Argumentative Mini-Genre: Print Advertisement

Perhaps the most common argumentative genre that you encounter in everyday life is an advertisement. Take a look at the following advertisements. Using the three genre toolkit questions, see if you can begin to identify how this genre works.

Army Advertisement circa 1985

figure 10.1

Army Advertisement circa 2000

figure 10.2

Army Advertisement circa 2010

figure 10.3

Use the Toolkit

Let’s use the three genre toolkit questions from Chapter 1 to examine this genre.

What is it?

These are advertisements for the U.S. Army. They appeared in print magazines in the U.S. over the last four decades. All of these advertisements have the same underlying claim: you should consider joining the Army.

Who reads it?

While anyone might encounter an advertisement such as this one in a magazine, chances are the Army’s marketing firm had a more particular audience in mind when they designed these ads. Their primary audience probably includes those who are most likely to consider joining the army—typically, young men and women who are looking for a career path.

However, each of these advertisements makes different assumptions about who the army is seeking to recruit. Example 1 addresses an audience who is considering college, and makes the argument that joining the army will help to defray college costs
Notice that the ad addresses the reader directly, using the second person (“you”). Those “you” statements help to construct a reader as someone who fits the image the Army Reserve is trying to create.

In comparison, how does Example 2 appeal to—or construct—an audience? You might notice that the ad features an image of a person. Considering that the army has traditionally been composed of men, it is notable that the person pictured is a woman. Why was the army trying to recruit more women to join? Why would focusing on an individual person, rather than the kind of image shown in the first ad, help to persuade women to join?

Finally, the last image does not include images of things or people, but a simple word, “STRONG,” spelled out with the first letters of the names of six key battles in American history. It might be less obvious who is intended to read this ad, but we might surmise that the audience is expected to know about these battles, and to identify with them as part of a tradition. According to the Army itself, this campaign was developed “to specifically address the interests and motivations of those considering a career in the U.S. military,” and was included mainly in media targeting young adults.

What’s it for?

The Army advertises mainly to recruit soldiers. The needs for Army recruitment changes over time. In the 1980s, when the first of these advertisements was published, the United States was not engaged in any major wars, although it maintained military outposts and engaged in various operations around the world. Accordingly, the goal at that point might have been to recruit members to join the reserves, who would train on weekends but would probably not be deployed abroad. This changed in the 2000s, when the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan drew soldiers not just from the full-time Army, but also from the Reserves. The third advertisement comes from this period, when the United States needed individuals who would be willing to serve in those wars. You can see that the Army tried out two different strategies to persuade readers to join—first appealing to individual pride and purpose in the “Army of One” campaign, and then trying appeals to patriotism and history in the “Army Strong” campaign.