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Advertisements use language that is finely tuned to suit the style of advertisement. There are many ‘trigger’ words that you’ll see over and over again in advertising, and each type of advertising has its own set of keywords. For instance, I always find cosmetics advertising humourous. Here are some choice phrases that you may hear or read in them:

  • This antiaging cream will take 15 years off your face.

  • Will give you a visible lift.

  • By using it just before bed, you’ll be able to take advantage of its nighttime repair.

  • Increases lip fullness by 200%.

  • For plumper eyelashes

  • Penetrates deeply to give thorough cleansing.

  • With deep cleansing ability, this will...

  • Will remove superficial lines.

  • With soothing botanicals extracts, this cream will...

You can go into a lot of analysis about the trigger words used in advertisements. Analyse whether they mean anything, and also whether they are effective. These are different things - words can be quite effective without meaning anything. A lot of trigger words or phrases in cosmetics advertisements are completely meaningless or arbitrary. But nevertheless, the advertising seems to work because the companies continue these expensive campaigns year after year. If you ask people who buy these products exactly what the ads mean, you will find many of them have never really thought about it. They’ve bought the product simply because the advertising for it has had the right trigger words that years of advertising have conditioned us to associate with these products.


Usually as well as using these key words, advertisements use short words and direct language. Often an advertisement is directed straight at ‘you’, using the pronoun ‘you’ to get your attention.

Your job is to analyse the style of the words and language used in the advertisement, why the copywriter would have chosen them, and the intended (and actual) effect on the target audience. For some advertisements, it’s also interesting to analyse effects on people who are not part of the target audience. For instance, some of the more raunchy ads, while they may work well on their target audience, may backfire when people start complaining about them being too naughty!