How Advertising Works

Learn how and why advertising works on you. It's all about a 2,300 year old theory that works in the 21st century!
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  • Lectures 8
  • Length 1 hour
  • Skill Level Intermediate Level
  • Languages English
  • Includes Lifetime access
    30 day money back guarantee!
    Available on iOS and Android
    Certificate of Completion
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About This Course

Published 6/2014 English

Course Description

Most of us refuse the notion that we are influenced by advertising, but that's only because we can't accept the fact that these messages have power over us. This course examines the main tools that advertisers use to persuade audiences to make a purchase.

Today's advertising uses the same ancient principles that Aristotle espoused in his 4th century BCE teachings on rhetoric. We explore these same rhetorical appeals and view modern examples of each. The course culminates in application of the lecture lessons by teaching how to deconstruct an advertisement. We'll deconstruct two commercials as examples.

What are the requirements?

  • Compatible web browser

What am I going to get from this course?

  • Identify the 3 main appeals used in the rhetoric of modern advertising
  • Gain an awareness of the ways marketers persuade consumers
  • Deconstruct an advertisement to get to the real messages

Who is the target audience?

  • College students in media-related majors
  • Anyone interested in knowing how advertising affects them personally
  • Marketers who want a refresher on the basics of persuasion
  • Advertising agencies

What you get with this course?

Not for you? No problem.
30 day money back guarantee.

Forever yours.
Lifetime access.

Learn on the go.
Desktop, iOS and Android.

Get rewarded.
Certificate of completion.


Section 1: What is Advertising?

This first lecture offers an overview of the course, defines advertising, uses examples to demonstrate different "target audiences", and explains how Aristotle's theories on rhetoric apply to modern advertising.

4 questions

This short test covers the materials presented in the Introduction lecture that presents an overview of advertising and Aristotle's theory on rhetoric.

Section 2: How Advertising Works - Appealing to Ethos

This lecture examines the persuasive technique of ethos (appeal to ethics) in detail and includes numerous examples of advertisements that use ethos. Also discussed are the ways in which an audience judges the ethics of a spokesperson, as well as the reality of celebrities who damage their ethos and lose endorsement deals.

4 questions

Review of lecture 2

Section 3: How Advertising Works - Appealing to Logos

This lecture examines the persuasive technique of logos (appeal to logic and reason) in detail and includes several examples of advertisements that use logos. Any time an advertisement "proves" that the product works, they're using logos - that means infomercials, like ShamWow, are examples of logos.

Lecture 3 Review: Logos
4 questions
Section 4: How Advertising Works - Appealing to Pathos
PATHOS: The Third Appeal, part 1
PATHOS: The Third Appeal, part 2
Lecture 4 Review: Pathos
4 questions
Section 5: Application of Lectures - Deconstruction of an Advertisement

Part 1 of 2 lectures. This lecture is all about applying the information in the prior lectures. It leads students through sample deconstructions of a Jif peanut butter ad. Using the downloadable handout, students can follow along through the deconstruction and then choose an advertisement to deconstruct themselves. For more examples, there are several excellent deconstructions in the Deconstruction Gallery on the Media Literacy Project's website.


Part 2. This lecture is another example of a complete deconstruction. I go through the deconstruction process for this awesome Playstation4 launch commercial. I think this commercial has a lot to say about the social aspect of gaming and modern male friendships.

Section 6: Review and Summary
Review and Summary of How Advertising Works
6 questions

Quiz over all course content

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Instructor Biography

Michelle Brown, Professor of Broadcast and Electronic Media

Professor Michelle Brown has also worked in TV and video production for two decades. She is a Faculty Fellow of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, and an award-winning director of photography and editor.

She developed a passion for teaching while training college interns in video production, so she went back to school and got her Masters in Television & Radio from San Francisco State University. She has taught at SFSU, the Academy of Art University, Art Institute of California at San Francisco, and College of San Mateo.

In addition to media production, Professor Brown teaches media studies courses that explore media's influences on society. In fact, as much as she enjoys teaching people how to "make" media, she believes it's more critical to teach people how to "think" about media.

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