While trying to increase the commercial appeal of a particular advertisement, its designers commonly resort to utilization of three foremost principles, upon which
Aristotle’s theory of persuasion is based – namely, appeals to Logos, Ethos and Pathos. The Aveeno Nourish (haircare collection) advertisement, found in People Style Watch Magazine, serves as an example of how skilful implementation of Aristotle’s persuasion techniques, within a conceptual framework of a commercial advertisement, can amplify such advertisement’s effectiveness.
The appeal to Ethos is often being referred to as the “voice from authority” element of rhetorical persuasion; because its utilization implies that, the members of targeted audience share the same cultural, political and social opinions with that of an advertiser.1 Aveeno Nourish advertisement contains the following elements of an appeal to Ethos:
The text “limp hair is such an old story” in the upper left corner of the page. This text is meant to disarm targeted audience psychologically, because by being made to believe that advertisement’s suggestions correspond to the notions of common sense, people automatically become less critical towards the overall message, conveyed by this advertisement.
The pictures of how the usage of Aveeno products affects one’s hair, taken under the microscope. These pictures are expected to prompt people to believe that the advertised effects of Aveeno products’ usage are being fully supported by science. Apparently, advertisement’s designers had taken an advantage of the fact that the members of targeted audience consist of women, known for their lesser ability to rationalize “scientific proofs”, as opposed to that of men.
The text “Nature+Science”, at the bottom of an advertisement page – nobody knows what such wordy combination can possibly mean, but it sounds sophisticate enough to serve as an additional stimulus for the members of targeted audience to consider purchasing Aveeno shampoos.
The appeal to Pathos is probably the most effective of all three methods of persuasion, because people’s emotions are comparatively easy to manipulate with2. Aveeno Nourish advertisement contains the following elements of an appeal to Ethos:
The photo of a young smiling woman, with shiny blond hair (Aryan beauty), which subtly conveys “use Aveeno products and you will be just like me” type of message. Apparently, the authors of this advertisement were fully aware of how female psychology works – it is namely the extent of their physical attractiveness, which reflects women’s existential worth in their own eyes. This is why women never skip an opportunity to “beatify” themselves. Advertisement’s designers wanted women to think of Aveeno hair care products as representing such an opportunity.
The image of a wheat spike in the background. This image is meant to symbolize vitality, as if subtly implying: “the reason why Aveeno products will make you look beautiful is because they will make you younger”. As we all know, women never think of themselves as “old”, but rather as “growing ripe” (young) and as “waiting to be picked, while ripe” (mature).3 Therefore, the emotional appeal of this image appears to have universal subtleties, because it corresponds to subconscious anxieties of young and mature women.
Ad’s color gamma varies from greenish-yellow to green – besides symbolizing vitality; these colors also imply Aveeno products consisting of solely “organic” ingredients. In its turn, this automatically increases Aveeno products’ commercial appeal, especially given the fact that the members of targeted audience are assumed to be “sophisticated” White women, among which the concepts “new age”, “environmental friendliness” and “organic spirituality” have attained a particular popularity, during the course of recent years.4
The appeal to Logos is concerned with the process of audience’s members being prompted to rely on their sense of rationale, while assessing the validity of persuaders’ argument.5 Despite the fact that the strength of one’s logical argumentation should theoretically account for this argumentation’s overall effectiveness, a persuasive appeal to Logos appears to be the least capable of winning audiences, as compared to appeals to Ethos and Pathos, especially when the members of an audience consist of women. Nevertheless, the designers of:
Aveeno advertisement had made a point in endowing their ad with strongly defined appeal to Logos, even though they did adjust this appeal to unique characteristics of female psychology. Aveeno Nourish advertisement contains the following elements of an appeal to Logos: 1) The text “hair with life”, featured in the middle of an advertisement page, which actually asserts the validity of ad’s appeals to Ethos and Pathos in logically comprehensive form. In its turn, this is meant to downplay both appeals’ emotional essence, while encouraging targeted audience to think that ad’s ultimate message can be well discussed within a context of Logos.
The text “clinically shown to repair damage, nourishing limp, fine hair back to lush life”, which strengthens Aveeno shampoos’ appeal as being nothing short of scientifically designed products. Ad’s creators wanted to ensure targeted audience as to the fact that the effects of Aveeno shampoos’ usage on one’s hair are purely objective, because they are being scientifically predetermined.
While knowing perfectly well that women might wonder how the advertised effects are being achieved, ad’s designers have provided them with a logical explanation on how Aveeno shampoos work: “Active Naturals formulas harness the power of wheat”. The specifics of “wheat power harnessing” had not been mentioned, but there is no need in it – in potential buyers’ eyes, such explanation makes a perfectly logical sense.
The following is the hypothesis of how Aveeno’s ad is expected to trigger purchasing instincts in women:
Women become exposed to the image of “Aryan beauty” (appeal to Pathos), which automatically causes them to experience the full extent of their own physical inadequacy.
However, the majority of women are being quite incapable of recognizing a simple fact that their far-from-perfect looks had nothing to do with their inability to find a “perfect shampoo” up to this date. This is where ad’s appeal to Ethos comes into play – “limp hair is an old story” says the ad, while prompting women to think that, before she began using Aveeno products, “Aryan beauty” might have also been not quite as perfect.
After this, women get to read a “scientific” explanation as to how the application of Aveeno products to their hair would make it look shiny and beautiful – “Active Naturals formulas harness the power of wheat” (appeal to Logos), which removes the remaining doubts in their mind as to these products’ beatifying effectiveness.
1 – Schreiber, Scott. Aristotle on False Reasoning: Language and the World in the Sophistical Refutations. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2003. Print.
2 – Le Bon, Gustave. The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind. New York: Dover Publications, 2002. Print.
3 – Weininger, Otto. Sex and Character: An Investigation of Fundamental Principles. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, (1906)2005. Print.
4 – Goad, Jim. The Redneck Manifesto: How Hillbillies, Hicks, and White Trash Became America’s Scapegoats. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1998. Print.
5 – Gross, Alan. Rereading Aristotle’s Rhetoric. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2000. Print.