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Analisis Of Advertising Text In The German Language Classroom


Area: Artikel



Besides basic knowledge (grammar) and basic skills such as reading, writing, speaking and listening, students in L3 German classroom should also learn to analyze and interpret different categories of text. Advertisement belongs to the group of appellative text, which needs an interpretation in order to decode the hidden text-intention. This paper will discuss the language used in advertising such as slogan, product name, body copy and headline, and their application in the classroom. The lexis analysis will include choice of words and phrases, the use of adjective, neologism, word class etc. In the field of syntax and stylistic, we will focus on rhetorical devices. How specific target groups are being addressed will also be analyzed, since it is of great importance in German why and when to use the honorific and formal address (Sie) or the informal (du).




Dr. Phil. Merry Lapasau M.A.

Universitas Indraprasta PGRI (UNINDRA) Jakarta

Pengajar Bahasa Spanyol Pusat Bahasa Universitas Trisakti



Analyzing advertising as a class activity has become an important theme, and is therefore an integral part of the latest curriculum for German language acquisition at Universities and German courses in Indonesia. Reading advertisements is a complex skill. Some advertisements are easier to read than others and it sometimes helps to ask a series of questions about an advertising in order to make sense of its meaning, and to understand exactly how it works. In German language class room, students learn to analyze different aspects of advertising, especially vocabulary. A study of vocabulary used in advertising can be done, for example, by listing the most common adjectives, adverbs and verbs in order of frequency. The syntax analysis and the analysis of the usage of rhetorical devices in advertising should be practiced especially in slogans. For obvious reasons, teachers should give more simple advertising texts to less advanced German students (A1/A2), and the more complex advertising text should be given to German students of higher levels of language proficiency (B1-C2). Students need to understand the elements of the advertising first, in order to be able to analyze it properly.


What is advertising language?

The basic purpose of advertising is to identify and differentiate one product from another in order to persuade the consumer to buy that product in preference to another. Advertisment belongs to the group of appellativ text which needs an interpretation in order to decode the hidden text-intention. Language has a powerful influence over people and their behavior. This is especially true in the fields of marketing and advertising. The choice of language to convey specific messages with the intention of influencing people is vitally important. Visual content and design in advertising have a very great impact on the consumer, but it is language that helps people to identify a product and remember it, since advertising is a form of communication that typically attempts to persuade people to do things, for example, to purchase some product, or to vote for someone, or believe things, such as that some corporation is trustworthy or that some political philosophy is a good one. The language of advertising is normally very positive and emphasizes, why one product stands out in comparison with another. Thus, advertising language may not always be ‘correct’ language in the normal sense. For example, comparatives are often used when no real comparison is made. An advertisement for a detergent may say ‘It gets clothes whiter’, but whiter than what? The advertisement has some text, which provides information about the product, and more importantly, provides anchorage for the image.

Elements of advertising

Janich (1999), Sowinski (1998), Springmann, Vestergaard &Schröder (1985) provided the following definitions of advertising elements.

1. Product name

Product names are linguistically developed by combining morphemes, phonemes and syntax to create a desired representation of a product. Names, which are usually judged to be the most effective are ‘meaningfully coined’; that is, they are built on descriptive or suggestive words, with specific meaning for the target market. Examples are ‘lunchable’ (‘lunch’+ ‘ability’) and ‘motorola’s razr’ (a stylized re-spelling of ‘razor’, which alludes to the cell phone’s thin profile).


2. Headline

A headline is a text, which indicates the nature of the article below. The purpose of a headline is to attract attention, and to encourage reading of the following copy. In print advertising, the headline is considered to be the most important element, because it invites the reader into the advertisement. Therefore, it must arouse interest and curiosity about the advertised product or service. A variety of techniques are used in designing headline copy, such as the offer of a reward, the promise of a product benefit, the asking of a question, or the use of key provocative words such as ‘new’, ‘amazing’, or ‘revolutionary’.


