Archive for category Advertising

A Three-Minute Guide to Ethos, Pathos, and Logos in Advertising

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).

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Working Your Ass Off To Get There

“We as humans have the ability to create amazing things, which will never be hindered by automation. It’s a process change that results in more time to think and be creative, which is what advances civilization.”

So begins the response to an interview question on to what degree today’s workforce will be replaced by a bunch of automatons.

Recently Avenue Right’s founder & CEO, Brian Gramer, was interviewed on IdeaMensch and Sure, this post is a shameless mention since I’m also the PR person there. But nonetheless, both interviews are good reads if you’re interested in life at a technology startup and how ideas are turned into products and brought to market.

These interviews are worth mentioning out here for a few more reasons:

1) it’s great to see people writing about Avenue Right,
2) the content is interesting, even if you’re not in the advertising business, and
3) these interviews give a good overview of Avenue Right, where the vision came from, and why we do what we do.

This interview delves into the where our company sits in the “clash between old and new media,” the advancements in technology that allow for automation, and whether these advancements in the long run hinder creativity.


This one covers what’s happening now with Avenue Right and offers an individual profile of the creative processes involved in “bring[ing] ideas to life.”

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Tight Lines: 12 Reasons the MFA is a Solid Degree in the Technology Space

Tonight I had the pleasure of sitting around a table drinking wine and sharing crème brûlée with some friends from graduate school, specifically the MFA program in creative writing at Minnesota State University Moorhead. Pulling up in my minivan I realized it had already been a good 5 years since my last writing workshop around that blessed, beat-up and beloved table in Weld Hall library.

One discussion stood out over the Cabernet and custard, perhaps because of where I’m at academically, professionally, and personally. It was whether an MFA degree had any value in today’s workplace for those not interested in teaching at the college level, and how those skills might be applied in the workforce.

At the table for tonight’s conversation were four MFA graduates and a faculty member. The grads included a software developer, a local magazine editor, a PhD student/professor, and a marketing director. Not a bad as products of the program, I’d say.

This post outlines some key areas where the MFA program directly relates to the creativity, critical thinking, and communication skills that are very much in demand in today’s job market. It’s time to start that dialogue around how those of us in the arts and humanities can create some pretty kick-ass careers for ourselves.

The perspective here is from a fiction writer (as opposed to poetry or nonfiction), and it’s from the marketing point of view (versus a visual art like design or a sales role such as business development).  It deals mostly with applied professional writing—as a “creative” on an in-house team or at an agency, for example. (I’m sure the linguistics or communications theory-laden post will soon follow.)

One more disclaimer is that I have split personalities when it comes to writing about marketing.  I’m a B2B marketer marketing an advertising product to folks who market B2C. But at the end of the day, we’re all fucking human. Write that way and you can sell a product or service or otherwise inform and persuade an audience. That’s all we really need to do.

Here’s that list, from my own experience as an MFA graduate with a pretty sweet career. I may not have been placed on that path because my credentials state this particular degree, but the skills needed to get there tie directly to experience in a creative writing program.


1. Tight Lines. These people have the ability to write tight lines that are both creative and persuasive. In fiction, the writer needs to create believability and truth, or verisimilitude, in the story.

2. Plot Lines. Web copy, for example, needs to drive a visitor along a certain navigational path that results in that person taking an action, whether it be submitting a contact form, calling a business, or even moving on to the next page. Creative writers, too, drive their visitor—their reader—along with intent. The audience is brought on that proverbial journey, as the business writer strives to both pull a prospect through a sales funnel and engage them in interactive content, and a fiction writer so convincingly delivers a narrative that can pull the reader along the story’s path without question of the reality or the characters created—they simply must get to the next part of the story.

3. Buyer Personae. This one is huge, but it’s covered in the Marketing/Sales Cycle section below.

Public Relations

4. Positioning. PR positions the company, setting the scene for the action to take place. It’s important in PR to be completely transparent, to stay away from embellishment, but this is where command of English language comes in handy.

5. Storytelling. These are the folks that tell the company’s story, and they need to do it well. Hire a storyteller. Or become one. Enough said.

