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De La Salle University-Dasmariñas

The Discourse of Print Advertising in the Philippines: Generic Structures and Linguistic Features
A Critique Paper by

Eunice Jane H. Resurreccion


College of Liberal Arts and Communication - Graduate Studies
Introduction

With the upsurge of technology, advertising has easily hurdled its way up with the use of
different media like newspaper, magazine, television, billboards and internet. With thousands of
different products available in the market, the competition is in height. That is why different
companies have to come up with unique, catchy and appropriate ad for their products. But what
these ads have to say to the audience is not just simply novelty or influential. Advertisements are
powerful, but defining its power and influence clearly is difficult (Dyer, 2009); behind the words
and prints of these advertisements are irony and sarcasm through positive or negative captions.
Danilo D. Tayag from De La Salle University Manila, in his journal article entitled ‘The Discourse
of Print Advertising in the Philippines: Generic Structures and Linguistic Features”, claims that
the structure of the ads may be direct and its directness contributes to making them covert
communication. This study tries to describe the discourse of print advertising in the Philippines; it
seeks to find out the motive of each advertisement and the reason why people would or need to
buy them. The linguistic properties found by Lakoff (1982) and Geis (1986) used in the study
include linguistic novelty, repetition of names, adjectivalization processes and imperative
structures; the paper also looks into the noun phrases and code switching patterns used by the ads.
Since only the verbal elements of the headline and the body text of each ad were considered for
analysis, speech acts were also analyzed from the utterances based on Searle (1979) taxonomy of
illocutionary acts: assertives, directives, commissives, declarations, and expressives. Certain
felicitous conditions must be fulfilled like constitutive rules (Austin, 1962; Searle, 1969).
A combination of two moves were used to describe the generic structure of the ads used;
print ads shown in the study is mostly on the name of the product and the benefits brought about
by the product. In terms of the linguistic features, syntactic innovation on the use of sentence
fragments were observed; the absences of subjects and auxiliaries ads to the relevance of the
advertisement because less effort is used when reading them. This is followed by another preferred
generic structure listed in order which refers to ads that show their purpose to the consumer and is
shown through rhetorical questions, while imperatives are used to show course of action; ads
creating a need, then identifying product name came in second to the last while ads giving the
reason/s for buying and citing their positive benefits came in last. Based on the generic structure
of the ads, they are considered as ‘reason’ ads because it includes the name of the product and the
logo and was delivered in a straightforward manner. The reason why these ads were highly
structured and direct is because nature of the product advertised were all health-related. The
linguistic feature of the ads includes the use of “introducing”, linguistic novelty, code-switching,
and speech acts.

