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The language of advertising
People feel differently about advertising. People who are against it often argue that it is immoral. They say advertisements are full of tricks. They also say they contain mistakes in grammar. They argue advertisers will do just about anything to sell their product. Other people say advertisers have a right to free speech. They point out that people do not have to view the advertisements.
We are living in an era of information explosion in which advertising seems to be an indispensable building block of the media. Radio, television, and the press are, to a great extent, financially motivated to present advertisements. Seen in a sociological perspective, advertising will only flourish in a community where individuals live above subsistence level and where technological advancement makes mass-production possible (see Vestergaard & Schroder 1985). Over-production and under-demand often lead to a competitive market where advertising is justified. Now advertising is an integral part of our social and economic system. Every day we are exposed to so much advertising. Just as Blake Clark said: “...the average man lives with the advertising man’s work more hours a day than with his family, and is certainly more familiar with advertising slogans than with the proverbs in his bible” (Blake Clark, The Advertising Smokescreen, 1998). We are so heavily and continuously barraged by advertising in modern life. Of all business activities, probably none is better known, more widely discussed, or more highly criticized by the public than advertising. One reason for this is that advertising has become the spokesman for business. As a form of mass communication closely linked with the world of commerce and marketing, advertising is a powerful tool for the flow of information from the seller to the buyer. It influences and persuades people to act or believe. It is also something which affects most of us in a number of different spheres of our lives. It not only influences any human society but also reflects certain aspects of that society’s values and structure. There are many special and specific reasons for using advertising in its several forms. Announcing a new product or service, expanding the market to new buyers, announcing a modification or a price change, educating customers, challenging competition, recruiting of staff and attracting investors are a few of such reasons. In the process of creating advertisements for all these reasons, language, i.e., choice of expression is of crucial importance. What kinds of choices make an advertisement highly effective is something worthy to be studied from a linguistic perspective. As a form of mediums, advertising owns its distinctive linguistic characteristics which are generalized from the abundant examples presented in this thesis.
Advertising is a form of communication intended to persuade an audience (viewers, readers or listeners) to purchase or take some action upon products, ideas, or services. It includes the name of a product or service and how that product or service could benefit the consumer, to persuade a target market to purchase or to consume that particular brand. These messages are usually paid for by sponsors and viewed via various media. Advertising can also serve to communicate an idea to a large number of people in an attempt to convince them to take a certain action.
Commercial advertisers often seek to generate increased consumption of their products or services through branding, which involves the repetition of an image or product name in an effort to associate related qualities with the brand in the minds of consumers. Non-commercial advertisers who spend money to advertise items other than a consumer product or service include political parties, interest groups, religious organizations and governmental agencies. Nonprofit organizations may rely on free modes of persuasion, such as a public service announcement.
Modern advertising developed with the rise of mass production in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Mass media can be defined as any media meant to reach a mass amount of people. Different types of media can be used to deliver these messages, including traditional media such as newspapers, magazines, television, radio, outdoor or direct mail; or new media such as websites and text messages.
The study of language of advertising from a linguistic perspective has been attempted by several scholars (Leech 1966; Geis 1982; Vestergaard and Schrodder 1985; Mencher 1990, etc.). Leech (1966), in his pioneering and comprehensive study on English in advertising, has analyzed in detail different aspects pertaining to grammar, vocabulary, discourse and rhyme and rhetoric of advertising with special reference to television. He has effectively related these aspects with the functional factors such as attention value, listenability/readability, memorability and selling power. Illustration, display typography, vocal emphasis, prompt spelling, grammatical solecism, metaphor and paradox are some of the aspects linked with attention value. Simple and colloquial style and familiar vocabulary are connected with readability. Phonological regularities such as alliteration, rhythm, rhyme and jingle are related to memorability. Frequent use of imperatives and superlatives are connected with selling power. The distinctive property of advertising language has been closely identified with the use of clauses, phrases and words as minor sentences, which constitute a different kind of grammar called as disjunctive grammar. Geis (1982) has made an attempt to describe how language is used in American advertising, especially television advertising. He has focused on certain linguistic devices that figure most prominently in advertising. According to him, the advertising claims employing the word ‘help’ as in phrases like ‘helps to achieve’ and comparative phrases like ‘more or less’ are impressive because they are indistinguishable from the law like generic claims of scientists. He has concluded that advertisers in general tend to prefer vague language rather than language with explicit empirical consequences and to prefer subjective claims to objective claims. Vestergaard and Schroder (1985) have studied the language use in commercial press advertising in relationship with communicative functions of language such as expressive, directive, informational, contextual and poetic etc. They have also identified the importance of imperatives and directive speech acts in encouraging the audience to buy the products. Mencher (1990) has looked into the aspect of vocabulary in advertising and identified ten words as the most personal and persuasive. They are: “new”, “save”, “safety”, “proven”, “love”, “discover”, “guarantee”, “results”, “you” and “health”. The psychological impact of these words on the consumers has also been discussed.
