Critique of “Advertisements”

I really enjoyed going through the project “Advertisements”. The group had obviously done a lot of research and talked to each other about what they hoped to achieve with the project. I do think, however, that they could have organized their website better so that the mission statement was the first page. Reading the mission statement before watching the projects would have contextualized my understanding of their individual parts better. The bar on the top shows the ideal order in which the pages should be read, but the pages on the sidebar don’t make the order clear.

I liked how they created the two soap advertisements from scratch in order to explain what American and African ads are really like. It showed an assimilation of what they had learned from all the research they did for the project. But I wish they could have explained more how they came about all this knowledge. The group offers a detailed reading of the ads, but I wasn’t sure if they were reproducing a ‘typical’ ad and thus perpetuating the stereotypes we all find problematic, or consciously playing with the stereotypes (perhaps both).

Another question I’m struggling with is the subject matter that some of them picked. The billboards and advertisements analyzed had to do with HIV/AIDS awareness, and wearing condoms. The project doesn’t make it clear whether these topics were deliberately chosen, or just presented the best material for analysis. I think one of the first things that comes to a lay person’s mind when you ask her about Africa is the prevalence of AIDS. Since the issue is already problematic and over-exploited by the media, focusing on those ads doesn’t completely explain the general trends in advertisements, unless the group was choosing to analyze that particular sub-trend. Also, sexuality in itself can be a very delicate issue across all cultures. I’m not very familiar with visual ads in Africa that deal with selling everyday things, so I have no basis for comparison between ads that deal with issues like sex and, say, liquid detergent. But I’m sure ads about liquid detergent would present a very different picture.

All in all, I enjoyed viewing the project Advertisements, especially the close readings they provided for every visual and aural image. Their analysis summed up all that I’ve learned in this class this semester. Great job, guys!

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