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Advertising’s 15 Basic Appeals

Advertising’s 15 Basic Appeals, by Jib Fowles
(from “Mass Advertising As Social Forecast”)

1. Need for sex- surprisingly, Fowles found that only 2 percent of the television ads, he surveyed used this appeal. It may be too blatant, he concluded, and often detracts from the product.
2. Need for affiliation- the largest number of ads use this approach: you are looking for friendship? Advertisers can also use this negatively, to make you worry that you’ll lose friends if you don’t use a certain product.
3. Need to nurture- every time you see a puppy or a kitten or a child, the appeal is to your paternal or maternal instincts.
4. Need for guidance- a father or mother figure can appeal to your desire for someone to care for you, s you won’t have to worry. Betty Crocker is a good example.
5. Need to aggress- we all have had a desire to get even, and some ads give you this satisfaction.
6. Need to achieve- the ability to accomplish something difficult and succeed identifies the product with winning. Sports figures as spokespersons project this image.
7. Need to dominate- the power we lack is what we can look for in a commercial “master the possibilities.”
8. Need for prominence- we want to be admired and respected; to have high social status. Tasteful china and classic diamonds offer this potential.
9. Need for attention- we want people to notice us; we want to be looked at. Cosmetics are a natural for this approach.
10. Need for autonomy- within a crowded environment, we want to be singled out, to be a “breed apart.” This can also be used negatively: you may be left out if you don’t use a particular product
11. Need to escape- flight is very appealing; you can imagine adventures you cannot have; the idea of escape is pleasurable
12. Need to feel safe- to be free from threats, to be secure is the appeal of many insurance and bank ads
13. Need for aesthetic sensations-beauty attracts us, and classic art or dance makes us feel creative, enhanced
14. Need to satisfy curiosity-facts support our belief that information is quantifiable and numbers and diagrams make our choices seem scientific
15. Psychological needs- Fowles defines sex (item no.1) as a biological need, and so he classifies our need to sleep, eat, and drink in this category. Advertisers for juicy pizza are especially appealing late at night.

Source: Media Impact Introduction to Mass Media (4th Ed) Author: Shirley Biagi, Wadsworth

Suggestions: Why Analyze Ads?
Classroom teaching aid, pro bono publico, from Persuasion Analysis | © 2007 by Hugh Rank | More at http://faculty.govst.edu/pa
Ads aren’t going to disappear. During your whole life, you are going to be the target audience of many different kinds of persuaders (commercial, political, social, religious). Television is the main marketplace in our society. See yourself as being in the middle of a noisy marketplace: but, recognize that while some sellers may be loud, shrill, and annoying — other sellers may be soft, sweet, and seductive. In a free society, you should expect (and appreciate) so many different persuaders, commercial and political. Learn as much as you can about common patterns used by all, so your choices are more informed.
Analyzing ads is the easiest way to learn about all persuasion techniques. Ads are usually seen in carefully crafted packages (30-second spots on TV; in print, on pages) with coherent messages, involving simple transactions (“buy this”). Other kinds of persuasion (political, social, religious) are harder to analyze because the subjects are more complex, the emotional issues are more involving, and we experience them in bits and fragments (in headlines, TV news, in random discussions) often edited by others. Many ideas here can be applied to other persuaders, but try to analyze ads first.
Ads are designed to be remembered. When kids claim that they “know all about an ad,” they are partially right. Most kids are very good at remembering the surface: not only the brand name (including slogans, jingles, symbols, packaging), but also the little details about the characters, actions, dialogue, backgrounds, catch phrases, sound bites, and visual images. When talking about ads, many kids often focus on the sequence of the obvious surface story (“First this… Next… Then”), simply retelling the message as presented by the advertisers, often unaware of the external creators and their techniques.
Ads are designed to be replayed. Most kids are able to echo the exact words (often imitating voice tone, gestures), to sing the jingles, to hum the music, to re-enact the scene and situation of ads directed at them. Such replays of any fragment associated with an ad is enough to trigger a memory of the whole ad. Even when such parroting is used humorously to mock or mimic, it still shows that the message has been noticed and received by an audience.
Ads are designed to be liked. Most ads (targeted at us) are fun, entertaining, enjoyable, not boring, fast paced, well made, with good “production values” (acting, camera work, editing). Ads are interesting, often humorous or emotionally involving. Ads appeal to our fantasies and daydreams.
Ads are designed to offer us benefits we want (popularity, excitement, fun, esteem, sex appeal) by becoming like the people who appear in ads and use the products (nice clothes, good times, entertainments, sweets and treats).
Ads don’t scold. Nobody likes to be yelled at. Unlike parents and teachers who often require hard work, obedience, rules, and discipline (“for your own good”), ads tell kids what they want to hear. Ads flatter us, praise our good taste, and are “on our side.”
Ads are the most commonly-shared “stories” in our society. Neither novels nor movies, nor TV programs nor sports, are as known and widespread as ads. Everyone now has a vast “library” of ads within their memories, a common consciousness, a shared experience, a way of bonding with others. Kids talk about ads at school, in classrooms and hallways, on the bus, and at home.

