Reading Advertisements Study Guide (page 2)

Updated on Aug 25, 2011

Advertising Techniques

The persuasive argument in an advertisement might be logical or emotional. It might appeal to your ethics or your senses. Advertising writers have a whole bag of tricks, and they choose the technique that they think will work best for each product or service they want to sell. Ten of the most common techniques follow.

  1. Bandwagon
  2. "Everyone is doing it! Don't be left out!" This advertising approach shows or suggests that lots of people have already decided to use a product or service. If you don't join in, you'll be missing out on the fun, or you'll be stuck outside the group. Look for words that suggest huge popularity or ask you to join a major trend.

    Example: Join the revolution! Millions of people have lost weight on the Blast-o-Fat diet, and it can work for you, too! Call today to start your Blast-o-Fat plan now.

  3. Ethics
  4. "It's the right thing to do." This approach appeals to your sense of right and wrong, justice, or empathy. It suggests that if you are a good person, you will want to use this product or service. Look for words that inspire a strong emotional or ethical response.

    Example: Every hour, 400 children die of preventable diseases in the world's poorest nations. For the cost of just one cup of coffee, you can make a difference in the life of a child.

  5. Fantasy
  6. "The ideal can be yours." Superheroes, dramatic romance, wealth, and beautiful people are the staples of this appeal. By showing you something you might want to be, this type of advertising suggests that using the product or service will let you experience the fantasy. For example, if you use Shimmer Shampoo, your hair will be transformed (along with your body and your car). Look for miracle cures and dramatic scenarios that promise the reader something that the product cannot really provide.

    Example: Try Minty Fresh gum. Have the confidence to get close to the woman of your dreams.

  7. Fear
  8. "Don't be a victim." These appeals play on readers' fears. They might suggest that something is happening that you don't know about. Or they might insist that you need to act right now before the sale is over or the supplies run out. This is a type of emotional appeal. Look for words about time, immediate action, and frightening results.

    Example: Do you know where your teenagers are right now? Talk to your kids about drugs—before it's too late.

  9. Humor
  10. "If it's funny, you'll remember it." This appeal is one of the most popular in television commercials, and the humor often has nothing to do with the product being sold. But advertisers believe that if something makes you laugh, you'll feel good about it. Look for puns, jokes, funny clothing, or silly scenarios.

    Example: Buying car insurance is so simple, a monkey could do it.

  11. Nostalgia
  12. "The old-fashioned way." Also called "plain folks," this appeal emphasizes a simple, old-fashioned ideal. Advertisements like these are often aimed at older adults. Look for phrases like "back to nature," "genuine family recipe," or "just like Grandpa used to do it." Also look for back-country slang and rural scenes.

    Example: Try Martha's pure, original honey. We've been making tummies happy for more than 80 years.

  13. Sense Appeal
  14. "You can't resist your senses." This appeal is especially useful for restaurants, grocery stores, perfume designers, clothing lines, music players, and other companies that make products for your senses. How does the product smell? taste? feel? sound? What will it make you feel? Does it look fancy, or sharp, or clever, or cool? Look for descriptive words that cue your senses.

    Example: Bite into a sweet, creamy Choco-Pop, with its crunchy chocolate shell and strips of delicious caramel. Your mouth will thank you.

  15. Snob Appeal
  16. "Only the best for you." Most people like to feel special and unique. This appeal suggests that it knows the perfect choice for you. This is the opposite of the bandwagon appeal; it suggests that you can select something special or unique, to reflect how special—or clever, wealthy, or selective—you are. Look for words that compliment the reader or suggestions that the usual choice is a bad one.

    Example: This Mother's Day, don't buy cold, wilting grocery store flowers. Choose PortaFlora, where all the bouquets are cut and arranged by hand. Your mom deserves the very best.

  17. Statistics
  18. "The facts don't lie." Studies have shown that people are impressed by numbers, graphs, and charts, even if the data doesn't explain anything! Writers include statistics to convince you that lots of science or serious studies have been done on the product or service. But beware; data can be easily skewed or even made up, or the data an advertisement shows you might not have anything to do with the claim it is making. Look for charts, graphs, percentages, results of studies, or phrases like "4 out of 5 experts recommend—"

    Example: When you sprinkle FlowerGrow on your garden three times a month, 99% of weeds will be killed on contact, and your flowers will be five times larger and healthier.

  19. Testimonial
  20. "If a famous person likes it, you will too." If you recognize a famous person in the advertisement, it is probably a testimonial. There are celebrity endorsements (when a famous person is shown using a product), and there are expert endorsements (when a doctor, dentist, or other "expert" claims to approve the product). Advertisers expect that you will want to copy the celebrity or listen to the expert's advice. Look for famous people (or characters, like Big Bird) or claims from experts evaluating the product.

    Example: As a doctor, I take care of patients all day, but I have to take care of my own body, too. That's why I choose Pain Killer, the only medicine that stops my headaches as soon as they start.

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