The aim of this project is to systematically stylistically analyse Credit Card advertisements from three major banking establishments: Abbey National, Lloyds TSB and Alliance & Leicester.
The aim of this project is to systematically stylistically analyse Credit Card advertisements from three major banking establishments: Abbey National, Lloyds TSB and Alliance & Leicester. Focusing on salient points within the Abbey National advertisement, I will compare and evaluate its disparity and similarity in relation to lexical and grammatical elements within the other two texts. I shall also solicit opinion from a range of participants, regarding specific words or features within each advertisement that appeal to them. The abbreviations for the advertisements are as follows:
Abbey National = AN
Lloyds TSB = TSB
Alliance and Leicester = A&L
2. Lexical Categories
The ‘AN’ advertisement employs vocabulary that diverges from complex lexis, so as to appeal to the wider general public. The simplicity of the advertisement is evident through the absence of sophisticated, specialist terminology, yet the text remains subject specific. The financial jargon is presented in the concluding section of the advertisement in small font, as a means of not distracting the consumer from the main body of text and to ultimately circumvent confusion due to unfamiliar terminology. The general vocabulary content of both the ‘TSB’ and ‘A&L’ advertisements are fairly simple, yet unlike the ‘AN’ advertisement, the financial jargon is presented within the main body of both texts.
The ‘AN’ advertisement is written in an informal register; the second person personal pronoun ‘you’ is used fifty-one times within the main body of the text. This repetition suggests the advertisers endeavour to construct a rapport and connection with the consumer which would subsequently prompt the customer to apply for Credit. Specifically, the use of the pronoun ‘you’ forms the concept of personalisation, which furthermore has connotations of the exclusive consideration of the individual. Both the ‘TSB’ and ‘A&L’ advertisements have a differing degree of formality in relation to Abbey National’s attempt at promoting their Credit Card. ‘TSB’ appears to employ a fairy informal register, (the pronoun ‘you’ is used twice, and the pronoun ‘your’ is used three times) yet taking into account the actual content of the text, which is majorly based upon financial aspects; there is a degree of formality. ‘A&L’ present a similar mixed-register; the majority of the lexis is financial based jargon, which indicates formality. However, the pronouns ‘you’ (7) ‘we’ (2) ‘our’ (1) and ‘your’ (1) are present which specify the aspect of an informal register.
The graphology of the ‘AN’ advertisement also proposes an aspect of informality. The images printed to accompany the text show a shopping basket filled with commodities, suitcases, and lastly, a gift box. The images are harmonious and parallel to the theoretical necessity of applying for Credit, wherein the images visualise the consumer’s desires and to some degree, act as a psychological medium regarding the emotional concept of requirement. Regarding the graphological aspects of the ‘TSB’ advertisement, the information is presented within defined sections, which allows the text to be read in easily manageable units. ‘A&L’ use bullet points to deliver their advertisement in an effective, concise method.
With regards to morphology, the ‘AN’ advertisement contains many free morphemes that are commonly monomorphemic, such as ‘credit’ and ‘money.’ This suggests simplification of the text for the benefit of the customer, as monomorphemic lexis is undemanding of expertise regarding the semantic field of ‘finance.’ However, there is the sporadic use of derivational morphemes such as the adverb ‘refreshingly’ and the comparative adjective ‘easier,’ wherein the use of the morphemic suffixes ‘ly’ and ‘er’ respectively, are added to the initial morpheme. This in turn, derives a further lexical formulation with enhanced semantic loading which, in addition, elevates the status of the product. ‘TSB’ and ‘A&L’ also use monomorphemic lexis, which are not divisible into smaller parts and are therefore uncomplicated in comprehension.
The vocabulary of the ‘AN’ advertisement has a specific aim: to successfully persuade the consumer to apply for a Credit Card. This is achieved by both describing and evaluating the benefits of the product using a particular stylistic feature that is frequent within financial advertisements; this is referred to as ‘middle style.’ This style aims at clarity and simplicity, wherein use of jargon is nominal and remains comprehensible. Both ‘TSB’ and ‘A&L’ marginally differ from ‘AN’ in this instance, as there is evidence of mixed register in both advertisements, furthermore attributable to the use of financial jargon within the body of text.