The 30-Second-Spot Quiz … a “fingertip formula” useful to analyze ads
Ask these 5 questions, based on “The Pitch”
Classroom teaching aid, pro bono publico, from Persuasion Analysis| ©2008 by Hugh Rank | http://faculty.govst.edu/pa

-GETTING techniques are used within the ad?
Anything unusual? about:

Senses? (motion, music, sounds, visuals, graphics)

Emotions? associations with sex, nature, fun, pets, family (see Audience-Centered list, 24, in center column) >>>

Thought? humor, news, stories, questions, advice, lists & displays, lead-ins, demonstrations, claims & promises, “breaking rules”

TV programs (& other media) function as the external attention-getters designed to “deliver the audience” to the ads.

Most ads now are targeted at specific audiences which you can infer by when and where the ads appear.
Multiple, simultaneous attention-getters, product claims, and emotional associations (see #3) are common. Don’t restrict your analysis into one category. 2.What CONFIDENCE
-BUILDING techniques are used?
Do you recognize (from past repetition) the brand? logo? the company?

Are any confidence words used? (e.g. trust, safe, honest).

Are any nonverbals? (smile, soothing voice, friendly, sincere look)

Do you know, like, or trust the presenters? – the actors, endorsers.

Are they “authority figures”? (someone expert, wise, caring, protective); or are they “friend figures”? (someone you’d like as a friend, admire, or like to be – on your side)
EXPLICIT CLAIMS ARE RARE in all categories. Commonly, these ideas are IMPLICIT, suggested or implied , by the visual associations.
VISUALS IMPLY. As viewers, we
“co-create.” Sometimes, we “jump to conclusions,” or visuals can “put words into our mouth” without ever explicitly making a claim. 3. What DESIRE-STIMULATING techniques are used?
Who is the “target audience”? Are you?

What’s the basic benefit sought? Protection, Relief, Prevention, or Acquisition,

Is the ad product-centered? (12 common claims: Quality, Quantity, Efficiency, Scarcity, Novelty, Stability, Reliability, Simplicity, Utility, Rapidity, Safety.)

Is the ad audience-centered? (appealing to emotions, using the association technique to link (1) the product with “good things” (2) already liked, or desired by (3) the target audience.

24 common needs, desires often suggested in ads: Basic needs (Food, Activity, Surroundings, Sex, Health, Security, Economy); Certitude, or approval needs (Religion, Science, “Best People,” “Most People,” “Average People”); Space or territory needs (Nature, Neighborhood, Nation); Belonging needs (Groups, Intimacy, Family );”Growth” needs (Esteem ,Generosity, Curiosity, Creativity, Play, Success). 4. What URGENCY-STRESSING techniques are used?
If an urgency appeal, what words are used? (e.g. Offer Expires, Rush, Now, Deadline, Last Chance, One Day Only)

Any nonverbals? (e.g. ticking clock, staccato sounds, quick tempo in music, countdown).
Not all ads use urgency appeals, but always check for them.

