FIRST DRAFT - Rhetorical Analysis Essay


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FIRST DRAFT - Rhetorical Analysis Essay

  1. 1. PILLOW PETS AD RHETORICAL ANALYSIS 1 Rhetorical Analysis of a Pillow Pets Commercial Maxine Clark Endicott College Van Loan School of Professional and Graduate Studies
  2. 2. PILLOW PETS AD RHETORICAL ANALYSIS 2 AbstractAlthough the As Seen on TV concept has been around for decades, with virtually hundreds ofproducts marketed using the ubiquitous logo, the advent of the internet coupled with televisioninfomercials has had a powerful effect on the marketing and sales strategies employed to sellthese types of products. One of them is the Pillow Pet. Who among us hasnt seen a commercialfor Pillow Pets and thought to ourselves, "Now why didnt I think of that?" That is because theidea for the Pillow Pet came from Jennifer Telfer, an ordinary mother of two boys who noticedthat her children "smashed down their stuffed animals in order to sleep on them." Telfermodified the idea to create the Pillow Pet. ( Pillow Pets commercial on YouTube one example of many products for children thatleverage this type of television-internet, one-two punch strategy of advertising. This paper laysout a rhetorical analysis of a recent Pillow Pets commercial by exploring the marketing strategiesemployed to create appeal for children and parents.
  3. 3. PILLOW PETS AD RHETORICAL ANALYSIS 3 Rhetorical Analysis of a Pillow Pets Commercial The advertising industry is self-regulated, with guidelines recommended by theChildrens Advertising Review Unit of the Council of Better Business Bureaus (CARU),established to protect the interests of children from inappropriate and predatory advertisingstrategies and marketing campaigns. While the networks have collaboratively implementedsimilar standards closely resembling those of CARUs, independent cable television stationsdecide for themselves which guidelines to follow. CARUs internet regulations are even lessstringent than those for television, but nevertheless, some regulation has been put into place todefine what is ethical and what crosses the line. (AEF, 2005; Calvert, 2008; Shah, 2010) According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (2005), the average child watchesabout four hours of television a day and sees more than 20,000 commercials each year. "In 2000alone, U.S. toy companies spent more than $837 million on advertising their products." (Shah,2010, ). Pillow Pets have been around since 2003 (, and havesteadily built their brand through carefully crafted advertisements which appeal to children of allages and genders, as well as their parents. "What began with the simple goal of transforming asimple stuffed animal into a functional item for children has grown into an amazing jungle ofpopular retail and wholesale products." (http:/ The widespread allure of the Pillow Pet is the key to its success, as evidenced by theirsuccessful internet commercial. It hits all the right notes, including the "Four Ps" of marketingwhich include product, place, price and promotion. (Calvert, 2008, p. 206) The ad incorporates"production features like lively action and sounds designed to grab a childs attention" (Calvert,2008) For example, consider the upbeat, female voice used in describing the Pillow Pet. Themarketers message is delivered loud and clear, via a pleasant female voice, possibly of a mother
  4. 4. PILLOW PETS AD RHETORICAL ANALYSIS 4who knows what a child wants and needs, who also understands that parents need justification tobuy a pillow pet for their child. "In the U.S., research from the American PsychologicalAssociation (APA) shows that children under the age of eight are unable to criticallycomprehend televised advertising messages and are prone to accept advertiser messages astruthful, accurate and unbiased." (Shah, 2010) The fact that the marketers know this is clearlyevident in the ad by the kind, but authoritative tone of the speaker, not asking or commanding,but firmly directing viewers to "say hello to the Pillow Pet." Consider next that the ad incorporates a cheerful, repetitive, catchy jingle which builds"familiarity with the product and, therefore, increases the probability of purchasing and using it."(Calvert, 2008, p. 208) Also according to Calvert (2008), "Studies have found that children agedthree to eight were more attentive to commercials that were higher in audio than in videocomplexity." The message used in the jingle is direct and easy for a child to understand. It issung by a group of children and quite simply states, "Its a pillow. Its a pet. Its a Pillow Pet." Asmentioned, a strategy to get a childs attention is use of repetition. (Calvert, 2008) During thecourse of the commercial, children are shown hugging, stroking or sleeping on their Pillow Petsthirty-three times. Of course, there is more than one form of repetition going on as it relates tothe ad itself. Another method of repetition not featured in the commercial, but used by thecompany, includes repeating the commercial during a single commercial break or throughout asingle program to reinforce the message. (Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade andConsumer Protection, 2004) Toy advertisements are notorious for exaggerating a toys performance, and the PillowPet commercial is no exception. For adults, a Pillow Pet is obviously not a pet, but for a childyoung child, it is quite possible that the Pillow Pet could be construed as an actual pet. The
  5. 5. PILLOW PETS AD RHETORICAL ANALYSIS 5photography shows the pets Velcro straps being torn open by smiling, children, all between theages of two and approximately six or seven. Interestingly, Calvert (2008) suggests it is during thestage of preoperational thought, roughly from age two to age seven, in which young children useanimistic thinking, believing that imaginary events and characters can be real. Given the imagesprojected in the ad, and particularly one sequence showing Pillow Pets popping open, it is easy tomiss the swift, almost undetectable hand, moving in and out of each frame to unfasten the Velcrostrap. The attention-grabbing technique of using animated stars and magical-sounding chimesonly adds to the enchanted effect. (Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and ConsumerProtection, 2004) And as if all of that doesnt evoke an emotional response from a child, the addirects consumers to "adopt your Pillow Pet today," as if the Pillow Pet were a real animal. Between the ages of three and seven, children gradually draw clearer distinctionsbetween what is real and what is imaginary, and their attention can be held longer. (Chandler,1997) This is also usually the time they make their first independent purchase. These childrenhave become increasingly attractive to marketers because they have their own significant sourcesof income acquired through allowances and gifts. (Calvert, 2008) To that end, when it comes tothe language used to market the Pillow Pet, the advertisers speak directly to the child consumerin their own language. They bombard children with adjectives normally used in reference tostuffed toys such as cute, huggable, soft, and cuddly, concurrently reinforcing the message byflashing the words "soft and cuddly" on the screen. This technique is replicated several timesthroughout the advertisement, with expressions displayed across in a kid-friendly font, eachfollowed by an exclamation mark. Following this, the ad shows a hand smoothing the pastelchenille fabric to still further emphasize this message through visual means.
