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Ad Analysis: What is it and how it is done?

Updated: Sep 30, 2021

When I wrote a post about my hobby as a CAT aspirant, some members of the blog messaged me for a post on Ad Analysis. They wanted to know more about how it can be pursued and what all it entails.


What is Ad Analysis?

When you watch any ad on TV or YouTube do you wonder why the company chose that particular brief for the ad or why those celebrities were chosen and not others? Pondering over these questions in a systematic manner is what is commonly known as Ad Analysis. It is the evaluation of an ad.

How is it done?

There are multiple frameworks used for Ad Analysis. Some of them include 5Ms, Gunn's Principles, etc. When I used to analyze ads, I kept it a policy to simplify this procedure. Hence, the framework I follow does not have a name as such.

The Framework

This framework has 2 basic elements: Strategic and Tactical. Let's talk about them as well as their components:

Strategic Elements

Whenever a company decides to run an ad, there are certain objectives in its mind that it wishes to achieve. The first rule of analyzing any ad is to identify that objective - I used to call it the 'Insight' behind the ad (it'll become clearer with an example shared ahead). So, the first thing you look for in an ad is the key insight, which often requires some browsing about the brand's current operations.

The second strategic element is the 'AIDA Target'. There are four basic objectives of any ad campaign - Awareness, Interest, Desire and Action, also commonly known as AIDA. After viewing the ad, it should become clear to you which one is the company targeting at. It can easily be derived after you know the Insight.

Tactical Elements

These are the elements used for cinematography of the ad. They include the following:

  1. Tone - By watching the ad in the first go, you can clearly pin-point at its tone. Some of the types are: Fact-based, Emotional, Humor and Testimonial. These types determine the impact the ad has on the viewer and hence, they need to be aligned with the objective. For example, a new brand with 'Awareness' as its AIDA target should use 'Fact-based' tone for maximum impact.

  2. Characters - Every ad has some characters. They can be celebrities, common folks or animated characters. The choice has to match the objectives set. Continuing the previous example, a new brand is ought to choose celebrities for generating maximum awareness.

  3. Music - The background music helps in generating elements of suspense, fear, happiness, etc. Hence, it needs to be in alignment with the 'Tone' of the ad.

  4. Visuals - Generally, there are two kinds of visuals worth evaluating. First is the setting of the story. If the ad is able to capture the setting of the story in the initial part itself, it becomes comfortable for the viewer to understand it. The second visual is the brand identification. Using different elements of the ad, the brand name can be highlighted even before the ad ends with that disclosure.

  5. Message - The words used/said by the characters or highlighted on the screen lay a lot of impact on the subconscious of the viewer. They need to be voiced such that the insight gets captured by the viewer.


The final step is to just look at the above-mentioned 7 criteria - Insight, AIDA Target, Tone, Characters, Music, Visuals and Message and analyze if they all go well together. Sometimes, you may also need to check by running some figures if that ad was able to achieve the awareness rate it wanted or the sales data. But, often that is not possible to do outside of the company.

An Example

I'll take an example to highlight how ad analysis is done:

Cadbury Dairy Milk

This is one of the most iconic Cadbury ads of all times. Before I share its analysis, it is important that you watch it intently as many times as you would like to.

Ad Analysis

  • Strategic Elements:

  1. Insight - By browsing the internet or by thinking more, you can identify what Cadbury was trying to achieve through this ad. The basic insight in play is that most people considered chocolate to be a kid's item at that time when the ad was released. Through this ad, Cadbury wants to lure adults by telling them that even they can enjoy the pleasure of a chocolate.

  2. AIDA Target - Based on the insight, you can understand that the objective of Cadbury is to generate 'Interest' among the adult audience in chocolates as an indulgence good.

  • Tactical Elements:

  1. Tone - The tone of the ad is clearly emotional. There is an element of joy in the whole story. The reason fact-based tone is not used is because Cadbury was a well known brand among the adults even at that time. Humor wouldn't have resonated with adults as much as joy would have.

  2. Characters - If you notice, common folks have been used as characters of the age group that Cadbury actually wants to target. The woman looks like a girl in her early twenties signifying the child that resides in adults, no matter what their age. The use of celebrities is often in factual ads. Here, the common folks make it more resonating for the adult viewers to picture themselves.

  3. Music - If you repeat the ad once again, you would notice how the music starts off with a soft tone but grows alongside the story. Just when the woman starts dancing in the ground and the crowd stands up to cheer, the music is at its peak having a lasting impact on the viewer.

  4. Visuals - The ad begins with the audience and a cricket match. But, the most important visual which you may not have even registered consciously was the scoreboard which read '99'. That is what builds the tension in your brain subconsciously when you watch the ad. You earnestly want the batsman to have a century. The second element regarding brand identification appears so many times within the ad. In the very beginning, the woman is eating Cadbury Dairy Milk, then again a visual appears in which she is scared that the batsman will be out - again having the Cadbury in her hand. Even when she is dancing in the ground, the chocolate remains in her hand. All this happens before the ad ends showing Cadbury as the brand behind the ad.

  5. Message - The message delivered through both the music as well as the final visual is that 'Cadbury is the taste of life'. Whenever there is joy or happiness in your life, go for a Cadbury. Now, this is also synchronized with what is written on the bar itself - if you pause the video at 0:39 seconds, you would notice the chocolate bar saying, "The Chocolate, The Taste".

Overall evaluation of the ad proves that this is one of the most memorable ads of its time, responsible for the adults' consumption of chocolate in India.


Hope this helps you in developing the habit of ad analysis, especially if you're interested in marketing. This was one of my first attempts at writing something non-CAT and non-IIM related. So, if you like it and want more posts like these, do let me know.

Here are links to some more ads that I've analyzed on Quora in the past -

  1. Appy Fizz Ad

  2. Trivago's Irritating Ad

  3. Bangur Cement Ad

  4. Apple's 1984 Ad

  5. Fevicol's Sofa Ad

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