Analysing Movie Posters
Posters occupy a space between art and advertising. They have a clear commercial purpose - to promote an event or product - but they also have artistic value. People buy them and hang them on their walls. Museums have whole galleries devoted to poster art. When analysing a poster it is important that you evaluate both how well it fulfils its purpose (ie promotion) as well as its aesthetic value. ("aesthetic value" means their value as artistic creations.)
When analysing a poster, you should consider the following broad questions before you start to focus on the details:
- What are the main colours used in the poster and what do they connote?
- What symbols are used in the poster? Do you need audience foreknowledge to decode the symbols?
- What are the main figures/objects/background of the poster? Are they represented photographically, graphically, or illustratively?
- Are the messages in the poster primarily visual, verbal, or both?
- Who do you think is the intended audience for the poster?
- Given that all movie posters have the same purpose - to get audiences to go see a movie - what persuasive techniques are used by the poster?
- Which genre conventions are referred to?
- Is a star used as a USP (unique selling point)?
- Are "expert witnesses" (ie critics) quoted?
- What pleasures (gratifications) are promised by the poster?
- How is attention gained (humour, shock, surprise)?
- How does the tagline work? (humour, pun, alliteration etc?)
The poster can also give you important information about the production context of the movie:
- How much does the poster tell you about the institutional context of the movie's production?
- How important is this information on the poster (think about information hierarchies)?
- How important a part of the whole marketing campaign is the poster? Where is the poster placed?
- How expensive was this poster to produce?
Finally, you have to pass judgement on the poster.
- Is it an effective poster? Why?
- Does it communicate effectively with the audience?
- Are there any alternative readings which might harm the message of the marketing campaign?
- Is the poster offensive in any way?
The information here was taken in part from the Mediaknowall website and other web sources.