undergraduate section

ENGCMP 0515 Persuasive Writing in Advertising

“Why is the often written-off craft of persuasive writing still with us? Can it be because it is efficient? Able to convey complex propositions succinctly for people to read on their smartphones. Can it be because it is effective? Able to open wallets and purses over thousands of miles…At its heart, copywriting is about understanding how other people feel and showing them alternatives to the lives they lead. Better, richer, more fulfilling lives; lives free from anxiety, doubt and insecurity; lives with problems minimized or solved altogether.” – Andy Maslen, Persuasive Copywriting

“You may already realize that it’s not enough for you to know how to create headlines and slogans or to write strong copy…You must have a solid writing foundation. You need to understand various script formats, creative brief templates, media restrictions, and compositional structures. Then, you need to build on that knowledge and cement it with strategic thinking, analytical insights, audience-relevant messages, and sound writing techniques.” – Margo Berman, The Copywriter’s Toolkit

Course Overview 

You can hum that jingle. You can recite that slogan. But did you buy that product? The ubiquity of advertising messages in our modern world has made us more discerning consumers, but developing a persuasive strategy for a specific target audience is a process that requires quality research, strategic planning, and creative vision. This course will teach you the persuasive techniques used in advertising today in order to create messages that influence consumers’ decisions while maintaining high ethical standards. Together we will explore the rhetorical parameters of different media including print, broadcast, digital, and non-traditional forms of advertising and examine real-world campaigns that have made an impact in our own lives. You will then create your own advertising pieces in preparation for the final project of an original creative advertising campaign. These pieces are designed in a way to help refine your persuasive communication skills and to strengthen and diversify the body of work in your professional portfolio. This course is offered during Fall and Spring terms.

Persuasive Writing for Advertising presents a comprehensive introduction to persuasive writing techniques used in the field of advertising today. Students will analyze how people make decisions, how advertisers employ strategies to influence those decisions, and how they as writers can apply these strategies in their own writing. They will identify how the dynamics of rhetorical contexts are used in the advertising field and examine the foundational techniques advertisers use to persuade specific audiences with the intention of crafting their own practical, persuasive documents. Writing assignments include print ads, radio and television ads, writing for the web and social media, and a multi-platform advertising campaign.

This course satisfies the Writing-intensive requirement.

Sample Student Projects

  • An English writing student created a campaign advertising a Philadelphia-based eco-friendly barbershop that also promoted community revitalization with outdoor media messages in abandoned urban spaces.
  • A business administration student challenged the typical pathos-driven messaging of organ donor advertising with a campaign that used humorous viral memes and guerilla marketing tactics.
  • A senior studying communications freshed the perception of Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre with a modern campaign focused on the athleticism, sensuality, and couture pageantry of ballet productions.
  • A marketing student developed a social media campaign advocating for self-defense and safety when using rideshare services like Uber and having fun in and around Pitt's campus.

Recent Course Faculty

Pam O'Brien

Megan Kappel

Barbara Klein

Recent Student Testimonials

“It was a very engaging course, and well taught. One of my favorite classes during the week, the projects were very fun and educational.”

“The perfect balance between lectures, activities, and presentations.”

“I liked how a lot of it was project-based, but still incorporated writing into the class and taught us how to write specifically for advertising.”

Course Description 

You can hum that jingle. You can recite that slogan. But did you buy that product? The ubiquity of advertising messages in our modern world has made us more discerning consumers, but developing a persuasive strategy for a specific target audience is a process that requires quality research, strategic planning, and creative vision. This course will teach you the persuasive techniques used in advertising today in order to create messages that influence consumers’ decisions while maintaining high ethical standards. Together we will explore the rhetorical parameters of different media including print, broadcast, digital, and non-traditional forms of advertising and examine real-world campaigns that have made an impact in our own lives. You will then create your own advertising pieces in preparation for the final project of an original creative advertising campaign. These pieces are designed in a way to help refine your persuasive communication skills and to strengthen and diversify the body of work in your professional portfolio. This course is offered during Fall and Spring terms.