This is a preview of the whole essay
Concerning the associations of words in the ‘AN’ advertisement, the use of the abstract noun ‘idea’ is denotative, as it is conceptual and therefore holds cognitive meaning. The central or core meaning of this lexical item is a plan formed by mental effort, indicating both purpose and intention. In the context of the sentence, ‘to give you an idea just how much this new card can save you, read on,’ the connotative aspect infers that the bank has already formed and shaped the ‘idea’ therefore requiring no mental effort on the consumers part. The transitive verb ‘to give’ used with the second person personal pronoun ‘you’ further proposes the notion of providing the consumer with pre-formed thought and initiative, and is therefore persuasive. The concrete noun ‘money’ is emotive in the sense that it has effective meaning wherein the connotations signal wealth, comfort, ease, advantage and opportunity. ‘Money’ is repeatedly used alongside the pronoun ‘your’ throughout the advertisement. This suggests ownership and possession of the money; a clever technique to compel the consumer to regard the funds as their own. This is ironic in the sense that ‘credit’ is the borrowing of money from a bank or other financial institution; therein there is distinct polarity in the semantic loading of the lexical item - a complete reversal of meaning. ‘TSB’ uses the noun phrase ‘Platinum MasterCard,’ wherein ‘Platinum’ is referent to ‘MasterCard.’ The premodifier carries underlying connotation and additional semantics and is not intended in the literal sense, but is expected to infer the notion of expense, affluence and privilege. Similar to ‘TSB,’ ‘A&L’ use the word ‘premier’ which is referent to ‘account.’ This proposes undertones of semantic loading, in which ‘premier’ is inferred to be paramount, influential and above all, significant.
Specialist vocabulary is minimal in the ‘AN’ advertisement, with ‘APR (Variable)’ being the only phrase that might require knowledge of the financial field. Specialist vocabulary in both the ‘TSB’ and the ‘A&L’ advertisements is much more frequent. Also, with regards to morphological categories, in the ‘AN’ advertisement, there is use of the compound word ‘cashback’ and the hyphenated premodifying adjective ‘money-saving.’ These lexical constructions are indicative of advantageous aspects pertaining to the product. All advertisements use lexis from the financial semantic field. The table below shows the first seven words from the financial semantic field that appear in each text. ‘AN’ concentrates on how the customer will benefit from the product, using lexis such as ‘cashback’ and ‘earn.’ Whilst both ‘TSB’ and ‘A&L’ focus upon the financial aspects of the product. The order in which the words appear in both the ‘TSB’ and ‘A&L’ advertisements are almost identical; this is indicated by the highlighted lexis.
The ‘AN’ advertisement uses predominantly concrete nouns such as: credit card, petrol, food and cashback. These nouns are comparative to everyday needs in society and therefore carry proverbial association for the consumer. Abstract nouns are infrequent within the text, as they denote general feelings, ideas or concepts which are not pertinent to the advertisements aim to construct an evaluative text that diverges from complex notions. The only abstract nouns employed are ‘mind’ and ‘ideas;’ those being abstract nouns referring to both perceptions and processes. Proper nouns within the advertisement consist of ‘Abbey National’ and companies such as ‘Tesco’s’ and ‘Sainsbury’s.’ It is apparent that these proper nouns are used merely as a tool of reference, and therefore hold no semantic implication in this instance. Nouns in the ‘TSB’ advertisement consist of principally concrete nouns such as ‘Platinum MasterCard,’ and ‘Fee.’ Furthermore, all noun usage is referent to the product, and moreover; financial aspects. The ‘A&L’ advertisement also adheres to a similar format, wherein the majority of nouns are concrete, such as ‘customer’ and ‘card.’ This demonstrates the advertisers aim to remain specific.
