Advertising plays an important role in our diverse, media-saturated world. It surrounds our everyday lives. It is in everything we do, whether we are looking for a number in the phone directory, taking a ride down a road, or watching TV. According to Jamie Beckett’s article in San Francisco Chronicle, “The average U. S. adult is bombarded by 255 advertisements every day–100 on TV, 60 in magazines, 50 on the radio, and 45 in newspapers” (Beckett). More recently, Advertising Age estimated that the average American sees, hears, or reads more than 5,000 persuasive ads a day, which means that there is almost nowhere we can avoid their presence.
Today, ad agencies spend more than $300 billion in the United States and $500 billion worldwide on advertising. Therefore, we can acknowledge that advertising is created in a results-oriented perspective that will increase companies’ and organizations’ profits in the forms of purchases, donations, votes, joinings, etc. This perspective can be achieved by using manipulative and persuasive techniques in advertising that would get people’s attention.
These messages appear in many formats–print and electronic, verbal and visual, logical and emotional.
As Stuart Hirschberg wrote in his essay “The Rhetoric of Advertising”, “The most common manipulative techniques are designed to make consumers want to consume to satisfy deep-seated human drives. In purchasing a certain product, we are offered to create ourselves, our personality, and our relationships through consumption” (Hirschberg 229). Thus, we all become the targets of this form of persuasion that uses pathos, positive images, and/or deceptive language to influence our needs, interests, and decisions.
The ad from Martha Stewart Living magazine shows its readers a new Honda CR-V automobile. Also, the company at the same time introduces its new campaign called the “Leap List” to the magazine’s primary audience that mostly consists of women ages 25 to 45. This campaign encourages people to make a list of the desired things they want to accomplish before the major event happens in their lives, such as the birth of their children. As we see, the ad is mostly aimed at younger consumers of the magazine who are looking for a better appearance of the car and new opportunities in their lives.
The company offers to achieve these things with its new CR-V automobiles by using some of the aforementioned influential techniques, such as pathos, visual arts, deceptive claims, and weasel words in order to get viewers’ attention, establish credibility and trust, stimulate desires for the product, and the most important, motivate the audience to buy it. Pathos is the most powerful and effective tool in advertising. As stated by Hirschberg, “The emotional appeals in ads function exactly the way assumptions about value do in the written arguments.
They supply the unstated major premise that supplies a rationale to persuade an audience that a particular product will meet one or another of several different kinds of needs” (Hirschberg 229). Due to the fact that human beings are initially emotional creatures who are more likely to be persuaded by emotions and feelings, and then rational by thinking and reacting, advertisers use both positive and negative emotional appeals to force and influence our minds. One of the ubiquitous emotional appeals in advertising is the use of the “you” word, which is supposed to address the message to each individual.
In its ad, Honda uses the “you” word five times by making the ad more personalized and stressing consumers’ personal benefits from purchasing the company’s new car. In my opinion, Honda evokes positive as well as negative emotional appeals in its ad. There is an orange, bold title in the ad that says Before I have kids I want to and then there is an illustrated list of ten goals. It includes flying a plane, rock climbing, skyaking, sailing, running a marathon, learning to scuba, mountain-cycling, learning to pick the banjo, marching in a Mardi Gras parade, and taking up archery.
As the viewer, I can say that this list catches my eyes because the goals in the ad are interesting and they make me feel enthusiastic and excited. In my opinion, Honda demonstrates our freedom and variety of opportunities that we can achieve by doing the things that we enjoy and like. After reading and seeing these examples, the audience starts to visualize its own desires and the ways of achieving their personal goals. The ad makes us feel motivated and excited about pursuing our dreams and wishes.
On the other hand, the company persuades its readers to think and feel guilty of wasting their time and not achieving the things they want the most. That is why the company offers its all-new, 31-mpg-highway Honda CR-V that would deliver the potential buyers to wherever they want to go and whatever things they want to accomplish. In our modern world of technologies and computers, advertisers have recourse to artistic design, computer graphics, high-tech artistry, special effects, digital sounds, and computer animation that can help them to get various kinds of viewers’ attention.
