students at university

Hierarchy of Needs in a University Advertisement


Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a motivational theory in psychology which describes five essential needs which can determine our actions:

  • physiological
  • safety
  • love and belonging
  • self-esteem
  • self-actualisation.

Everyone might want to reach a level of self-actualisation, but our progress is often disrupted by our inability to satisfy the lower level needs. When our circumstances change, so do our motivations and behaviours.

self-actualization… refers to the person’s desire for self-fulfillment, namely, to the tendency for him to become actualized in what he is potentially.

Abraham Maslow (1943)

By exploring the motivations behind consumer behaviour, marketing agencies might be able to appeal their primary audience more effectively. However, are Maslow’s ideas still relevant? Can they explain why some advertising campaigns are more successful than others?

Liverpool Hope University

Created by the McCann ad agency network, Liverpool Hope University’s campaign was targeted towards prospective undergraduate students.


Analyse the following print advertisement in terms of self-actualisation as summarised by Maslow and his hierarchy of needs.

University Advertisement
Liverpool Hope University Advertisement

Points to Consider

You should support your arguments with specific references to the text. Semiotic analysis is essential, especially how the message of “hope” is encoded by the key signifiers in the poster.

Perhaps you can start by looking at the lexical codes, such as the headline “Your Future Starts With Hope”. There is also the pun linking our sense of hope to the name of the university.

Analyse the representation of the students on the left of the product. What do they connote? Suggest why the producers included images of the trees? What mental concepts do they create?

Explain the narrative being established by positioning the hard-working students on the left, an image of the university building in the middle, and the graduates on the right dressed in their gowns and convocations. In terms of Todorov’s narrative theory, is there a new equilibrium being established?

In conclusion, are you inspired?

Further Reading

Thanks for reading!