Minds On

The purpose of advertisements

The purpose of an advertisement is to sell a product or service. The producers of the advertisement target a specific audience and try to persuade that audience to buy whatever it is they are selling, such as goods (e.g., food, technology, clothing, etc.) or services (e.g., cleaning, restaurants, etc.).

Advertisements are carefully planned out. In fact, advertisers consider a variety of conventions and techniques when they create an advertisement. Let’s familiarize ourselves with a few of these strategies.

Conventions and techniques

For starters, it’s important for the advertiser to develop an understanding of their target audience. A target audience will help the advertiser to craft an advertisement that is relevant and likely to convert a consumer into a customer.

The advertiser will also consider a number of media conventions. Although there are many conventions that are included in the media that we access and/or encounter every day, they can be narrowed down to three main types: technical, symbolic, and written. Technical conventions or components include camera angles, or lighting used in the ad. Symbolic components include the objects and pictures used. And finally, examples of written components of advertisements include things like the captions, words, or slogans used.

The three persuasive advertising techniques

Pathos, logos, ethos are three categories of persuasive advertising techniques. Advertisers will often use at least one to persuade their target audience:

Pathos is about using the audience’s emotions and feelings to persuade them to buy an advertisement. For example, the ad may include a heartwarming story or a personal experience that would appeal to someone’s emotions.

Logos is about logic and making sure the advertisement makes sense. For example, the ad may include statistics and facts about the product that make it seem like a reasonable and smart purchase to make.

Ethos is about making the audience trust the advertisement. For example, the ad may include celebrity endorsements, expert opinions, or customer reviews in their advertisement to gain the trust of the audience.


Analyze an advertisement

For a full day, keep track of all the advertising messages that you notice in your notebook. Take note of:

  • the location of the advertisements
  • the type of advertisements
  • who the audience is
  • the purpose of the advertisements

At the end of the day, consider the following questions:

  1. What is your total (How many advertisements did you encounter?)?
  2. Where did you encounter these advertisements?
  3. What type of advertisements did you encounter?
  4. Who were these advertisements for?
  5. What was the purpose of the advertisements? What were they selling?

Task 2

Examine the following four advertisements below. Can you identify what conventions (e.g., slogans, pictures, characters, words included, etc.) and techniques (pathos, ethos, or logos) are used in each advertisement? Record your ideas on paper, in an audio recording or on a computer.

Advertisement Conventions used Techniques used

Task 3

Let’s explore how the following ad appeals to the audience’s emotions (pathos), gains their trust (ethos), and makes it seem logical to purchase this product (logos). Alternatively, you can find an audio ad to explore. Record your ideas using a method of your choice.

The ad features a group of children playing with a parachute. The ad says 'Rainbow fun for everyone!'

As you explore the ad, be sure to consider:

  • pictures, colours, and fonts used (only if you chose a visual ad)
  • sounds, songs, and jingles (only if you chose an audio ad)
  • words/slogans
  • people/characters
  • the pathos, ethos, or logos
Pathos Ethos Logos


Task 1

Select an advertisement to analyze. It may be an advertisement you have come across before. You will identify the purpose of the advertisement, the target audience, as well as any conventions and techniques you observe. Please note, you may choose any type of advertisement (e.g., printed, digital, audio, or video).

Use the Analyze an Ad graphic organizer in your notebook or use the following fillable and printable document. You may also use another method of your choice to organize your ideas.

Analyze an Ad Press the ‘Activity’ button to access Analyze an Ad. Activity (Open PDF in a new window)

Task 2

Let's return to the concepts of pathos, logos and ethos. Complete the definitions below.


As you read through these descriptions, which sentence best describes how you are feeling about your understanding of this learning activity? Press the button that is beside this sentence.

I feel...

Now, record your ideas using a voice recorder, speech-to-text, or writing tool.