COMMON PERSUASIVE TECHNIQUES USED BY ADVERTISERS AND OTHERS
IT’S PROPAGANDA IF IT’S USED AGAINST YOU; IT’S PERSUASION IF IT’S USED BY YOU…..
QUESTIONS TO ASK IN JUDGING AND EVALUATING PROPAGANDA
What do the propagandists really say?
Why do they say it?
What technique or techniques of propaganda are being used?
How true or false is this statement or presentation?
Shall we believe or be moved by it? Shall we "buy" the "commodity"? Why or why not?
1 NAME CALLING - Using a negative term to create a negative emotional attitude for an individual or
thing. Calling a person or group a bad name. (Some examples: Communist, Reactionary, Red, Capitalist, moron,
egghead, fellow-traveler.) These Name-Calling words are usually used emotionally, inaccurately, without proof, and have often ruined reputations
2 GLITTERING GENERALITY - Exaggerating the merits of a product using general, unsupported and
often meaningless statements; nice words. That is, using a shred of truth as a basis for a sweeping
3 CARD STACKING Telling the facts of one side only Using the facts or issues like a deck of cards; taking
the one or few items you want to use, hiding or ignoring the others. (A soap ad stresses purity, foam, or scent. A cigarette ad emphasizes ease on throats, pleasure, or taste. A politician dwells on the mistakes his opponent has made and skips the good things.) Simplified or limited to one item, this method may result in slogans and trade names.
4 PLAIN FOLKS - Using actors who represent "average" people to suggest that, because people in
advertisements resemble friends and neighbors, the product they are using must be good, that is,
someone like you, an ordinary person with your everyday problems, uses X product. Therefore, you
5 PRESTIGE IDENTIFICATION OR CELEBRITY ENDORSEMENT-Straight forward. Very influential with teens and children. Think Jell-O and Bill Cosby, Michael Jordan and Fruit
of the Loom, models/actors and shampoo, make-up, or hair dye
commercials. Using a well-known figure to lend importance or prestige to a product.
6 SNOB APPEAL Trying to persuade by making you feel you’re one of the elite if you use brand X or
think Y. or presenting a desirable situation or lifestyle in order to convince the viewers that if they use
a product, they, too can have this lifestyle
7 BANDWAGON Using the argument that everyone’s doing it, so you should too.
8 RED HERRING Highlighting a minor detail as a way of drawing attention away from a major issue.
9 EXIGENCY Creating the impression that your action is required immediately, or the opportunity will
be lost forever.
10 INNUENDO Hinting that there may be something being kept hidden.
11 FLAG WAVING Connecting the use of a product with patriotism.
12 REPETITION Repeating an element within one advertisement so that viewers will remember the
advertisement and will buy the product; also refers to the repetition of the same advertisement
13 TESTIMONIAL Someone will testify that the advertised product did indeed help them or is a good
one to buy because they tried it, and it worked
14 TRANSFER Attempting to have you transfer your feelings from one thing to another thing. Such as
having a women in a bikini sell a car ( using the sex appeal to sell a product that has nothing to do with
15 SEX APPEAL-Think Calvin Klein ads and Mc Donalds using the spice Girls'song
'Tell You What I Want, What I Really Really Want' and Burger King
using the song “You Sexy Thing” to sell a chicken sandwich.
16 HEALTH AND NATURE-this technique states or implies that a product
will improve your health. Catch phrases such as “all natural” and “good for you” appear. Products from shampoo to vitamins to juice & cereal use this.
17 HUMOR-used for wide variety of products. Think of any commercial that
makes you laugh. Commercials in the Super Bowl are famous for being funny.
18 EXOTIC PLACES- Uses fantasy and fiction blended with fact. Think
vacation commercials…Club Med, Carnival Cruises.
19 HAPPY FAMILIES-A “slice of life” approach. See mom and dad getting ready for a night out, phone rings, kids looks at the caller ID box to tell
them who is calling, cell phone commercials 'Get 'M' Life and stay in touch.
20 VALUE AND RELIABILITY-Stress logic over emotion. Often used
with the SOMETHING FOR NOTHING technique. Pitches the idea of
quality and reasonable prices.
??NEGATIVE AND COMPARISON-Announcing their product is better than
someone else’s. The competition is named. Is used in everything from political advertisements to medicine commercials.
???SCIENCE AND STATISTICS-Think Crest or Trident…“4 out of 5 dentists recommend…” Something as silly as a cartoon drawing of an antacid sliding down a cartoon person’s esophagus implies “scientific”.
23 FEAR AND INSECURITIES-Often used in home alarm commercials.
Draws on our fears of being afraid or not being good at something.
Also fear of getting sick or not getting better. Hospital commercials; anti-aging commercials (wrinkle creams)
24 IRONY - Irony is present if the writer’s words contain more than one meaning. This may be
in the form of sarcasm, gentle irony, or a pun (play on words). It can be used to add humor or
to emphasize an implied meaning under the surface. The writer's "voice" becomes important
here. “The animals worked liked slaves”. The figurative meaning is that they worked hard. The
irony is that they were slaves but they don’t know it; however, we do.
OTHER TECHNIQUES TO BEAR IN MIND
1. Emotional Appeal: Writers may appeal to fear, anger or joy to sway their readers. They may also add
climax or excitement. This technique is strongly connected to the essay's mood. 2. Word Choice (Diction): Is a person "slim" or "skinny"? Is an oil spill an "incident" or an "accident"? Is a
government expenditure an "investment" or a "waste"? Writers tend to reinforce their arguments by choosing
words which will influence their reader's perception of an item or issue. Diction may also help to establish a
writer's "Voice" or "Tone".
3. Rhetorical Question: Sometimes a writer will ask a question to which no answer is required. The writer
implies that the answer is obvious; the reader has no choice but to agree with the writer's point. 4. Repetition: Overly repetitive writing can become tiresome. However, when used sparingly for effect, it can reinforce the writer's message and/or entertain the reader. Writers may repeat a word, a phrase or an entire
sentence for emphasis.
5. Appeal to Authority (association): A writer may mention an important event or person in an essay to lend importance or credibility to his/her argument.
8. Hyperbole: This is one of the more enjoyable persuasive techniques. It involves completely overstating and
exaggerating your point for effect. (Like when your mom says, "I must have asked you a million times to clean your room!" Get it?)
9. Irony: Irony is present if the writer’s words contain more than one meaning. This may be in the form of
sarcasm, gentle irony, or a pun (play on words). It can be used to add humor or to emphasize an implied meaning under the surface. The writer's "voice" becomes important here.