If no urgency appeal, is this “soft sell” part of a product’s long-term ad campaign? – based on repetition for name recognition of a brand name, standard product, or established store; or association using product placement (within movies, TV programs); providing celebrities with free gifts (clothes, cars).
Corporate image-building (“feel good”ads) are so often “proud sponsors” associated with good causes (charity fundraisers, PBS programs) that “greenwashing” commonly describes these corporate conditioning campaigns. 5.What RESPONSE
– SEEKING techniques
are used?
Are there specific triggering words used? e.g. To buy? (buy, choose, select); To take the 1st step? (Visit, Come in, Ask your Doctor, Call 1-800, Click); To use the product? (Drink, Taste, Experience, Enjoy) ; to get the benefit? (get, protect, prevent, relieve) Most ads will use some common verbs, but…
If no specific response is sought, is it part of a “soft sell” (long term, repetition) for a standard consumer product? Or a store?

Or, if the ad is not about a consumer product, is it a “feel good” ad — an “image-building” ad: PR, public relations to make us “feel good” about an industry (e.g. defense contractors, energy, oil, pharmaceuticals) or a specific corporation to get favorable public opinion on their side in any controversial issues (e.g. upcoming legislation, lower corporate taxes, less government regulations).

Now or later, immediate or delayed, persuaders always seek some kind of response!
This 1-2-3-4-5 “fingertip formula” describes the most common pattern of “the Pitch” in advertising.
Try it: 1. Hi — 2. Trust Me — 3. You Need — 4. Hurry — 5. Buy

What’s Wrong With Advertising?

Intrusion (“too many ads…”)
Deception (ads lie, mislead, deceive)
Nutrition (ads for unhealthy “junk foods” promote a national obesity crisis)
Offensive (ads offend women, minorities. ethnic groups, religion)
Personal Problems (ads contribute to debt cycle, family stress, poor self-image)

Other critics deal with the indirect and less obvious “hidden harms” of ads, such as: psychological harm to the individual and the family; or long-term, cumulative harms related to materialism, waste, environmental destruction, and social injustice.

Materialism (religious and secular critiques)
Environmental Problems (consumption, waste)
Social Justice (Issues relating to affluence and poverty; “Haves” and “Have-Nots”)

What’s Right with Advertising?

Nobody complains about the benefits, the good aspects, of advertising.
The value of the information (“new products … new services”)
The entertainment (“clever ads… humorous… cute… interesting”) received.
Creative people might even mention the advanced techniques — the “high production values ” — used to get attention.
However, in a wider scope, advertising (for better or worse) has a major economic role in modern society.
An engine of economic growth.
It raises capital, creates jobs and spurs production.
It launches new products, provides consumer information and furthers competition, thereby lowering consumer prices.
It increases government revenues since jobs produce taxable income, and greater sales increase sales taxes.

