Print advertisements have decorated magazines and newspapers for decades. Although more and more people consume digital media these days, print advertisements are an important medium to explore. Print advertisements (also known less formally as ‘ads’) often combine graphic design, photography and typography to both entertain and persuade audiences. This lesson introduces you to the wonderful world of print advertising, as it has evolved over the ages.

  1. Work in groups. Print, laminate and shuffle the 10 ketchup ads on A6 cards provided in the link below. Place the 10 ketchup ads on a large table, with each ad facing up. Each ad has been taken from a different decade from 1910-2010. Try to place each ad in the correct sequence from left to right, going from old to new. As you sort these ads, discuss how your knowledge of the 20th century helps you place them. Furthermore, comment on the stylistic and structural features that make each ad both unique and similar to the others.

  2. A6 cards: 'Ketchup ads through the ages'
  3. When you have finished, turn over the ads or click on the links below to reveal the years of publication and points for consideration. How accurate was your sequence? What kinds of stylistic and structural features are common among most of these ads? How do these ads reflect evolving cultural values? How have the conventions of print ads evolved over these decades?

  4. Points to consider

    • There’s a strong focus on the quality of the product through the phrase ‘superior materials’.

    • There is an emphasis on cleanliness and purity in the phrases ‘clean kitchens’ and ‘free from Benzoate’. 

    • The two-tone red and beige aligns the tomatoes with the ketchup. 

    • There are workers picking tomatoes in a field, suggesting the product comes from a farm and not a factory.

    • The emphasis on ‘57 varieties’ suggests that Heinz accommodates for all tastes. 

    Points to consider

    • Compared to today’s ads, this ad has a lot of copy.

    • The dark green is associated with nature and natural products.

    • Ketchup is strongly associated with summer in the tagline. 

    • Quite a bit of imagery is used, appealing to multiple senses. 

    • The copy opens with a rhetorical question, which intrigues the reader. 

    • There is an extra incentive to get a salad-making recipe for four cents.

    • There is an extra incentive to get a salad-making recipe for four cents.

    • The use of personification in the last line, ‘every drop awakens appetite,’ makes ketchup sound poetic.

    Points to consider

    • ‘How to please a husband’ clearly targets housewives concerned with this. 

    • The copy appeases women’s fears that husbands might not be happy with a ready-made, rather than a home-made sauce.

    • The signature from the president of Heinz and the phrase ‘artful blending’ suggest that the product is like a work of art. 

    • The phrase ‘the largest selling Ketchup in the world’ creates a bandwagon effect for readers.

    • It looks like the husband is truly pleased. His lips and cheeks are almost as red as the bottle 

    • The bottle is depicted twice, which reinforces product recognition. 

    Points to consider

    • There is no copy, which suggests the image can sell the product on its own.

    • The bottle of ketchup is presented as an exquisite fashion product to a dilatant. 

    • The photograph alludes to the Cinderella fairytale, implying it is every woman’s desire to own ketchup. 

    • The man’s facial expression suggests he is pleading for the woman’s attention in desperation.  

    • The woman’s facial expression is aloof and reserved, as if she is playing ‘hard to get’. 

    Points to consider

    • This is a kind tutorial for women (see hands) on how to use ketchup in creative, trendy ways. 

    • The ad appeals to anyone who is hungry by showing plates of food. 

    • The use of the pronoun ‘you’ includes and activates readers. 

    • Imperative verbs such as ‘try’ and ‘make’ also activate the reader. 

    • There is an emphasis on the purity of the product in the line ‘without artificial flavouring’. 

    • The words ‘Mediterranean’ and ‘Scandinavian’ suggest that Heinz is global and people who use it are internationally minded.

    Points to consider

    • The font seems to be written by the child, suggesting that the ad is about him.

    • The boy is enjoying the freedom of pouring the ketchup by himself. 

    • The house seems quite ‘homey’ associating the product with family life. 

    • This ad might appeal to mothers who are looking for quick and easy meals like fish fingers. 

    • The use of the red background behind the tagline matches the bottle, the ketchup and the pot, aligning the product with homeliness and hunger.


    Points to consider

    • Through photo editing, the ketchup bottle appears to grow straight from the tomato plant, suggesting that it comes straight from the farm and not the factory. 

    • The use of ellipsis after the tagline ‘it’s only natural...’ makes the reader want to read the copy. 

    • The repetition of ‘no’ before artificial ‘thickeners,’ ‘preservatives,’ ‘colouring’ and ‘flavouring’ emphasises its commitment to ‘natural’. 

    • The word ‘reckon’ is rather colloquial, which appeals to the ‘average man’. 

    • The use of negative space allows the reader to focus on the product and its simplicity.

    Points to consider

    • This ad is built on the assumption that people who consume ketchup in the UK want to own a Commodore 64 computer. 

    • The man holding the bottles is neither young nor glamorous, which pitches ‘Daddies’ as ‘every man’s’ choice and appeals to plain folks.

    • The Union Jack waistcoat appeals to nationalist ideals. 

    • Most of the copy is dedicated to explaining the competition rules and delivering the competition questions, which makes the ad more about the marketing scheme than the quality of the product. 

    • The yellow background and red font create a contrast that captures the reader’s attention. 

    • The copy includes multiple references to numbers, which suggests that readers value facts and quantities.  

    Points to consider

    • The ‘oil on canvas’ look suggests that the product is like a work of art. 

