Advertisements often employ many different methods of persuading a potential consumer. The vast majority of persuasive methods can be classified into three modes. These modes are ethos, pathos, and logos. Ethos makes an appeal of character or personality. Pathos makes an appeal to the emotions. And logos appeals to reason or logic. This fascinating system of classification, first invented by Aristotle, remains valid even today. Let's explore how this system can be applied to a modern magazine advertisement.
First, I looked for an interesting advertisement to write about. I found an advertisement in a Muscle and Fitness magazine. The advertisement is for Vicks NyQuil. The advertisement itself is very, very simple. Roughly ninety percent of the advertisement is merely black, with small white text in the center, spelling out the words "All Night Long." At the bottom is a white border with the slogan "The best sleep you ever got with a cold... medicine." To the right are the top two thirds of a bottle of NyQuil. Very subtly written, in faint grey text, is the Proctor & Gamble copyright.
The advertisement alone may not make an appeal to any situated ethos, but given that NyQuil is owned by Proctor & Gamble, the name alone carries a huge reputation. Most people know that Proctor & Gamble is one of the top companies in the world.
However, the advertisement has enough invented ethos for an unfamiliar audience. It implies that if you've got a cold and cannot get to sleep, then this is a good product to take, because this product will alleviate the symptoms of a cold. Medicine of any kind has ethos of its own, simply because people trust medicines to work to cure ...
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...best you can get." By implying that the product is the best a person can get, NyQuil is subtly devaluing similar products offered by any competitor. As a result, NyQuil looks better than anything else available on the market. For bonus points, NyQuil achieves this goal without looking vindictive or drawing specific attention to other products. In other words, it achieves logos without creating negative pathos.
Finally, the message NyQuil is sending can be written as syllogism.
1: People with colds have a hard time sleeping
2: NyQuil helps people with colds sleep
3: Therefore, people with colds who wish to sleep should buy NyQuil
It's a very simple message, and one that comes across very clearly due to the nature of the advertisement's simplicity. All in the matter of seconds, the advertisement leaves the reader with a clear sense of what the product does.
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