  6. 6. PILLOW PETS AD RHETORICAL ANALYSIS 6 Marketers understand the need child consumers have for something new, for acceptance,for being noticed, for change, to become attractive, and for the ideal family and ideal kids. Thebandwagon approach is used as "a form of propaganda that exploits the desire of most people tojoin the crowd or be on the winning side." (Management Style Guide, 2008) The advertisementmakes use of this strategy informing viewers that "over a million kids are already enjoying theirvery own Pillow Pet," and panning to a shot of some girls at a sleepover party, each laying on aPillow Pet. This could easily lead young children to think that in order to fit in with their peers,they will need a Pillow Pet too. An effective marketing technique that appeals to both parents and children is use ofdiversity. This is achieved by incorporating different races and nationalities into the imaginary toreflect the products universal appeal. The Pillow Pets advertisement scored well in this categoryby representing several races and nationalities as well as both genders. "When it comes togender, toys for girls are generally presented in an indoor setting with an adult present, whiletoys ads directed at boys typically show the toy in an outdoor setting, with a boy playing withoutadult supervision." (Nzegwu, 2000) The Pillow Pets commercial stays true to form by clearlydefining the gender characteristics of each Pillow Pet based on the setting. The masculine PillowPets were all filmed outdoors, with the green frog and the brown dog both photographed ongrass. The brown monkey that looked to be climbing a tree was later shown being held by a littleboy in a tree. In contrast, the decidedly feminine, light purple unicorn and the pink pig were bothlocated on beds featuring pastel linens. The advertisements messages to adults address moms and grandparents, noticeablycircumventing dads. In a shot showing a girl enjoying a game of dress-up and tea party with herPillow Pet, the ad appeals to overworked parents by describing it as "fun and easy," implying
  7. 7. PILLOW PETS AD RHETORICAL ANALYSIS 7that an adults help or involvement will not be needed when their child plays with their pillowpet. The same message is communicated during a scene in which a toddler boy unfastens hisPillow Pet without any help. These are both shrewd tactics given todays economic pressuresrequire households to work many more hours to support themselves than in the past, detractingfrom parents time for their children. In the same vein, this ad puts pressure on those sameoverworked parents to respond to their childs desire to assuage their guilt. In other words, thePillow Pets advertisement effectively "makes kids want what they dont need and puts a lot ofpressure on parents to respond to those needs." (Shah, 2010) In their appeal to adults, the Pillow Pet marketers incorporate language that speaks toparents pragmatism, emphasizing the Pillow Pets versatility when it comes to "playtime, sleeptime, or anytime." Reason and logic are further drawn upon with phrases such as "great for kidsof all ages" paired with a image of teens hanging out on bed, followed by another scene of atoddler reaching out for her Pillow Pet. The advertisement suggests that the Pillow Pet is "perfectfor the overnight trips to Grandmas house," an idea supported by a sequence of pajamas beingfolded into the Pillow Pet. Additionally, phrases such as "this is a pillow that your child orgrandchild will use every night," and "its a pet with a purpose," reinforce the rationale. As theword "durability" flashes across the screen, a pair of hands pries at the stitching to demonstratethe quality of the product. Another message aimed at parents is of a woman putting a Pillow Petinto a washing machine while the narration describes the Pillow Pet as "machine washable." Andif all of that isnt enough to convince an adult to buy a Pillow Pet, consider the price. It is hard toargue that it is "the perfect $20 gift for any special occasion." According to Calvert (2008), "Before they reach the age of eight, children believe that thepurpose of commercials to help them in their purchasing decisions; they are unaware that
  8. 8. PILLOW PETS AD RHETORICAL ANALYSIS 8commercials are designed to persuade them to buy specific products." A typical televisionadvertisement in the U.S. is thirty seconds, but the Pillow Pets commercial two minutes long.Although on the surface it would appear an advertisement of this length risks losing childsinterest, studies have shown that two-year olds do not recognize the beginnings and endings ofprograms, and children between the ages of five and eight continue to pay attention to whencommercials come on. At first glance, the Pillow Pet commercial looks amateur and cheap.However, when viewed through the lenses of logos, ethos, and a great deal of pathos, the PillowPet advertisement is very persuasive to both children and adults.
  9. 9. PILLOW PETS AD RHETORICAL ANALYSIS 9 ReferencesAdvertising Educational Foundation. (2005). Advertising to children. Retrieved from, S. (2008). Children as consumers: advertising and marketing. The Future of Children, Vol. 18, No. 1. Retrieved from j=32&articleid=62&sectionid=304Chandler, D. (1997). Childrens understanding of what is "real" on television: a review of literature. Retrieved from, L. (2007, Jan 19). When toys take over. The Guardian. Retrieved from Study Guide. (2008). Advertising techniques - 13 most common techniques used by the advertisers. Retrieved from techniques.htmNzegwu, U. (2000, May 15). Gender in toy commercials. Retrieved from, A. (2010, November 21). Children as consumers. Retrieved from Speaker Presentation Online Web site: Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. (2004). Toy ads on television. Retrieved from