Marketing/Sales Cycle

6. Audience. Identifying and understanding a target audience for marketing efforts is akin to developing characters for a work of fiction. You know who they are, what they make a year, their educational level, where they eat and shop.

3., Part Deux. Buyer Personae. The ability to serve up content that’s relevant to the business audience is critical to everything from generating interest to keeping a customer. To do this, marketers need to create what’s called a buyer persona to guide their efforts, to know what makes that target audience tick. This is literally an outline or profile of a character—for me, it’s all those characteristics scribbled on sticky notes across my desk and color-coded to indicate mannerisms or role in the story. But again, working within the framework of buyer personae is where the ability to create and develop characters in a fictional work becomes a skill that transfers nicely.

For these writers, it goes well beyond the numbers that identify age, location, and income— the ability to create and give voice to these buyer personae, understand their pains and how to manage their egos, and bring them along on that storied journey are inherent in those who’ve spent time writing fiction in first person or as a member of the opposite sex, to name just one exercise in character development.

7. Lead Generation and Nurturing. Think like the characters do. Where would you place the ads that would reach you if you were that character? Where would you be located? And engaged in what media? Where and how do you participate online? Think of what content gets the most downloads, and later, analyze what content was downloaded by the most qualified prospective customers and focus your editorial efforts accordingly.

8. Content Strategy. Oversimplified, this is creating, running, managing an editorial calendar.

In addition to providing the right content for your audience, this includes understanding how to work with people in order to elicit guest posts and suggest changes that keep the contribution on par with the quality of other writing on the site while maintaining author’s style. Experience in MFA program workshop dialogue, copyediting, and working with any published or up-and-coming authors are all great ways to develop a foundation for business content strategy and how to execute on it successfully.

9. Engaging. For marketers, this means creating dialogue around a topic or issue, whether in person or online. For MFAers, it’s the ability to deconstruct, put back together, and discuss what we read. “Nice work” is a comment that brings nothing to the table.

10. Case Studies and White Papers. The former is an in-depth profile that tells the story of how a business solved a problem or made more money using your solution. The latter is a paper that also solves a problem, typically research-intensive and from a thought-leadership perspective looking at improvements that can be made overall in an industry (and of course, in the About section in tiny print on the last page, how the corporate author is positioned to solve those problems).  Naturally, these are my favorite pieces to write.

Software Development

11. Stories. Using sticky notes and whiteboards to piece together the story of how functionality or a process will work in a software application is similar to performing this exercise in order to piece together a novel, story, or poem, or even the core argument for an essay (for the creative writer, it’s possible the whiteboard is instead a Moleskine®). This also applies to telling the story from the end-user’s perspective and the actions they take during the software testing/QA process.

12. Complexity. Being able to understanding complex processes and communicate them is useful skill. The correlation? A research paper on something like “Burnt Norton from T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets or Vladimir Nabokov’s Pale Fire.

Other Skills

  • Interviewing for a job (MFA: Engaging conversation and defending position in MFA workshop.)
  • Taking (and applying) feedback and critique of professional work (MFA: Feedback from professors and peers during workshop.)
  • Working independently (MFA: We write alone.)
  • Write simple code for web development, design, and animation (MFA: Knowing how language works.)
  • Research skills (MFA: If it’s out there, we can find it.)

Thus ends my preaching—for now—on the virtues of an MFA degree for those who aren’t ready to or have no plans to teach.

It’s interesting to note it wasn’t until later in the evening that said software developer, local magazine editor, PhD student/professor, and marketing director observed that none of us had actually graduated the MFA program together and were, pretty much, barely classmates. This attests to the community surrounding writing programs such as these and the craft itself.

If you do nothing else in life, perfect your craft. If you have a talent, use it. Get involved with the community around it. As fellow MSUM MFA graduate Kristen Tsetsi writes, “I no longer know the grass of forbidden lawns, because I drive past it.”

