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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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25 students enrolled
Created by Michelle Brown
Last updated 8/2014
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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.

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
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What Will I Learn?
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
View Curriculum
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Curriculum For This Course
Expand All 8 Lectures Collapse All 8 Lectures 01:11:25
What is Advertising?
1 Lecture 09:05

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.

Preview 09:05

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

Lecture 1 Review Quiz
4 questions
How Advertising Works - Appealing to Ethos
1 Lecture 09:12

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.

Preview 09:12

Review of lecture 2

Lecture 2 Review: Ethos
4 questions
How Advertising Works - Appealing to Logos
1 Lecture 09:05

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.

LOGOS: The Second Appeal

Lecture 3 Review: Logos
4 questions
How Advertising Works - Appealing to Pathos
2 Lectures 14:06
PATHOS: The Third Appeal, part 1

PATHOS: The Third Appeal, part 2

Lecture 4 Review: Pathos
4 questions
Application of Lectures - Deconstruction of an Advertisement
2 Lectures 23:32

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.

Deconstructing advertisements Part 1

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.

Deconstruction Part 2
Review and Summary
1 Lecture 06:25
Review and Summary of How Advertising Works

Quiz over all course content

Final Quiz
6 questions
About the Instructor
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25 Students
1 Course
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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