A study made by the University of Georgia has found that exposure to visual art in advertising, even if the exposure is fleeting, makes consumers evaluate products more positively. According to Henrik Hagtvedt, the artist and one of the researchers of this study, “Visual arts have historically been used as a tool for persuasion. It has been used to sell everything from religion to politics to spaghetti sauce to the artist’s image” (Hagtvedt). The same strategy can be observed in the Honda CR-V automobile ad that consists of many bright, positive images and bright colors.
The color of the presented car is shiny Metallic Silver that typifies elegance, patience, modesty, and reliability. According to Pat Bertram’s article “What the Color of Your Car Says About You”, “People who drive silver vehicles have above average confidence about the course of their lives, and they also have consistent mood” (Bertram). Besides, this color is unisex and suits both females and males. Another visual attention-getting feature in the ad is tinted car windows. What is this for?
In my opinion, advertisers make our eyes focused on the car itself rather than the interior or background and they try to accentuate the look of the vehicle. The tinted car implies the feeling of security and privacy that is becoming very popular in the modern society. Also, the direction of the car heading towards the illustrations of the goals from the Leap List emphasizes the company’s statement of helping viewers to achieve their aspirations. Another widespread element of reaching and influencing the audience is the use of weasel words and ambiguous language.
Asking personal questions in ads shows us one of the deceptive techniques in language used in advertising. The question used in the Honda CR-V ad leaves its readers wondering about the answer. “What are you waiting for? ” asks the ad, the question that viewers usually cannot answer. The tactic of asking the rhetorical question provokes curiosity and creates interests that make people think, desire, and visualize themselves having the product. Another kind of common deception in ads is the use of weasel words.
The frequency of using the weasel words can be observed not only in politics but in advertising as well. According to Hirschberg, “Of all the techniques advertisers use to influence what people believe and how they spend their money, none is more basic than the use of so-called weasel words that retract the meaning of the words they are next to just as a weasel sucks the meat out of egg” (Hirschberg 232). As the target audience, we repeatedly see, read, or hear such weasel words as helps, free, virtually, like, new, as much as, faster, or better.
These ambiguous words allow persuaders to say something without really saying anything and make us believe in the importance of purchasing their products. The ad in Martha Stewart Living magazine states that the company’s new technologically advanced, up-for-almost-anything new Honda CR-V automobile was built to help us check off every last item from our leap lists. By using the word “helps”, Honda offers a solution and aid to the consumers’ problems, but in reality the company promises nothing really concrete. So the word “helps” lets the companies escape from its supposed promises.
At first sight, advertising seems to be relatively simple in structure, format, and availability, but its content and depth is complex. Hirschberg said, “Whether ads are presented as sources of information enabling the consumer to make educated choices between products or aim at offering memorable images or witty, thoughtful, or poetic copy, the underlying intent of all advertising is to persuade the specific audience” (Hirschberg 227). After reading “The Rhetoric of Advertising”, I learned that pathos is a very powerful and influential approach in advertising.
I also started to analyze the details used in ads because all of them have different purposes. It is very helpful to know the techniques advertisers use to get our attention as well as the ways they apply the language and visualization. Personally, I started to pay more attention to colors that advertisers use in ads because each of these colors has its own definition and characteristic that can influence our perceptions of the images. As we may observe, advertisers do not waste any inch of the ad space on adding unnecessary information, but they also do not provide all specifics and features about their products.
That is why, as the primary audience, we should be more skeptical and questionable of what we see and want to buy. In the ad created by Honda, we can see pathos, bright images, and claims that can attract the potential buyers’ attention. John O’Toole, the former president of the American Association of Advertising Agencies, believed that the consumers should be at the center of the process, and that the only kind of language either verbal or nonverbal effectively persuades the consumers as an individual.
As discussed earlier, disclosing people’s desires and making the personalized ad makes this Honda ad from Martha Stewart Living magazine more attractive and memorable to the viewers. Advertisers also used the persuasive language that we can observe in the ad in the forms of weasel words and question claims. Overall, I found this ad well made and interesting to analyze because it consists of different influential and persuasive techniques that we can determine after reading Stuart Hirschberg’s essay “The Rhetoric of Advertising. ”