Exploring the craft before that forbidden lawn of unbridled creativity becomes unfamiliar is an experience that we’ll draw from inevitably in our careers, whether we realize it or not. We MFA grads had the opportunity to develop a mindset that allows for creative, critical, and analytical thinking–a stage on which to practice freedom in our art, engage in healthy debate and discussion, and advance our writing abilities both technically and creatively, all while participating in good conversation and community.

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From Advertising Message to Consumer Action–A Framework

This post was originally written for Avenue Right’s blog, but I thought it may be of interest to the folks reading here, too.

As consumers, we’re inundated with advertisements every day, whether on TV, the radio, our favorite websites, the billboards we pass on the way to work. They’re in the newspapers and magazines delivered to our door or piled in the drop-bin at the local coffee shop or grocery store, sent to our mobile phones.

These ads use the visual, auditory, interactive, and persuasive opportunities afforded by their medium to create brand awareness, promote events and ideas, influence perception of product value, generate sales, and increase share of voice in a competitive market.

Advertisers, ultimately, are buying access to the audiences that can help them achieve these goals.

When planning an ad campaign for a local business, beyond hard numbers measuring CPM, CPP, GRP, and other mystical formulas, factors such as the ability for an advertisement—and the media in which it’s delivered—to reach and influence an audience should also be considered in campaign development.

The ability for a media channel to engage an audience at a specific stage in the consumer decision process should be considered relative to its effectiveness as a communication vehicle to inform and persuade.

It’s a balance between media, creative, timing, and repetition that drives results from when an audience has first become aware of product or service through their decision to purchase.

Researchers Demetrios Vakratsas and Tim Ambler put together a framework for how advertising works and ultimately affects consumers. This framework can help advertisers and media buyers understand how advertising (content, timing, repetition) is first filtered by the consumer before bringing about a mental effect such as awareness, attitude, and memory, ultimately impacting the purchase decision.

Today’s consumer can get through the purchase decision-process in three seconds flat, but what seems like an impulse buy may actually be the result of advertising recall, crafted through repetition in media scheduling, in addition to past experience with the product or service.

Optimizing the media mix for the decision-making process of the target consumer depends on messaging strategy, timing and delivery of the advertisements, the product, and the market.

*Vakratsas D. & Ambler, T. (January 1999) “How Advertising Works: What Do We Really Know?” Journal of Marketing Vol. 63 (January 1999), 26-43.

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Local Advertising & the Consumer Decision Process

This post originally appeared on Avenue Right’s blog, Nue Media Mix. I thought it was worth posting out here as well.

Consumers are empowered more now than they ever have been to find information when they want it, and block out unwanted or irrelevant messages on the radio, television, their favorite online magazine.

The ads that do make it through the clutter have to compete for attention.

Recent studies prove that not only are we engaged in media from more sources than ever before, but a large percentage of the population does it simultaneously—already in 2006, 60% of adults surfed the internet occasionally while watching television.  Then there are those who listen to the radio while spending time online or reading a print publication. The possibilities for concurrent consumption of media—and advertising—are endless.

As we engage in these media channels, we both seek out and are exposed to advertising messages designed to inform and persuade our feelings toward a business or brand, or our inclination toward a purchase.

This brings consumers through the decision process of
•    Awareness
•    Consideration
•    Evaluation
•    Purchase
•    Loyalty

Shaping that path for the consumer are such factors as motivation for the purchase (physiological, social, personal fulfillment); buyer persona; and the way the consumer retains, organizes, and interprets information, which also affects purchase behavior (i.e., impulse purchase online vs. moving through consideration and evaluation stages).

Here’s a closer look at what’s going on in each of those stages. The time spent in each stage varies depending on the product or service and its price, but in general, it looks something like this:

•    Awareness – Identifies a problem/need/desire, whether it’s a need for gas in the minivan or a desire that had a little help from marketing, such as a ticket to an upcoming concert or play.
•    Consideration – Searches for information or solution related to problem/need/desire.
•    Evaluation – Compares options and considers price, quality, benefit, and risk factors.
•    Purchase – Decides what, where, when to buy.
•    Loyalty – Repeats purchase behavior depending on level of satisfaction with product or service experience.