The Language of Advertising Claims
by Jeffrey Schrank
All or most of the brands available are nearly identical. Since no one superior product exists, advertising is used to create the illusion of superiority. The largest advertising budgets are devoted to parity products such as gasoline, cigarettes, beer and soft drinks, soaps, and various headache and cold remedies.
The first rule of parity involves the Alice in Wonderlandish use of the words “better” and “best.” In parity claims, “better” means “best” and “best” means “equal to.” If all the brands are identical, they must all be equally good, the legal minds have decided. So “best” means that the product is as good as the other superior products in its category. When Bing Crosby declares Minute Maid Orange Juice “the best there is” he means it is as good as the other orange juices you can buy.
The word “better” has been legally interpreted to be a comparative and therefore becomes a clear claim of superiority. Bing could not have said that Minute Maid is “better than any other orange juice.” “Better” is a claim of superiority. The only time “better” can be used is when a product does indeed have superiority over other products in its category or when the better is used to compare the product with something other than competing brands. An orange juice could therefore claim to be “better than a vitamin pill,” or even “the better breakfast drink.”
The second rule of advertising claims is simply that if any product is truly superior, the ad will say so very clearly and will offer some kind of convincing evidence of the superiority. If an ad hedges the least bit about a product’s advantage over the competition you can strongly suspect it is not superior–may be equal to but not better. You will never hear a gasoline company say “we will give you four miles per gallon more in your care than any other brand.” They would love to make such a claim, but it would not be true. Gasoline is a parity product, and, in spite of some very clever and deceptive ads of a few years ago, no one has yet claimed one brand of gasoline better than any other brand.
To create the necessary illusion of superiority, advertisers usually resort to one or more of the following ten basic techniques. Each is common and easy to identify.