3. Slogan

Slogans are short, often memorable phrases used in advertising campaigns. They are claimed to be the most effective means of drawing attention to one or more aspects of a product. A ‘strapline’ is a British term used as a secondary sentence attached to a brand name. Its purpose is to emphasize a phrase that the company wishes to be remembered by, particularly for marketing a specific corporate image or connection to a product or consumer base.

4. Body copy

Body copy is the main text part of an advertisement or any printed matter (as distinct from the logo, headline, subheadings and graphics) that provides the ‘meat’ of the communication. Usually a professional copywriter writes the body copy.

Examples of German advertising

Below are examples of some language elements in the German advertising which usually become the corpus of advertising analysis.

Product name




Mercedes Benz





cleaning products


orange juice






Abschalten und Teetrinken

Pickwick tea

Besser geht’s mit Coca Cola

Coca Cola

Bitte ein Bit

Bitburger beer

Molinari. Sambucca extra. Bssss

Molinari liquor

Dein Sekt sei Deinhard

Deinhard sparkling wine


The AIDA formula

The AIDA formula is used as a tool for writing effective advertisements and sales letters. Knowing the AIDA formula, the German language students will get a better understanding of language elements and their functions in advertising.

Attention - does the text contain something eye-catching for the potential consumer / costumer? How is the headline presented?

Interest - the seller mentions particular features of the product / service in order to raise the interest of the potential consumer / costumers.

Desire - the seller mentions and explains the benefits of the product to the potential consumer / costumers.

Action - the seller explains how and where to buy the product.




Target in advertising

In analyzing advertising, the intended target or target group must also be taken into consideration. Janich (1999:196) categorizes the target in advertising as follows:

  • Who is the target of the advertising (gender, age, education level, interests, preferences, kunft, gesellschaftliche Schicht, Einkommensgruppe, Familienstand etc.) richtet sich die origin, social class, income, marital status, etc.)Werbung in erster Linie (Empfänger)? o 
  • Which target group should be addressed?
  • Can the target of a more or less clearly defined social group (e.g. youth, women, drivers) or is the target group more widely grouped? (e.g., mobile users, travelers)?
  • Are buyers not the actually users of the advertising object, so that a multiple address is needed?
  • Are the elements of advertising designed more rational or more emotional because of product and target group?
  • Is it low-involvement or high-involvement advertising?


By knowing the answers for those questions, the students will be able to guess the producer’s intention for choosing certain diction for the text. Then the students can start to analyze the advertising text by moving to the next questions about the language elements of the advertising.

Language elements in German advertising

Advertising language in German is commonly characterized by the following features


  1. Rhetorical figures

A rhetorical figure has traditionally been defined as an artful deviation (Corbett, 1990). More formally, a rhetorical figure occurs when an expression deviates from expectation, the expression is not rejected as nonsensical or faulty, the deviation occurs at the level of form rather than content, and the deviation conforms to a template that is invariant across a variety of content and contexts. This definition by Corbett (1990) supplies the standard against which deviation is to be measured (i.e., expectations), sets a limit on the amount and kind of deviation (i.e., short of a mistake), locates the deviation at the level of the formal structure of a text, and imposes a grouping requirement (i.e., there are a limited number of templates, each with distinct characteristics). Students can learn to classify rhetorical figures, which are commonly used in advertising such as repetition, reversal, substitution, metaphor, personification, simile etc.


2. Short/ simple sentences and colloquial language in present tense

Short sentences are used in advertising to capture the reader’s attention by using bold or large types of font for the ‘headline’ or ‘slogan’. Colloquial language is used to appeal to “ordinary people” though it is in fact often complex and deliberately ambiguous.


3. Familiar language

In familiar language we use second person pronouns to address an audience, and to suggest a friendly attitude. In German language, however, we have two ways in addressing people using 3rd person plural pronoun ‘Sie’ for formal use and second person singular pronoun ‘du’ for informal use. This distinction must be made in order to make appropriate addressing.


