This article was originally published on Avenue Right’s Media Buying Automation Blog.
All advertising is, most fundamentally, an attempt to persuade an audience. We want those people to buy our products, to enlist our services, to support an organization or cause.
The media we use to deliver these messages should match the habits of our target audience, and the message needs to remain consistent, however it’s presented within the media mix.
Just as the media buyer needs to incorporate multiple media channels to reach an audience, the ads need to blend a combination of rhetorical appeals to be effective.
It’s not good enough anymore to tell the audience that a treat from Peggy’s Pie Palace is a guilt-free experience—we need some evidence telling us why it’s a low-calorie snack option.
The art of persuading an audience means using the three basic appeals that Aristotle first described: ethos, pathos, and logos.
This means using the appeal of personal character, emotion, or logic, respectively.
Ethos is the appeal of a speaker’s/actor’s character or authority, such as the use of local celebrities or the business owner/employees in a company’s advertising.
This appeal gives character and personality to the message, making it easier for the audience to relate to, trust, or place authority in the figure represented.
Ethos may be represented differently in different media. Visual media has the benefit of using images, such as that of sports hero, where text-only ads and auditory media such as radio rely on style, tone, and name recognition to convey ethos.
Perhaps the most powerful tool in advertising, pathos is an appeal to the audience’s emotions. It can be used to create feelings of confidence and intrigue in a brand (“established in 1915”), to reinforce value (“find more time for you with Acme Widget”), or to promote a sense of urgency (“don’t spend another night with bedbugs”).
The emotions to which the message appeals may be many and varied: safety, well-being, pride, anger, insecurity, desire.
Logos is a logical appeal typically marked by facts, figures, and data. This information is quantifiable and helps us rationalize our decisions through hard data on money saved, time saved, higher status, and so on.
One tactic that combines all three rhetorical appeals is telling the audience how many people, just like them, have purchased a product or service. This social proof approach
- helps lower perceived risk and lessens our insecurity about the purchase (pathos),
- paints a concrete picture of market share through data (logos), and
- introduces like-minded characters and personalities through testimonials (ethos).