A weasel word is a modifier that practically negates the claim that follows. The expression “weasel word” is aptly named after the egg-eating habits of weasels. A weasel will suck out the inside of an egg, leaving it appear intact to the casual observer. Upon examination, the egg is discovered to be hollow. Words or claims that appear substantial upon first look but disintegrate into hollow meaninglessness on analysis are weasels. Commonly used weasel words include “helps” (the champion weasel); “like” (used in a comparative sense); “virtual” or “virtually”; “acts” or “works”; “can be”; “up to”; “as much as”; “refreshes”; “comforts”; “tackles”; “fights”; “come on”; “the feel of”; “the look of”; “looks like”; “fortified”; “enriched”; and “strengthened.”
Samples of Weasel Claims
“Helps control dandruff symptoms with regular use.” The weasels include “helps control,” and possibly even “symptoms” and “regular use.” The claim is not “stops dandruff.”
“Leaves dishes virtually spotless.” We have seen so many ad claims that we have learned to tune out weasels. You are supposed to think “spotless,” rather than “virtually” spotless.
“Only half the price of many color sets.” “Many” is the weasel. The claim is supposed to give the impression that the set is inexpensive.
“Tests confirm one mouthwash best against mouth odor.”
“Hot Nestlés cocoa is the very best.” Remember the “best” and “better” routine.
“Listerine fights bad breath.” “Fights,” not “stops.”
“Lots of things have changed, but Hershey’s goodness hasn’t.” This claim does not say that Hershey’s chocolate hasn’t changed.
“Bacos, the crispy garnish that tastes just like its name.”
The unfinished claim is one in which the ad claims the product is better, or has more of something, but does not finish the comparison.
Samples of Unfinished Claims
“Magnavox gives you more.” More what?
“Anacin: Twice as much of the pain reliever doctors recommend most.” This claim fits in a number of categories but it does not say twice as much of what pain reliever.
“Supergloss does it with more color, more shine, more sizzle, more!”
“Coffee-mate gives coffee more body, more flavor.” Also note that “body” and “flavor” are weasels.
“You can be sure if it’s Westinghouse.” Sure of what?
“Scott makes it better for you.”
“Ford LTD–700% quieter.”
When the FTC asked Ford to substantiate this claim, Ford revealed that they meant the inside of the Ford was 700% quieter than the outside.
This kind of claim states that there is nothing else quite like the product being advertised. For example, if Schlitz would add pink food coloring to its beer they could say, “There’s nothing like new pink Schlitz.” The uniqueness claim is supposed to be interpreted by readers as a claim to superiority.
Samples of the “We’re Different and Unique” Claim
“There’s no other mascara like it.”
“Only Doral has this unique filter system.”
“Cougar is like nobody else’s car.”
“Either way, liquid or spray, there’s nothing else like it.”
“If it doesn’t say Goodyear, it can’t be polyglas.” “Polyglas” is a trade name copyrighted by Goodyear. Goodrich or Firestone could make a tire exactly identical to the Goodyear one and yet couldn’t call it “polyglas”–a name for fiberglass belts.
“Only Zenith has chromacolor.” Same as the “polyglas” gambit. Admiral has solarcolor and RCA has accucolor.
“Water is wet” claims say something about the product that is true for any brand in that product category, (for example, “Schrank’s water is really wet.”) The claim is usually a statement of fact, but not a real advantage over the competition.
Samples of the “Water is Wet” Claim
“Mobil: the Detergent Gasoline.” Any gasoline acts as a cleaning agent.
“Great Lash greatly increases the diameter of every lash.”
“Rheingold, the natural beer.” Made from grains and water as are other beers.
“SKIN smells differently on everyone.” As do many perfumes.
This is the kind of claim to which the careful reader will react by saying “So What?” A claim is made which is true but which gives no real advantage to the product. This is similar to the “water is wet” claim except that it claims an advantage which is not shared by most of the other brands in the product category.
Samples of the “So What” Claim
“Geritol has more than twice the iron of ordinary supplements.” But is twice as much beneficial to the body?
“Campbell’s gives you tasty pieces of chicken and not one but two chicken stocks.” Does the presence of two stocks improve the taste?
“Strong enough for a man but made for a woman.” This deodorant claims says only that the product is aimed at the female market.
The vague claim is simply not clear. This category often overlaps with others. The key to the vague claim is the use of words that are colorful but meaningless, as well as the use of subjective and emotional opinions that defy verification. Most contain weasels.
Samples of the Vague Claim
“Lips have never looked so luscious.” Can you imagine trying to either prove or disprove such a claim?
“Lipsavers are fun–they taste good, smell good and feel good.”
“Its deep rich lather makes hair feel good again.”
“For skin like peaches and cream.”
“The end of meatloaf boredom.”
“Take a bite and you’ll think you’re eating on the Champs Elysées.”
“Winston tastes good like a cigarette should.”
“The perfect little portable for all around viewing with all the features of higher priced sets.”
“Fleishman’s makes sensible eating delicious.”
A celebrity or authority appears in an ad to lend his or her stellar qualities to the product. Sometimes the people will actually claim to use the product, but very often they don’t. There are agencies surviving on providing products with testimonials.
Samples of Endorsements or Testimonials
“Joan Fontaine throws a shot-in-the-dark party and her friends learn a thing or two.”
“Darling, have you discovered Masterpiece? The most exciting men I know are smoking it.” (Eva Gabor)
This kind of ad uses some sort of scientific proof or experiment, very specific numbers, or an impressive sounding mystery ingredient.
Samples of Scientific or Statistical Claims
“Wonder Break helps build strong bodies 12 ways.” Even the weasel “helps” did not prevent the FTC from demanding this ad be withdrawn. But note that the use of the number 12 makes the claim far more believable than if it were taken out.
“Easy-Off has 33% more cleaning power than another popular brand.” “Another popular brand” often translates as some other kind of oven cleaner sold somewhere. Also the claim does not say Easy-Off works 33% better.
“Special Morning–33% more nutrition.” Also an unfinished claim.
“Certs contains a sparkling drop of Retsyn.”
“ESSO with HTA.”
“Sinarest. Created by a research scientist who actually gets sinus headaches.”
This kind of claim butters up the consumer by some form of flattery.
Samples of the “Compliment the Consumer” Claim
“We think a cigar smoker is someone special.”
“If what you do is right for you, no matter what others do, then RC Cola is right for you.”
“You pride yourself on your good home cooking….”
“The lady has taste.”
“You’ve come a long way, baby.”
This technique demands a response from the audience. A question is asked and the viewer or listener is supposed to answer in such a way as to affirm the product’s goodness.
Samples of the Rhetorical Question
“Plymouth–isn’t that the kind of car America wants?”
“Shouldn’t your family be drinking Hawaiian Punch?”
“What do you want most from coffee? That’s what you get most from Hills.”
“Touch of Sweden: could your hands use a small miracle?”

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