Adjectives are not frequent in the ‘AN’ advertisement, which is paradoxical to long-established stylistic conventions of advertisement, wherein numerous adjectives are used as a descriptive means of elevating the status of a product. All adjectives employed are premodifiers, referent to either the products physical or evaluative attributes, these being: ideal, great, convenient, flexible, attractive, money-saving and simple. There is occasional use of adjectives within the ‘TSB’ advertisement; both ‘flexible’ and ‘minimum’ are used premodifiers, used to enhance product benefits. Similarly, the ‘A&L’ advertisement has the least occurrence of adjectives. ‘Fantastic’ is used to premodify ‘savings’ which emphasises advantageous elements of the product. All adjectives are gradable, in the sense that each can be modified by an adverb to convey a certain degree of intensity. However, in the instance of each advertisement, all adjectives stand alone, un-modified by an adverb so as not to overly assert the lexical semantic loading. With regards to the lack of adjectives across all three texts, it would be interesting to look at the similarity of the web-based advertisements in relation to the written leaflets. I entered each web-advertisement into a web-based corpus (Web 4) to discover whether, within the first ten most frequent words of each advertisement, there would be evidence of adjective use.
The only adjective that appeared was ‘new’ in the ‘AN’ web-advertisement, which appeared a total of six times within the text. This demonstrates that all texts are entirely concerned with not describing the product as a means of elevating its status but much more, stating factual, accurate information for the consumer.
The verb usage within the ‘AN’ advertisement carries an important part of the meaning of the text as a whole. The advertisement is effectively persuading you to apply for a credit card, which is an action. Therefore, verbs are used as a means of instigating this action. Dynamic verbs are the most frequent lexical element within the text and can be used in the progressive continuous aspect, indicating an unfinished action: spending, helping, read, call, visit, going, designed, earning, credited, give, transfer, share, use, manage, apply, making and ask. One dynamic verb, ‘save,’ is used repeatedly throughout the advertisement so as to place emphasis on its semanticity, and in addition; to act as a persuasive device. Each verb refers to a physical act, and are both transitive and non-factive, as they require the action to be carried out by the consumer; therefore it is not determined as completed or factive. The ‘TSB’ and ‘A&L’ advertisements also use dynamic verbs, referring to physical acts requiring action from the customer, either in the base forms, past tense, gerundial forms or the progressive.
The adverbs within the ‘AN’ advertisement are infrequent. Focusing on the adverbs of manner, ‘refreshingly’ is used at the beginning of a sentence to suggest an alternative approach to saving money, therein implying that AN is beneficially dissimilar to other financial institutions, which therefore promotes the product offered. The adverb ‘automatically’ premodifies the dynamic verb ‘switch’ which can have both positive and negative implications. Positively, the adverb implies ease and simplicity in financial transactions, yet negatively, the adverb holds connotations of impulsivity, spontaneity and involuntary action. In relation to the context of the sentence, there is 0% interest for three months; after three months the 0% ‘automatically’ switches to 18.9% APR (variable), therefore although the consumer is meant to look upon this adverb in terms of effortlessness, the undertone of the semantic loading is decidedly negative. Adverbs in both the ‘TSB’ and ‘A&L’ advertisement are not frequent, with only the adverb of direction ‘up’ in ‘TSB,’ and the adverb of degree, ‘so,’ and adverb of manner ‘particularly,’ in ‘A&L.’ The adverb ‘particularly’ is a disjunct adverbial, wherein it acts as an evaluative for the remainder of the sentence, moreover allowing emphasis on the relative clause.
3. Grammatical Categories
i. Sentence Types
The ‘AN’ advertisement generally employs either statements or commands as sentence types. Therein, the advertiser states information about the product, ‘you’ll find the Abbey Credit Card ideal for your everyday essentials,’ followed by a verbial command such as ‘read on’ or ‘call in.’ This is a commonly used advertising technique; the advertiser promotes their product which consequently instigates the requirement for action. The ‘TSB’ and ‘A&L’ advertisements also employ statements.