The advertisements can be classified into non-commercials and commercials on the basis of the object and purpose involved in advertising. In non-commercial advertisements, selling and buying are not involved and certain ideas, morals or appeals are communicated to the common public from government agencies or various associations and societies. The purpose may be related to charity, political propaganda, or different social welfare measures. Commercial advertisements are sub-classified into commercial consumer advertisements and prestige advertisements. The commercial consumer advertisements involve consumer goods such as cosmetics, medicines etc., while the prestige advertisements include services like banking, insurance etc. Of the different classes of advertisements, the commercial consumer advertisements are the most prominent in terms of both quality and quantity. A successful advertisement is expected to accomplish five functions namely 1.attracting attention
3. creating desire
4. inspiring conviction and
5.provoking action (Vestergaard and Shrodder, 1985).
All these five functions are inter-related and in concert serve to promote the selling power of the product advertised. In achieving these functions in the production of an advertising copy, an effective use of language becomes all the more important. Commenting on the extreme care that one should take with regard to the use of language in advertisements, Ranade (1998) states: “Incredible, the amount of damage one may cause with a slight play on words here and there, or a twist in the title, or even by the willful omission of a single comma”.
According to Leech’s (1966:27) (Jefkins Frank, Advertising, 1985) classic treatise, the language of advertising is characterized by a number of preferred linguistic patterns and techniques:
Unorthodoxies of spelling and syntax, and semantic oddities are common to attract attention.
Simple, personal, and colloquial style and a familiar vocabulary are employed to sustain attention.
Phonological devices of rhyme and alliteration and sheer repetition are utilized to enhance memorability and amusement. Repetition is usually of two types: intra-textual and inter-textual. In the former, the product’s name and certain highlighted features are repeated several times. In the latter, a single slogan is consistently used in different ads for a single product or manufacturer.
An intimate, interactive addressing of the audience and a conversational mode is employed.
Abundant use is made of superlatives and hyperbole in characterizing the product, with often indirect reference to rival products.
The first rule of parity involves the Alice in Wonderland use of the words “better” and “best.” In parity claims, “better” means “best” and “best” means “equal to.” If all the brands are identical, they must all be equally good, the legal minds have decided. So “best” means that the product is as good as the other superior products in its category. When Bing Crosby declares Minute Maid Orange Juice “the best there is” he means it is as good as the other orange juices you can buy. The word “better” has been legally interpreted to be a comparative and therefore becomes a clear claim of superiority. Bing could not have said that Minute Maid is “better than any other orange juice.” “Better” is a claim of superiority. The only time “better” can be used is when a product does indeed have superiority over other products in its category or when the better is used to compare the product with something other than competing brands. An orange juice could therefore claim to be “better than a vitamin pill,” or even “the better breakfast drink.” The second rule of advertising claims is simply that if any product is truly superior, the advertisement will say so very clearly and will offer some kind of convincing evidence of the superiority. If an advertisement hedges the least bit about a product’s advantage over the competition you can strongly suspect it is not superior – may be equal to but not better. You will never hear a gasoline company say “we will give you four miles per gallon more in your care than any other brand.” They would love to make such a claim, but it would not be true. Gasoline is a parity product, and, in spite of some very clever and deceptive advertisements of a few years ago, no one has yet claimed one brand of gasoline better than any other brand. To create the necessary illusion of superiority, advertisers usually resort to one or more of the following ten basic techniques. Each is common and easy to identify.
the world of advertising, slogans play a very significant role and
therefore manufacturers spend millions of dollars in creating them.
These short phrases are quite effective when it comes to drawing
people's attention. Basically, a slogan has to highlight some aspects
of the product. For instance, the famous ad slogan for Nokia -
Connecting people suits it very well because it highlights the fact
that it is a slogan for a communication device. Over the time, people
get so used to these famous
that they invariably become a part of their general
slogans are short, often memorable phrases used in advertising campaigns. They are claimed to be the most effective means of drawing attention to one or more aspects of a product. A strapline is a British term used as a secondary sentence attached to a brand name. Its purpose is to emphasize a phrase that the company wishes to be remembered by, particularly for marketing a specific corporate image or connection to a product or consumer base. Some slogans are created just for specific campaigns for a limited time; some are intended as corporate slogans, to be used for an extended period; some slogans start out as the former, and find themselves converted to the latter because they take hold with the public, and some are memorable many years after their use is discontinued.
