors the elements to be stressed. The onlooker has nowhere to go. The recipient is taken “inside” the advertisement. Inside the lift, there is nothing to compete with it. The layout is unified by the confines of the lift, the muted colors of the walls, and the complementary colors in the poster. The inside of the lift determines the parameters of the ad space. This is a classic use of “white space” where the advertiser cleverly employs the barest necessities in such a profound way that this ad and the product it offers become unforgettable.

The two important elements of shock (floor graphic) and solution (poster) are uniquely and very cleverly tied together. The message is clear and simple. Wake up with Maxwell House Coffee. Emphasis is achieved through the dominant element, the floor graphic which contrast sharply in size, placement and most of all its the impact to that of the poster which is strategically placed in the optical centre of the lift wall, directly opposite the doors (shock versus solution).

Perfect. Does this ad effectively appeal to its target market? Yes, profoundly. And here is why: The chief element of this ad is the clever use of graphics to depict a gaping hole in floor of the lift. The product information is minimal as it needs no elaboration. The logo and a cup of coffee are all that is required. The rest is dependent upon the recipient’s own experience and feelings towards the product. The target market is well defined.

The communication between the producer and the consumer is crystal clear and totally unambiguous: This product is experienced to be genuinely gratifying to the prospective consumer and a even non-coffee drinker will enjoy the emotional “ride” offered by the advertiser. Here both ends of the communication channel have been abundantly rewarded. The ad is clever, innovative, refreshing and directed at one appeal: drink Maxwell House Coffee. This won an international award for “Best use of Ambient Media: Large Scale” in 2008.


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