•Most people believe advertising doesn’t influence
their choices … yet advertising is a multi-million dollar
•Businesses spend money on advertising because IT
•Advertising influences us to buy products even when
we don’t realize we’re being influenced.
•All advertising works on the basic principle of making
us WANT something, even if we don’t NEED it.
•Often, there’s no logical reason to purchase one
product over another. Advertisers use a variety of
strategies to convince consumers to buy their product
•These techniques aren’t just used by advertisers trying
to sell a product. They’re also used by non-profit and
government agencies who want to promote a particular
•Media strategies are ways to get people to pay
attention to your message and/or your product.
Advertisers use many different techniques to convince
people to buy their products. For example: SEX.
The suggestion is clear: buy the suit; get the sexy girl.
Watch the video that follows and see if you can figure
out what product it’s selling.
Did you get it?
It was selling watches. Notice how often the video
includes a close-up on the watches people are wearing
while they’re getting busy with what appear to be sexy
American Apparel has been criticized for using semi-
nude models who appear to be underage girls …
…although the company claims all the models are
actually over 18.
There’s no doubt that “sex sells,” making a product
appear “sexy” or attractive even when there’s no logical
connection between the product and sexuality.
However, advertisers have to be careful about when,
where and how they use sex in advertising, as it can
create a backlash.
Much depends on how the ad is perceived by the
target audience – for example, an ad that is appealing
to teenage boys may be seen as very offensive by their
mothers., who may be the ones spending the money.
Advertisers also need to be aware of community
standards – for example, female nudity is acceptable in
TV ads in Europe, but not in North America.
Advertisers know that consumers are aware of vague claims and similar
tricks. Ads may make fun of these claims to make us laugh, as with this
ad for “New” Shreddies.
Amazingly, this ad actually WORKED to increase sales of Shreddies – and
won a major advertising award.
Humour in advertising can have the effect of making
a product more memorable and giving consumers
positive associations with the product … as with
another ad that revitalized interest in an older,
“classic” product and became a viral YouTube
The use of sex appeal and humour in
ads is closely linked to the use of
emotional appeals – connecting the
cause or product to things we feel
Are you proud to be a Canadian? Do
you love your country? Watch the
following video …
I don’t even drink beer and this ad
makes me want to buy Molson (well,
kind of). That’s the beauty of
If beer doesn’t do it for you, maybe
coffee will. Watch the video that
follows for another twist on the
“products Canadians love” concept.
See how emotional appeals work?
The Molson “I Am Canadian” ad, and the Tim Horton’s
“Welcome to Canada” ad don’t give any factual
information to convince you that Molson is better than
other beers, or that Tim’s products are better than
those of other coffee shops.
Rather, the ads work by associating the product with
something most people already feel positive about –
In the case of the Molson ad, humour is also used, and
in the Tim Horton’s ad, there’s an additional emotional
appeal to the love of family as we see the family
reunited after being apart.
Advertisers don’t just use sex,
humour and patriotism…
Advertisers will use images of people having fun at
parties, beautiful landscapes, babies, puppies …
…even if these things have NO connection to the
product they’re selling.
Positive images become connected in our minds with
the produce that’s being sold.
For example, the use of cute or cartoon characters is a
kind of emotional appeal that makes us associate the
product with the positive feelings we have for the
So we see kittens used to sell toilet paper,
and a fun cartoon captain selling cereal
Soft, white and fluffy, sure
… but do you want to wipe
your butt with a cat?
“Ahoy, kiddies! Let’s set sail
for the magical land of
Type 2 Diabetes!”
With all these kinds of appeals…
…the point is, advertisers don’t want you to think
about it too much.
They work to create a positive association with
their product, and hope that you’ll enjoy the
positive feelings without analyzing the connection
Advertisers aren’t the only ones to use emotional
appeals, and emotional appeals aren’t always
Notice these two different uses of
Ads for beer and alcohol
often use positive images
of fun with friends.
This public service ad by
MADD uses that idea to create
a different emotional impact.
A public service message might even choose
to target a specific advertisment …
This parody of a cigarette ad, from the Calfornia Health Dept., uses
humour, emotional appeals and shock appeal to question the “manly”
image of cigarette smoking, and draw attention to a real-life
consequence: lung diseases.
“Shock value” makes use of a startling or graphic
image to make a point and draw attention to a
product or message.
This New Zealand highway ad turns red when it rains, creating the
impression of a bleeding child to remind motorists to slow down in the
rain and avoid accidents.
Some advertisers use “snob appeal,” trying to
market themselves to wealthy customers – or
those who want to live like they’re wealthy.
“Plain Folks” appeal
The opposite of snob appeal is “plain folks” appeal – selling
your product to people who take pride in thinking of
themselves as just ordinary, average people.
The following ad suggests that good, hardworking,
ordinary family men will want to buy a truck like the one
this ad is selling …
Of course, “plain folks” ads, like
other media strategies, are pretty
easy to make fun of … even if the
purpose is just to get a laugh rather
than to make a serious point.
(to see what I mean, watch the next
Individuals can also be used to
promote products or messages
This can take the form of
or “testimonials” from
A “bandwagon appeal” suggests you should
do/buy something because everyone else is
Advertisers also like to use facts,
science and statistics
This is sort of the opposite of the emotional appeal:
the focus is on logical reason why the product or
service is better for you and you should buy/use it.
But don’t be fooled! It’s very easy to manipulate
statistics to say what you want them to say, or for a
business to find or fund a study that supports what
Sometimes, what appear to be factual, scientific claims
can in fact be vague or downright misleading. Do your
research – don’t believe everything an ad tells you.
As this 1930s cigarette ad reminds us: just because an ad looks
and sounds science-y doesn’t mean it’s telling you the truth!
Advertisers make many claims about their products,
but what do these claims actually mean?
Saying a product is “better” or offers “more” is
meaningless without telling us – better than what?
more than what?
“Water is wet” claims: Saying something about a
product that’s true for every product of that type – for
example, saying a cereal is “made with the goodness of
grain.” What else would a cereal be made with?
“So what” claims: Claims that are true, but don’t
actually make the product any better than any other.
“Has more than twice the iron of other supplements!”
OK, but is twice the iron actually better for you?
Advertisers may use
like “virtually,” “helps control,” or “up to.” These words allow
advertisings to make BIG claims for their product, then
undercut the claims if they’re not quite true.
Take a closer look at this ad…
Can you read the fine print at the bottom?
It says: “Removes up to 100% of visible dandruff flakes. Claim
based on the visibility of flakes at two-foot distance when used
regularly.” If a consumer says “I used this shampoo and I still
have dandruff!” the advertiser can point to the “weasel words.”
The use of vague claims, weasel words, and scientific appeals means
that companies can claim a product is “environmentally friendly”
without having a lot to back up that claim. Many consumers will just
grab the green package and feel good about themselves, without
reading the fine print to see “How is this product really helping the
Similar claims are made for products being
“healthy” and “nutritious” …
However, these claims can also backfire
as the makers of Nutella just found out.
They got sued for claiming their product was a healthy
breakfast food, when in fact it has about the same
nutritional content as CHOCOLATE ICING. True story.
•Whether it’s a company wanting you to buy their product, or a
non-profit organization wanting you to support their cause,
everyone uses media to communicate a message.
•Media strategies aren’t necessarily bad; they’re just tools that
people and businesses use to communicate.
•But often, these strategies can be misleading.
•As a smart consumer, you owe it to yourself to be aware of
media strategies. Notice when someone’s selling you something,
whether it’s a product or a message, and what kind of appeals
•When you understand the tools that are being used to
persuade you, you can make smarter decisions.