Gives a credible impression of a brand or product
Makes the consumer feel "hot" or...
Makes the consumer feel a desire or need
Is hard to forget - it adheres to one's memory (whether one likes it or not), especially if it is accompanied by mnemonic devices, such asjingles, ditties, picturesfilm
Top 10 slogans of the century
Diamonds are forever (debeers)
Just do it (Nike)
The pause that refreshes (Coca-Cola)
Tastes great, less filling (Miller Lite)
We try harder (Avis)
Good to the last drop (Maxwell House)
Breakfast of champions (Wheaties)
Does she ... Or doesn't she? (Clairol)
When it rains it pours (Morton Salt)
Where's the beef? (Wendy's)
of a good advertisement
Writing advertisement is an art. Writing an advertisement is based on AIDA theory.
In the clamor and clutter of sight and sound, and the competition for the reader’s eye, ear, and heart, it’s imperative that you compete successfully for attention. There should be some element in the advertising- whether it’s the headline or the illustration or the layout - that attracts the eye or ear and arouses sufficient interest to warrant attention to the message. And the copy itself must sustain that attention.
Once he/she has captured the reader’s attention he/she has got to say or show something to sustain interest, or the message will not be heard.
The advertisement must generate a desire to accept what he/she has to say about what he/she has to offer; to want to do business with him/her.
The ultimate aim of an advertising is to generate action on the part of the reader or listener; to cause the reader to want to do something that you want him or her to do, such as buy your service, or, in the case of professional services marketing, it might be to either generate an inquiry or accept a selling situation. On the other hand, just getting a reader to think about you in a specific way is an action, too. That’s what institutional advertising is about.
Promise of Benefit
Something in the advertisement should promise the reader or the listener some benefit that will accrue from accepting the advertisement’s premises.
The premises of the advertising must be believable.
The advertising should be persuasive.
It should sell or generate the need for the service he/she offers, and project his/her service as superior .
The language of claims
1.The weasel claim
A weasel word is a modifier that practically negates the claim that follows. The expression “weasel word” is aptly named after the egg-eating habits of weasels. A weasel will suck out the inside of an egg, leaving it appear intact to the casual observer. Upon examination, the egg is discovered to be hollow. Words or claims that appear substantial upon first look but disintegrate into hollow meaninglessness on analysis are weasels. Commonly used weasel words include “helps” (the champion weasel); “like” (used in a comparative sense); “virtual” or “virtually”; “acts” or “works”; “can be”; “up to”; “as much as”; “refreshes”; “comforts”; “tackles”; “fights”; “come on”; “the feel of”; “the look of”; “looks like”; “fortified”; “enriched”; and “strengthened.”
Samples of Weasel Claims
“Helps control dandruff symptoms with regular use.” The weasels include “helps control,” and possibly even “symptoms” and “regular use.” The claim is not “stops dandruff.”
“Leaves dishes virtually spotless.” We have seen so many ad claims that we have learned to tune out weasels. You are supposed to think “spotless,” rather than “virtually” spotless.
“Only half the price of many color sets.” “Many” is the weasel. The claim is supposed to give the impression that the set is inexpensive.
“Tests confirm one mouthwash best against mouth odor.”
“Hot Nestlés cocoa is the very best.” Remember the “best” and “better” routine.
“Listerine fights bad breath.” “Fights,” not “stops.”
“Lots of things have changed, but Hershey’s goodness has not.” This claim does not say that Hershey’s chocolate has not changed.
“Bacos, the crispy garnish that tastes just like its name.”
2. The unfinished claim
The unfinished claim is one in which the advertisement claims the product is better, or has more of something, but does not finish the comparison.
Samples of Unfinished Claims
“Magnavox gives you more.” More what?
“Anacin: Twice as much of the pain reliever doctors recommend most.” This claim fits in a number of categories but it does not say twice as much of what pain reliever.
“Supergloss does it with more color, more shine, more sizzle, more!”
“Coffee-mate gives coffee more body, more flavor.” Also note that “body” and “flavor” are weasels.
“You can be sure if it is Westinghouse.” Sure of what?
“Scott makes it better for you.”
“Ford LTD--700% quieter.”
When the FTC asked Ford to substantiate this claim, Ford revealed that they meant the inside of the Ford was 700% quieter than the outside.
3. The “we are different and unique” claim
This kind of claim states that there is nothing else quite like the product being advertised. For example, if Schlitz would add pink food coloring to its beer they could say, “There is nothing like new pink Schlitz.” The uniqueness claim is supposed to be interpreted by readers as a claim to superiority.
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