Summary, Strengths and Weaknesses

The aim of the study is to describe the generic structure and linguistic feature of 74 ads for
non-consumer durables taken from health and entertainment magazines published from 2005-
2007. The verbal elements of the headlines and body text of the ads were analyzed and coded in
terms of generic structure, linguistic feature and speech acts of utterances. This study seeks to
contribute in the ongoing interest in describing the discourse of advertising since advertising is
said to be everywhere. The assumption of the researcher is that “advertising English should be
represented as a continuum of text functions fluctuating between “informing” and “manipulating”
in accordance with the idea that advertising is an example of covert communication.” With the
help of textual and metadiscourse devices, women magazines persuade their readers using an
informative mask (Fuertes-Olivera, et al., 2001). The results show that in terms of generic
structure, most ads indicates the product name and its health benefits; the message of these ads is
direct and straightforward.
The researcher concludes that there are linguistic correlates with respect to the discourse
structure of the print ads. Certain discourse pattern were adopted where linguistic features are
attributed as well. Since advertisers are not always on the same boat as the readers, communication
is sometimes hindered. Advertisers tends to use other strategies to persuade readers/consumers.
With these discourse strategies, preferred generic structures and linguistic features are often on
sentence fragments, code-switching, rhetorical questions and imperatives. The researcher explains
that most often, ads take the form of covert communication to avoid consumers from forcefully
buying items, to hide their true purpose and divert the consumer from their informative intention
of selling to make a profit. Based on the study, it turns out that ads make it appear as if the reasons
of people from buying is the because of its name and the positive benefits of the products.
Copywriters manipulate discourse strategies so the products give a different impression when
people buy. Instead of just thinking of buying, people would also consider what to buy and why
buy.
The study is rooted from a discourse that has looked into the pragmatics of advertising. In
addition, the main background of the study was rooted from Simpson (2001), who has published
similar topic in the field. This author was also cited by several authors on similar topics. Results
and Discussion were objectively presented based on generic structure and linguistic feature of
printed ads in the Philippine setting. I think that the argument of the author makes sense and is
logical in terms of the scope presented in the study. Evidences were also sufficient to support the
argument made; the author cited a variety of sources. This study, though centers on the reason-
tickle framework of Simpson, has advanced in the field in terms of the scope and context since the
ads used were print ads from the Philippines. On a previous study done by the supporting
proponent, the roots of ‘reason to buy’ were focused on Halliday’s conjunctive adjuncts (1994) ,
while the “reason to buy” of study was more on Searle’s speech act (1969 & 1979) and Swales’
genre analysis (1990). Conclusions were clearly drawn at the end and are evident on the data
presented. The study fully supports all the given claims by authors cited and there were no
opposing points presented in the study; the results was clearly presented based on the move
analysis of Swales and Speech Acts of Searle. Moreover, the author was also able to point out his
claims and lead the conclusion parallel to that of the data obtained. It was also a good point that
the author was honest enough to tell that whether the strategies used by the ads were successful is
another field to explore by those who will attempt to follow the study.
Since the study is almost a decade ago, there are points or arguments given that might be
outdated on how advertising is perceived now. Hence, it is only limited to the analysis done by the
researcher and no other party is involve to validate claims made in the study. Furthermore, since
the claims made is from the author’s own analysis, the conclusion, even if supported by theories,
can be and one-sided. These areas can still be explored and can be considered by future researchers.
In addition, comparison and contrast with the results of other studies were not really given so much
attention to further support the result of the study itself; after the results of the analysis were
presented, discussion of the results versus that of the pre-existing studies were not presented.
Conclusion

Advertising can be very deceiving because of how it is creatively presented to the public.
Though the basis of ads is mainly profit, it is also possible that some products want to have a name
whose intention is more than making money. The generic structure and linguistic features of ads
make it ‘reason’ more than ‘tickle’, making them appear direct and straightforward to the readers;
this is because the products are mostly health-related.
I do agree that some advertisements mask the real intention of their product which is just
to sell. It would be better if other areas were also or will be also explored to further strengthen the
claims in the study. Another methodology that can be used is interview to consumers and to the
copywriters making the ads or the company itself; comparing the perception of each party can be
very interesting to explore. Analyzing the structure of print ads by the author might also make
more sense or be different from how it is perceived by the consumers themselves. Involving other
parties might be of good help to validate more the conclusion made by the study. Nevertheless,
this study was well written and organized and can also be considered as a research needed in this
field to help future investigation and can be a basis of recommendation of how Philippine print ad
was once in a course of time. It can also be used to compare the print ad in the present and see how
far advertising has gone in a decade. Overall, this study was consistent and organized; it was also
a significant contribution to this field.
References

Dayag, D. T. (2008). The Discour se of Pr int Adver tising in the Philippines : Gener ic Str uctur
es and Linguistic Featur es, (Study 1), 1–15.
Dyer, G. (2009). Advertising as Communication. (J. Fiske, Ed.). United Kingdom: Taylor and
Francis e-Library.
Simpson, P. (2001). “ Reason ” and “ tickle ” as pragmatic constructs in the discourse of
advertising *, 33, 4–7.