    • The use of green emphasises nature and natural ingredients. 

    • The font on the label of the bottle looks handwritten, which personalises the message. 

    • The label attacks ‘other’ brands of ketchup that use starch, and promotes the innocence of Heinz that ‘just’ uses tomatoes. 

    • The simplicity of the entire image encourages readers to think that the product is pure and natural.

    Points to consider

    • The structure of this ad is not conventional of an ad but of a notice board, which intrigues the reader.

    • Step-by-step tutorial on how to make a ‘cheats pizza’ appeals to students or others who do not know how to cook. 

    • The ingredients list, the coupon, the Polaroid pictures and the label, all pinned to the corkboard make the ad seem like part of the reader’s everyday environment. 

    • ‘Squirt some on a friend’ makes the ad seem playful. 

    • The coupon clearly appeals to readers who are looking for a deal.

  5. What are the structural features of print advertisements? What kind of features were common among the ketchup advertisements 'through the ages'? Compare you list of defining structural features to those presented below. How are they similar or different?

  6. got milk?   
    Feature Example
    Visual narrative: Images that tell a story engage their audiences. This phenomenon is referred to as the 'visual narrative'. In order to understand the visual narrative of any image, ask yourself what happened before and after the photograph was taken or the moment was captured. Ads often tell a story through visual narrative.  What made Hayden Panettiere's glass of milk break? Why is she wearing a milk moustache? The answers to these questions are not so important as the fact that the audience is asking them. 
    Copy: The term 'copy' in advertising refers to text that explains the product, pitches an idea or comments on life. Images are usually anchored in the copy. The copy of an ad often acts a caption to the image.  'Smash hit' refers to both the broken glass and her singing career. 'Hero' refers to her role in a TV series, called 'Heroes'. In brief, the copy of this advertisement tells audiences to drink milk in order be as successful as her.
    Slogan: A slogan is a word of phrase that runs throughout an advertising campaign. It aims to capture the main sentiment of the campaign. It is different from a tagline, which aims to convey the organisation's philosophy.  'Got Milk?' appeared on multiple ads between 1993 and 2014 by America's Milk Processors. As a two-word question, it speaks directly to its audience and suggests they should have milk. 
    Rule of thirds: This term, usually applied to photographs, is also relevant to print advertisements. The audience's attention is usually drawn to objects that are 'off centre' or the spaces where the lines of the 3 x 3 grid (see image above) intersect. Hayden Panettiere's head appears in the top third of the advertisement and the broken glass appears on the left side, creating a sense of tension in the photograph.
    Signature: In traditional advertisements, the company's name and address appear in the lower left or right corner. These days ads include a URL (uniform resource locator), which is often found together with social media icons or even QR codes.

    '' in the upper left corner and the signature in the lower centre of the ad are in fine print to give the slogan, image and copy more weight 

    Colour: Advertisements often use contrasting colour, graphic weight or lighting to grab readers' attention. Print advertisements often appear in magazines or newspapers along text-heavy texts, and colour helps set them apart. 

    The colour red excites audiences and attracts their attention. The pureness of the white milk and child-like innocence of the milk moustache are juxtaposed with the sensuality of the red dress and red lipstick.

  7. Besides these structural features, print advertisements make use of various persuasion techniques. You may find similar techniques in posters, speeches or debates. The following table helps you understand some common techniques in persuasive texts, with examples from the 'Got Milk?' ad above. Study these techniques and discuss where these techniques are visible in some of the ketchup ads (Texts 1-10) 

  8. Persuasion technique Example
    Testimonial: Advertisements often include a person or famous person (celebrity endorsement) to endorse a product or idea. People are more likely to buy something if someone has had positive experiences before.  Hayden Pannettiere is famous, attractive and wealthy. If audience's think that drinking milk is part of her success, then they are more likely to drink it too. 
    Problem/benefit: Advertisers often depict a problem and offer the solution. The problem may not be real. But the threat of the problem is presented as a reason to buy a solution. As explained in the copy of this ad, low-fat milk can build muscle. Teenagers who drink it "tend to be lean." Being 'fat' is an implied problem.
    Appeal to authority: Many ads make references to 'studies' or people with authority who endorse the ad's ideas, in an effort to sell a product The copy refers to "some studies." Although this is vague, it suggests that scientists claim that milk is good for your health, which persuades the audience to drink more.
    Double entendre: Words sometimes have two meanings, which advertisements often exploit for laughs (pun)or positive connotations. 'Smash' refers to the smashed glass and Hayden Pannettiere's smash hits. This creates an association between milk and success in a very round about way.
    Association: Brands want to be associated with positive, successful ideas. In order to achieve this products are often presented in close proximity to symbols or objects that readers recognise and value.

    The milk moustache symbolises childhood innocence or a lack of inhibitions. Hayden Pannettiere drinks milk and stars in the TV show 'Heroes'. Therefore, if you like the TV show 'Heroes', you might like milk because you associate Hayden Pannettiere with milk

  9. Below are 3 advertisements that have something to do with environmentalism. How does each ad use the structural features and persuasion techniques explored on this page, in order to construct a message?


  11. Create a similar sequencing game for your classmates, by searching for and collecting a series of ‘ads through the ages’. Consider a product that has been around for decades, like cola, clothing or cars.
Last modified: Thursday, 26 March 2020, 4:54 PM