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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Rhetoric of Adverstising - Notes by Apurva

Following is the presentation notes on Perspective IV Semester lesson 'Rhetoric of Adverting' by Stuart Hirschberg. The presentation was made for II year JPEng class by Apurva on 19 Nov.



  • Introduction
  • Techniques used in Advertising
  • Emotional appeals used in Advertising
  • The Language of Advertising
  • The Ethical Dimensions of Persuasion


  • What is an advertisement?
  1. Anything that aims to sell a product
  2. Product can be an object (soap), an idea, a person (politics, CV’s), a belief (Aryan supremacy)
  • Why are advertisements made?
  1. To persuade the consumer about the superiority of a product/idea/person/belief

Elements in Advertising

  • Advertisements, like mini-arguments, have elements like:
  1. Pathos (Emotional appeal)
  2. Logos (Logic and Reasoning)
  3. Ethos (Credibility of Advertiser)
  • Use of visual and verbal elements

The techniques of Advertising

  • Establishing superiority of product
  • TRANSFERING ideas, attributes, feelings from outside the product onto the product itself, by:
  1. Encouraging the consumer to focus on positive attributes of product
  2. Discouraging consumer from focusing on negative attributes of product

How the techniques work

  • Claim to fulfill deep seated human drives
  • Promise of delivering unattainable satisfactions – intangible ideas through TANGIBLE objects
  • The power of association
  • Offering consumers the chance to recreate their personality, past, relationships, THEMSELVES

Emotional Appeals (Pathos)

  • Exploit emotional needs of consumer, such as:
  1. Social Acceptance - use of “YOU”, sense of belonging to a group
  2. Snob Appeal - value warrant
  3. Nostalgia - “the good old days”
  4. Patriotism - “owning the product makes me a good citizen”
  5. Fear – the most exploited emotion

The Language of Advertising

  • Ethos (credibility) – “we’re the good guys, so you can buy our products”
  • Logos (logic, reasoning, wording)
  • How ads use words to convince the consumer
  1. Authoritative-sounding results
  2. Technical and scientific terms
  3. Weasel Words

Authoritative-sounding results

  • Independent labs, teams of research scientists, physicians etc. come up with statistics, without ever saying how the survey was conducted, what methods were used, who interpreted the results.

Technical and scientific terms

  • Used to give impression of a scientific breakthrough
  • Technical jargon used to convince the common consumer about reliability of product

Weasel Words

  • Used to evade legal responsibility
  1. Help – not succeed
  2. Fight – might win or lose
  3. Virtuallynot really
  4. Up to – no guarantee
  5. For as long as – no guarantee

The Ethical Dimension of Persuasion

  • Ethical questions are implicit in every act of persuasion : asking the consumer to think YOUR way
  • How should we look at ads?
  1. Success in persuasion
  2. Responsibility of fulfilling claims
  • Open dialogue vs. persuasion always being one-sided
  • Unethical techniques used to persuade consumer

Mass persuasion

  • Ethical aspect specially relevant in context of using propaganda as a form of mass persuasion
  • Example: Hitler’s Aryan Supremacy propaganda

Questions that can be asked

  • What are the three dimensions of advertising? – Pathos (emotions), Logos (language), Ethos (credibility), enumerate based on word limit.

  • To what effect is technical language used in ads? – slides 14 to 16

  • How do the ads ensure that they do not face legal consequences? – Weasel words, slide 17

  • Discuss the need for advertisements from the point of view of
  1. Manufacturer : in order to sell his products, make profit
  2. Marketing executive : has to make his products fit for market through advertisements
  3. Advertising agencies : ads are their fodder because they exist to sell products at competitive prices
  4. Consumer : in order to get information abut the different varieties of products/services offered, in order to be able to choose the best product/service

    • Examine how ads use the element of pathos. – slides 9 to 13

    • Write about the ethical paradox Hirschberg talks mentions in the chapter. – slides 18 (3rd point) to 19

    • How do advertising techniques work?/ How do advertisements use the power of association? – slides 5 to 8

    • How do industrial conglomerates utilize the element of ethos? – slide 14, “Chevron” example, the paragraph about the industrial conglomerates


shree said...

thanks a lot had been really helpful for me to gain confidence of passing in exam tomorrow .thanks a lot sir.

shree said...

by the way thanks to apoorva also

Anil Pinto said...


himu said...

thank u sir!

Rosalyn K. Joseph said...

thank you sir... this reduced the exam tension so much!! :) :)

Anil Pinto said...

Thank you. Glad about it. The credit goes to Apurva of III JPEng