Keeping the general stages of the decision-making cycle in mind along with the attributes and message delivery attributes of each media channel can help create a media plan that drives consumers from awareness to purchase.

More on this topic coming soon. Watch for Avenue Right’s newest white paper, “3 Tips for Aligning Local Advertising with the Consumer Decision-Making Process.” Don’t want to wait? Request it now by writing to jessie [dot] johnson [at]!


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Leveraging the Medium to Deliver the Message

As a form of persuasive communication, advertising seeks to guide an audience through a decision-making process that begins with awareness and results in a purchase.

We deliver rational and emotional appeals through words and sound and images that reach our audience based on who they are, where they live, where they shop.

How far that message will reach and with what impact is determined by both the creative and the media through which it’s delivered.

An advertising campaign that uses multiple media channels to target local consumers will be most effective in reaching its intended audience. This allows media buyers to leverage the advantages of each media channel and their unique properties in the overall message delivery strategy.

Different media channels deliver different experiences to different audiences. The success of an advertising campaign ultimately depends on a combination of factors—messaging strategy, media scheduling, creative execution, and audience recall.

When it comes to reaching and influencing an audience, each local media channel has unique advantages and disadvantages that result from a combination of audience media consumption patterns, popularity of the media outlet in its local market, and the nature of the medium itself.

This might be the ability to use emotion or sensory experience to increase recall, or deliver just enough information in just the right place or number of characters to influence the consumer to make that purchase or visit that website.

Understanding how media resonate with the audience through different levels of sensory and emotional engagement helps media buyers leverage the strengths of each advertising channel included in the campaign. The table below illustrates some key points of comparison not only in terms of message delivery, but ease of execution and cost to produce.

Here’s a link to the original post as it appeared on Avenue Right’s blog. If anyone would like a copy of the full white paper, please email me at jessie[dot]johnson[at]

Attributes of Traditional and Online Advertising Media

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Book Review: Media Buying “Demystified” in New Advertising Book

Media buying is a fast-moving, complicated process that demands a mix of both hard data and intuition to be executed successfully.

It’s not as easy as making a few phone calls and plugging some numbers into a spreadsheet, neither for ad agencies nor the businesses and organizations that plan and buy their own advertising.

Each media channel is measured differently, and the formulas used to determine the best placements vary depending on the advertiser’s goals, the different media used, and how the campaign results will be measured. And if you stare long enough, the formulas can turn into one big circular reference.

There’s a mountain of information to collect and manage that—if printed out and piled—would rival the height of the campaign budget in dollar bills.

To make sense of it all, Michael J. Massey and Chrissie VanWormer offer their media buying experience and expertise in their new book Your Ad Here: De-Mystifying the Business of Media and Advertising. Your Ad Here The Book

In fewer than 100 pages, the book provides a high-level overview of basic advertising concepts and how to implement them in a media plan. The chapters are laid out in an order that follows the process of a media buy, making it a quick read with easily digestible tips, tricks, and examples. It’s worth the time spent following the case study of retailer Crazy Boy Jeans, who is making a buy to promote an upcoming denim sale.

Not only does the book demystify the esoteric language of media buying by providing clear definitions for words like flighting and makegood, it also offers practical tips on negotiating placements and for managing and organizing all the information related to a media buy.

In the first section, Massey and VanWormer cover

  • Audience profiling and targeting
  • Budgeting
  • Account management
  • Avail requests
  • Data management
  • Trafficking and creative

The second section reviews all media and the strategy and tactics behind the ads—from broadcast to word of mouth—and provides tips for incorporating those media channels into an advertising campaign.

Your Ad Here captures some of the key challenges that media buyers face, especially when working with a tight budget. There’s also an overriding theme of “win-win” that applies to everyone who participates in getting the message out there—agency, media outlet, the business, and even the interns looking to get into the advertising space.

And above all, note Massey and VanWormer, the message needs to be good, too, to help it spread.

Read the rest of this book review at Avenue Right’s blog, including my top 10 tips from the book.

Learn more about De-mystifying the Business of Media and Advertising and purchase the book at

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