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Ad Critique

Ad Critique
How to Deconstruct Ads in Order to Build Better Advertising

December 2011 | 216 pages | SAGE Publications, Inc

Ad Critique teaches advertising, marketing, and management students—both the "suits" and the "creatives"—how to effectively judge and critique creativity in advertising. This textbook is an instruction manual, a facilitator of dialogue, and a companion piece to classroom content. Its lessons result in actual skills that enable students to look at the creative product and embolden them to say something constructive and worthwhile.

PART 1: The Language of Critique
Chapter 1: The Case for Critique: Why We Need Constructive Criticism to Make Great Ads
Befriending the Beast  
What Exactly Is Critique?  
Critique Is a Skill, Not a Talent . . .  
. . . So Let’s Teach It  
Print: The Ground Zero of Critique  
The Critique Paradox  
Critique Basics  
Further Reading  
Chapter 2: AdSpeak: The Vocabulary of Avertising
Every Language Needs a Vocabulary  
The Basic Terms of AdSpeak  
The Creative Strategy: AKA “The WHAT”  
The Target Audience: AKA “The WHO”  
The Concept: AKA “The HOW”  
The Layout  
The More Advanced Terms of AdSpeak  
Brand Identity and Equity  
Brand Personality  
Page Personality  
Demo: AKA "The Proof"  
The Terms : A Cheat Sheet  
Critique Exercises  
Suggested Viewing  
Suggested Reading  
Chapter 3: AdErrors: When Good Ads Go Bad
AdError One: The Headline and the Visual Are Redundant or Disconnected  
AdError Two: Meaningless Gimmicks and Borrowed Interest  
AdError Three: Using Spokespeople Who Are Irrelevant to the Product or Message  
AdError Four: Lack of Focus  
AdError Five: The Page Is Overdeveloped and/or Poorly Planned  
AdError Six: Sacrificing Clarity for Cleverness  
AdError Seven: Overacknowledging Your Competition  
AdError Eight: Letting Your Strategy Show  
AdError Nine: Being Edgy for Its Own Sake  
AdError Ten: Huh? Using Pretzel Logic, Being Too Subtle or Obtuse  
AdError Eleven: Forgetting About the Product  
AdError Twelve: Being Boring or Too Obvious  
AdError Thirteen: The Tonality and/or Visual Style Is Inconsistent With the Product or Message  
Critique Exercises  
Chapter 4: AdAnalogy: How Art and Copy Play Together
Why Are Single-Panel Cartoons Funny?  
Funny? Unfunny? How Cartoons Work  
Headline Swap: How Print Ads Work  
Critique Exercises  
Suggested Reading  
Great Collections of Single Panel Cartoons  
Chapter 5: The 360-Degree Critique: Being Digital, Going Viral and Beyond
Defining Our Media Channels  
Timeline and Traits of Media Channels  
AdSpeak 360  
Critique Exercises  
Find Out More  
PART 2: Critique in Action
Chapter 6: AdAlliances: Your Partners in Creating Great Advertising
The Dance  
The Cast of Characters  
Knee Jerk Reactions to Those on the Other Side of the Table  
Stories From the Combat Zone  
Two Sides to Every Stereotype  
Critique Exercises  
Suggested Reading  
Chapter 7: AdSpeak Up! Who Says What When
The Cast of Characters  
The Basic Chronology of the Process  
Critique Exercise--in Four Parts  
Chapter 8: The Creative Team's Bill of Rights
The Creative Team's Bill of Rights: Eight Things Every Art Director and Copywriter Have a Right to Expect During the Presentation of Their Work  
Chapter 9: The Client's Bill of Rights
The Client's Bill of Rights: Six Things Every Client Has a Right to Expect During a Creative Presentation  
Suggested Viewing  
Critique Exercises  
Chapter10: Presentation Prep
Prior to the Meeting  
Suggested Reading  
Chapter 11: Critique Cheats: Tips to Make the Most of the Critique
Shhhh! Blatant Cheats for a Killer Critique  
Role Playing Exercise  

Excellent combination of cultural theory and practical information

Paul Dwyer
Business Administration , University of Westminster
July 1, 2014

I really like this book. The layout and navigation is good and it covers essential aspects of deconstruction and critique without getting too academic.

very useful indeed for all aspects of creative production.

Mr Andy Frith
Media Production, Northumbria University
November 13, 2013

Excellent text - core reading for MG3020/MG6308 marketing communications courses - where students analyse and develop their own IMC campaigns

Ms Carol Kelleher
Marketing , University College Cork
August 7, 2013

I love this book. It is clear and concise and offers great insight into the development of and understanding of effective creative media. But unfortunately it's scope is too narrow for the class I was considering it for. I may in the future be able to include it as a supplement to the class.

Mr Roger Gonce
Communication Dept, Appalachian State University
March 25, 2013

Well-written and full of great case-studies which have been very suitable for my class teaching communication strategies and marketing.

Mrs Line Thomsen
Inst for Information & Media Studies, Aarhus University
October 31, 2012

Great for expanding resources in the Advertising Copywriting course.

Dr Roy Winegar
Communications Dept, Grand Valley State University - Allendale
September 21, 2012

This books does what it says on the tin - and is perfect for year two or three undergraduate students who have grasped the basic principles of the discipline and now need to evaluate and critique campaigns in more detail. The text/image ratio is spot on and the overall layout thoughtfully composed. I particularly liked the section on digital which was very up to date. The exercises are a valuable teaching tool. I cannot see how this text could be improved.

Dr Helen Powell
Schl of Soc Sci, Media & Cultural Stud, University of East London
August 28, 2012

Good coverage of key approaches and theoretical concepts and some good examples. Written in a clear, accessible style. Most suitable for practically-oriented courses.

Dr Lisa El Refaie
English, Communication & Philosophy, Cardiff University
July 2, 2012

very nice text, examples and exercises
very practical book for advertising

Department of Marketing, University of Vaasa
April 18, 2012

Wow! Nancy Tag delivers a key resource not just to advertising theory or student development, but also to graduate careers. The book takes the reader from understanding critique, through applying critique to practice and on to developing a template for advertising consultancy. Whether undergraduate, postgraduate, academic or industry professional, this text is a must have in every library.

Mr Paul Matthews
Business Administration , University College Birmingham
March 12, 2012
Key features


  • The book explains the value of critique and provides step-by-step instruction on how to deconstruct ads in a collaborative and productive way.
  • Examples of real-world advertising campaigns illustrate key advertising principles and strategies.
  • End-of-chapter Critique Exercises enable students to apply their critique skills to constructively assess and improve advertising campaigns.
  • Suggested further readings at the end of each chapter guide students to additional resources to learn more about specific aspects of advertising and the creative process.

A Student Study Site at provides students with additional online resources, including web links, video clips, and recommended readings to learn more about advertising and the creative process.

Sample Materials & Chapters


Chapter 1

Chapter 3

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