Slick Slogans: Studying and Creating Great Ads with ESL Students

Slick Slogans: Studying and Creating Great Ads with ESL Students

Many of our ESL Business students are heading into the world of advertising.

Learning some good methods for analyzing and creating fantastic advertising slogans is an important step, and deserves some planning and effort by the teacher. Not only is it useful in their professional lives, but slogans (and the products they describe) have a great cultural relevance, and speak volumes about the society which created them.

Here are some hints for approaching and practicing slogan-writing techniques:

4 Effective Ideas to  Find and Create Great Ads with ESL Students

  1. 1

    Gather Good Examples

    Ask the students to brainstorm famous advertising slogans. You’ll almost certainly get Nike’s ‘Just Do It’, Adidas’ ‘Impossible is Nothing’, perhaps some from car companies, websites and travel companies. Then, scramble companies and their slogans, and see if the students can match them up. Here are some classics:

    Company Slogan
    Avis We Try Harder
    British Airways The Way To Fly
    Microsoft Where Do You Want To Go Today?
    Hallmark Cards Reach Out And Touch Someone
    WINS Radio Give Us Twenty Minutes And We’ll Give You The World
    Alka-Seltzer I Can’t Believe I Ate The Whole Thing
    Coors The Silver Bullet
    The New York Times All The News That’s Fit To Print
    Harley Davidson American By Birth. Rebel By Choice.
    Sprite Obey Your Thirst
  2. 2

    Why Do They Work?

    A little analysis will be very instructive. Have your students tease out the salient features of a good slogan:

    • They’re short and extremely punchy.
    • They’re often funny, making a pun or play on words
    • They sometimes include repetition of a phrase or rhythm (Harley)
    • Partly as a result, they’re memorable and likely to be repeated; here, you can reiterate the importance (and good value) of word-of-mouth advertising
    • They are a statement of philosophy or beliefs (New York Times, Avis)
    • They encourage (or simply instruct) the audience to do something (Nike, Sprite, Hallmark)
  3. 3

    Find Examples from Home

    Most of the largest advertising budgets in the world are wielded by US companies. What about smaller nations and their philosophy of advertising? Set up an interview which could include questions with a broad range:

    • Which companies in your country are famous for their ads?
    • Have there been any controversial (or banned) adverts?
    • Can you sing a famous advertising jingle from back home?
    • How do smaller companies manage to do ‘less with more’? (Hint: many make use of shock tactics, intensive repetition, sex or humor)
  4. 4

    Practice Time

    Organize your students into groups and have then brainstorm possible slogans for one (or more) of these companies. I tend to assign the companies to the groups, so we get some variety of responses. I also advise the students to begin by brainstorming words relating to the company, the product or experience it offers, and the likely target demographics.

    1. Senior Life Vacations
      A holiday company which organizes peaceful and relaxing group tours for travelers over 60 years old. They specialize in guided visits led by experts, cruise ship visits to famous archaeological sites and tours for ‘foodies’, those interested in gourmet food and wine.

      Example vocab brainstorm: retired, old, travel, journey, experience, learning, enlightenment, heaven, sunset, partnership, expert, experience, knowledge, enjoyment, enrichment…

    2. Krypton Systems, Inc.
      A bold, innovative internet software company. They focus on high-end graphics applications for web development and advertising. Their clients have included Cisco, Microsoft and Apple. Krypton is particularly famous for the reliability of their software, their very frequent service updates, and their near-instant service delivery.

    3. Powell Gordon Macintyre
      A respected law firm representing corporate clients. Recent cases have included successfully defending a major investment bank against allegations by congress that they took excessive risks with their clients savings. They also helped design legislation to reduce banking regulations, and helped a client beat a class-action lawsuit by investors who claimed their savings have been embezzled.

    4. Galactic Adventures
      This company offers trips into Earth orbit. Select groups of three or four clients are boosted into space on a new generation of reusable shuttle, and spend three days in space. From there, they can enjoy the view of the Earth, take part in commercial or scientific activities, or make documentaries or movies of their experience.

The possibilities are as endless as your students’ creativity. These examples come from my own students in Boston; well done to them for some ingenious, collective thinking:

Senior Life: Sunset Over The Pyramids

This features the (admittedly slightly risky, but still relevant) double-entendre of ‘sunset’, which could refer both to the end of a day, seen amid the splendor of the Pyramids, and the end of life itself. I enjoyed it’s sass, and its imagery, equally.

Krypton Systems: Like the Internet. But Faster.

In an age when speed and immediacy are at a premium, this hits the mark. I enjoyed the hyperbole; after all, the Internet is already fast, and comparing your own speed to that of an efficient system highlights one of the company’s main promises. The same group tried, It’s The Internet, But Faster, which I also liked.

Powell Gordon Macintyre: Protection. Delivered.

Short, punchy and straight to the point. The same group wanted to try Keeping Crooks Of Jail Since 1967 but they had to agree that it didn’t send the right message!

Galactic Adventures: Beyond the Clouds

I loved this one. It’s emotive and imaginative, conjuring just the lofty, exotic, adventure-driven experience the company is trying to sell.


Advertising slogans link in with language, culture and business in intriguing and instructive ways.

It’s well worth spending a class or two looking at good examples, and then having your students create some of their own.

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