4. Personal Pronouns

Personal pronouns are words that take the place of a noun. Personal pronouns are used extensively in advertising because they refer to the people involved in the communication. First person includes the speaker(s) or writer(s) of the message: I, me, my, mine, myself, we, us, our(s), ourselves. Second person includes the people spoken to but excludes the speaker: You, your(s), yourself, your selves. Third Person refers to third parties - excluding the speaker and receiver: he, him, his, she, her(s), they, them, their (s).


5. Use of Imperatives

Imperative moods are direct commands which are frequently used in advertismentss, e.g. ‘Buy Now!’ or ‘Get it on!’. Examples in German such as: ‘Vergleichen Sie selbst’ (Europa Versicherung), ‘Testen Sie das Abenteuer… ‘(Nissan), ‘nicht auflegen!’ (Vox).


6. Weasel words

Weasel words are modifiers, which practically negate the claim that follows or which suggest a meaning without actually being specific about it such as: ‘helps’, ‘enrich’, ‘tested’, ‘traditional’, ‘like worth’, ‘guaranteed’, ‘home-made’, ‘virtually’, ‘fresh’, ‘scientific’, ‘organic’ ‘works’, ‘can be’, ‘up to’, ‘as much as’, ‘refreshes’, ‘comforts’, ‘tackles’, ‘fights, ‘come on’, ‘strengthened’ etc. Examples of weasel words in German advertising: ‘verringern’, ‘helfen’, ‘wertvoll’, ‘besonders’, ‘beitragen’, ‘nutzen’, ‘umfangreich’, ‘angenehm’, ‘sicher’, ‘innovative’, ‘unterstützen’, ‘bereichern’, ‘stärken’, ‘beseitigen’ etc.


7. Glamorization

Glamorization is a technique in advertising to make a text look – as the word suggests - more “glamourous” by using unusual words. ‘Old houses’ become ‘charming’, ‘characterful’, ‘olde worlde’ or ‘unique’. ‘Small houses’ become ‘compact’, ‘bijou’, ‘snug’ or ‘manageable’. Houses on a busy road become convenient for transport. A café with a pavement table becomes a ‘trattoria’, moving up market aspires to be a ‘restaurant’, too cramped it becomes a ‘bistro’. Not enough room to serve it becomes a ‘fast food servery’.


8. Acronyms

Acronyms are abbreviations, which are pronounced as a word, e.g. ‘NATO’, ‘HART’, ‘SCUBA’, ‘QANTAS’. Examples in German advertising:  ‘HARIBO’, ‘CIVIC’, ‘OTTO’, ‘OMO’.


9. The use of adjective and adjectival phrase

An adjectival phrase is a phrase, which, added to the noun, will describe the object more fully. Examples in German advertising are: ‘wichtig’, ‘einfach’, ‘sicher’, ‘effizient’, ‘dynamisch’, ‘zart’, ‘schön’ etc.


10. Adverbial intensifier

An adverbial intensifier is an adverb, which modifies another verb, e.g. very poorly, extremely well. In German advertising such as: ‘sehr praktisch’, ‘ganz besonders’, ‘sehr einfach’ etc.


11. Comparative construction

A comparative construction is a statement, which offers a comparison between objects. Examples from German advertising: ‘mehr Lebensfreude mit Finnamic’, ‘Weniger reden, mehr heilen’ (IBM) etc.


12. Idiom

Idiom is a peculiar mode of expression, colloquial, words that are not to be taken literally, e.g. ‘the red carpet treatment’, ‘blue blood’. In German advertising: ‘im siebten Himmel sein’


13. Loan words

Loan words are words borrowed from other languages and used without change, e.g. ‘faux pas’, ‘apartheid’, ‘kayak’. These words are usually used in ads for cosmetic or automobiles. Example from German advertising: ‘Seat’, ‘auto emocion’, ‘Liberte, Egalite, Strassenlage’(citroen C5) etc.