ii. Sentence Complexity & Clauses
Regarding sentence complexity within the ‘AN’ advertisement, there is a mixture in the occurrence of both simple and complex sentences. The advertiser tends to use simple sentences when attempting to appeal to the customers needs, ‘at Abbey we understand that the cost of living is going up.’ The need for simplicity for the particular aspect of relating to the customer is necessary, so as to appear sincere. The use of complex sentences arises when discussing the benefits of the product: ‘When you use your card at most major supermarkets and petrol stations, you’ll be earning cashback – all of which will be credited to your Abbey card.’ The hyphen has replaced the comma in this instance for dramatic effect, since the hyphen acts as a separator from the independent clause and therefore places emphasis on the preceding dependent clause. The ‘TSB’ advertisement uses both simple and complex sentences that consist of one independent clause and one or more dependent clauses; ‘0% interest for 12 months on Balance Transfers, made in the first six weeks of account opening, based on a minimum spend of £100 in the first three months.’ This complex sentence has one independent clause (underlined) and two dependant clauses, (highlighted) wherein there has been no attempt to simplify the sentence for the benefit of the reader. ‘A&L’ follows a parallel model to the other advertisements in relation to sentence complexity, with sporadic use of simple sentences, some of which use no verb such as, ‘no annual fee.’ The mixed sentence structures emphasise the power of style in advertisement through emphatic variations within each text.
iii. Noun Phrases & Verb Phrases
iv. Word Classes: Pronouns
The ‘AN’ advertisement uses the second person personal pronoun ‘you’ fifty-one times. This repetitive aspect proposes the advertisers attempt to construct a relationship with the reader; an effective address strategy. The pronoun ‘you’ is also used in the remaining advertisements, although its use is infrequent in comparison.
Across the three texts there is evidence of cohesion by conjunction. Conjunctions provide a logical connection wherein they allow each clause to flow into the next. There is also evidence of lexical cohesion in each text, in that the use of the noun ‘card’ refers back to ‘Credit Card.’ Each text uses a set of lexis from the financial semantic field, which produces a cohesive element.
5. Consumer Opinions
I solicited the opinions of a male university student, a male middle-aged social worker and a female pensioner regarding specific words or features in each advertisement that appealed to them. The student showed preference to the ‘AN’ advertisement as he said he felt the text was personally directed toward him. He noticed the repetitiveness of the pronoun ‘you’ and felt that the use of this lexis may be the reason for the personalising effect. The middle-aged male stated that the use of the adjectives ‘convenient’ and ‘flexible’ in the ‘TSB’ advertisement allowed him to believe that the bank would be accommodating of his personal requirements. The pensioner felt drawn towards the ‘AN’ advertisement also, with regards to the individual attention the advertisement pays to the pronoun ‘you.’ Moreover, she also regarded the use of the phrase, ‘a credit card to make your money to further,’ as she felt that the card would facilitate her necessities. It was interesting that the participants did not select a word or feature from the ‘A&L’ advertisement; however, this may have been attributable to the quantity of financial jargon presented within the main body of text and its deficiency of personalisation.
The primary aim of an advertisement is to successfully persuade the consumer to purchase the offered product. Generally, the overall effect of advertisements depends as much on the graphological design in addition to the lexical features. Furthermore, the integral aspect of the advertisement will effectively identify a subject which is congruent with substance of daily lifestyle and therefore relative to the consumer. In advertisements, it is important to discern reality from idealism, therein; words are often misused as a means of elevating the status of the obtainable product, and not necessarily as a means of deceiving the buyer. Advertisers endeavour to eliminate lexical constructions that are complex, therein; the sentences are marked grammatically, yet some sentences do not contain a full compliment of elements which accordingly, create a ‘full sentence.’ In relation to the three analysed advertisements there are aspects that are not completely concurrent with conventional features of advertisements, this being much owed to the excessive presentation of financial jargon in both the ‘TSB’ and ‘A&L’ advertisements. However, through stylistic analysis, the ‘AN’ advertisement appears to fully correspond to its aim, that being to instruct and persuade the consumer effectively and successfully. I believe that the ‘AN’ advertisement is most suited to readers who are less concerned with the financial jargon, but much more attracted to the beneficial components the lender has to offer. Both the ‘TSB’ and ‘A&L’ advertisements are more likely to attract a somewhat professional audience who are acquainted with financial terminology.