14. Neologism

A neologism is a newly invented word. Neologism is used to name newly invented things, but in advertising, they have the function also to give the product more sense of glamour and sign of modernity.


15. Phatic communication

Phatic communication is small talk or polite conversation, which is used in advertising to give the reader the feeling of nearness to the product.


16. Statistics

In Advertising, statistic in figures and percentages is usually used to give weight to an argument.



Class-room application


For classroom application, instructors can ask students to analyze German advertising by doing some of these activities. 

  1. Define the target group for the advertising text in the advertisement by using the Janich’s description (1999).
  2. Describe the language elements of three given advertisements (e.g. product name, slogan, headline, body copy)


Product name



Body copy















  1.  Make a list of vocabulary used in the advertising of the given advertisement.  Differentiate between adjectives, adverbs, adverbial intensifiers, verbs, weasel words, personal pronouns, neologisms, idioms, loan words, glamorization and acronyms.




Adverbial intensifiers

















Weasel words

Personal pronouns
















Loan Words













  1. Find the comparative construction, imperatives, simple sentences, and complex sentences in two German advertisements of your choice.  




Simple Sentences

Complex Sentences















  1. Find two German advertisements and locate the rhetorical figures, categorize and describe their meanings.


  1. Make a presentation focusing on any two of these elements: rhetorical devices, oratorical devices (figures of speech, aspects of vocabulary e.g. emotive language, irony, symbolism, or grammatical usage and conscious use of personal pronouns).





We have seen the analysis of advertising as one of the classroom activity to teach and learn German as a foreign language. Since advertising is a very complex area of research, this paper only discusses the language used in the advertising. Analyzing advertising as a learning activity in German language can also be done as a group assignment. To find out more about German advertising and its language features, students could choose individual research topics. Students could investigate advertising today and in the past to provide practice in language analysis, and to help answer the questions. They will be given some time to spend in the library, the classroom and at home in which to find some advertising and answers to their research questions. The advertising-related vocabulary will be introduced or reinforced through vocabulary exercises to help other students to learn some identified features. Students could also make a presentation focusing on these elements: rhetorical devices, oratorical devices (figures of speech, aspects of vocabulary e.g. emotive language, irony, symbolism, or grammatical usage and conscious use of personal pronouns.


Corbett, Edward P. J. 1990. Classical Rhetoric for the Modern Student, 3rd ed. New York: Oxford University Press.

Deighton, John.1985. "Rhetorical Strategies in Advertising," in Advances in Consumer Research, Vol. 12, eds. Morris Holbrook and Elizabeth Hirschman, Ann Arbor, MI: Association for Consumer Research, 432-436.

Durand, Jacques.1987. "Rhetorical Figures in the Advertising Image," in Marketing and Semiotics: New Directions in the Study of Signs for Sale, ed. Jean Umiker-Sebeok, New York: Mouton de Gruyter, 295-318.

Hart, Roderick P. 1990. Modern Rhetorical Criticism, Glenview, IL: Scott Foresman.

Janich, Nina 1999. Werbesprache. Gunter Narr:Tuebingen.

Sowinski, Bernhard. 1998. Werbung. Tübingen:Max Niemeyer.

Springmann, Ingo. 1979. Werbetexte zur Werbung. Phillipp Reclam: Stuttgart

Vestergaard, Torben& Schröder, Kim. 1985. The Language of Advertising. UK: Basil Stockwell Publisher Ltd.

Williamson, Judith. 1978. Decoding Advertising. Ideology and Meaning in Advertising. London: Marion Boyars.

Zielke, Achim.1999. Beispiellos ist beispielhaft oder Überlegungen zur Analyse und Kreation des kommunikativen codes von Werbebotschaften in Zeitungs-und Zeitschriftenanzeigen. Pfaffenweiler:Centarus.








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