Every day we are surrounded by advertising messages whether we are out shopping, watching tv, or even at the doctor’s office. There is always someone trying to persuade us to buy something whether it’s a beauty product, medication, or even an idea. When we think of persuasion, we often associate it with negative examples, but the truth is there are also a lot of positive advertisements that can influence someone’s life in a positive and healthy way. I will be analyzing the use of persuasion tactics in the mass media and the two major routes to persuasion used today.
Persuasion is defined as when communication from one person changes the opinions, attitudes, or behavior or another person (Aronson, 2018). What comes to mind when you think of persuasion? Some people may think of the advertising messages displayed on their tv urging them to purchase a tooth whitening toothpaste while others may think of a political candidate trying to convince them to vote for him/her. Persuasion depends on whether we are dealing with opinions or attitudes. Some opinions can be changed easily while attitudes may take more convincing to change and even then- you still may not be able to change one’s attitude. For example, I may have an opinion that whitening your teeth is bad for you then if I’m shown an advertisement about whitening toothpaste saying that its dentist approved and will not harm your teeth, my opinion may change. If I have a deep dislike for President Trump and I see a campaign ad about Trump stating something like “All I’m doing is just telling the truth” or “Jobs not Mobs,” odds are my attitude about Trump will not be changed and I still will not vote for him.
When the media is trying to persuade us, two routes of persuasion can be used: Central or Peripheral. Central persuasion relies more on relevant information that people carefully take into consideration when making a decision while peripheral focuses more so on visual, irrelevant cues to stimulate acceptance of a message without actual consideration of the issue (Reppond, 10/25/18). For example, if you are looking for a laptop for college and choose the Apple MacBook only because you’ve seen a lot of students carrying it, you are taking the peripheral route. If you choose to get the Chevrolet Equinox because its fully loaded, has remote starter, and is efficient in gas then you are taking the central route. Most advertisements usually appeal central arguments and peripheral cues. It may seem like central routes are more effective than peripheral routes but that is not true all the time. Aronson gave a great example about the trial of O. J. Simpson. During Simpsons trial, he was asked by the prosecutor to wear the gloves worn by the murderer, when they did not fit his attorney said, “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit.” By saying that statement, he didn’t add any logic to the argument, instead he created a persuasive cue for the jury to resonate with. “His rhyme gave the statement a ring of truth.” (Aronson, 2018). Even today, this form of persuasion is still present. If you look at campaign ads, there is always a phrase that was chosen very carefully to reach a certain group of people to persuade them to vote for them.
Now think about magazines. Magazines are full of advertisements and news entertainment. All magazines present advertisements whether they are health, sport, or fashion magazines. The first advertisement I want to mention is a sneaker advertisement. I came across a shoe advertisement for Skechers which showed famous singer Camilla Cabello posing with the shoes on. The advertisement did not have any information on the sneaker itself like how durable they are, how much support they have, if they were comfortable or not. There was nothing to take into consideration to decide if I wanted to buy these sneakers other than the fact that a famous celebrity was wearing them. This type of persuasion falls under the peripheral route to persuasion. This advertisement is an obvious attempt at targeting young girls who like Camilla. A young girl may see this advertisement and ask her mom for this shoe purely for the reason that her favorite celebrity is wearing it. The source of communication here is attractiveness and likeability. The fact that she is trying to influence us while getting paid to promote their sneakers should give us the idea that we shouldn’t trust the advertisement, but most people will oversee that concept and still be persuaded to buy the product.
Another example of a peripheral route advertisement is one I saw of a Kerasilk Luxury Hair Care product. Here a beautiful woman with long blond hair is shown with a quote that says, “Transform your hair with THE POWER OF SILK.” It also tells us where its sold and the website you can purchase it at. The woman is also posing with an over the shoulder look exposing her backless dress while looking very confidently at the camera. This advertisement can have a big impact on women because this woman is beautiful. If they showed a woman who was not attractive in the ad, most women would overlook the product and hold it at a low standard. A woman might see this ad and think, “I want hair like that, I want to look like that, if she can look like that by using this product then I’m sure I can.” Because this woman is looking at the camera so confidently, that can also increase the credibility of this advertisement.
Earlier I mentioned that some advertisements can influence someone’s life in a positive way. The next two advertisements I will be mentioning are a mix of central and peripheral routes of persuasion. The most effective advertisements are the ones that consist of peripheral cues and central ideas. The first advertisement is about donating money to hurricane victims, it states that “In the wake of a hurricane, your dollars are hard at work, help where its needed most.” It proceeds to say that even a small donation can make a big difference and gives the link to where we can donate money. It illustrates that the money we donate can have a big effect on helping those in need by showing a picture of a stethoscope and a building made out of dollars. This advertisement is a positive example because the devastation of a hurricane or any disaster is a time of need for a large group of adults and children. Most of these organizations are non-profit and donate all the profits made to those in need. The nature of this communication relates to moral emotion- feelings that have a normative judgement (Aronson, 2018). Someone may look at this advertisement and feel guilty that there are people in need, while they have a home and food and are not in need of medical care. That guilt emotion will lead someone to feel the need to help and donate to a good cause.
Another advertisement that shows a central and peripheral route of persuasion is an advertisement about a medication that helps people quit smoking called Chantix. The peripheral cues shown here are that they wrote the word “quit” using cigarettes. They then used the central route to explain what Chantix is, how it’s used, and the safety information involved. This advertisement will appeal to those who smoke, who also have the intention to quit smoking. The source of the communication here is the FDA. When you hear that a drug has been approved by the FDA, it instills a credibility of trust in you that the product must be good and must work. The nature of communication is that there are statistics available on the advertisement claiming that it is the #1 prescribed Rx quit smoking aid. If I wanted to quit smoking and read that statistic, I would be persuaded to try this medication.
In conclusion, we like to think that we aren’t like that, that we have amazing self-control and that there is no way that we can be fooled and let advertisements control our life. But the sad truth is that we are fooled. How many of us buy Nikes just because we think that the reason we’re buying them is because we like them? We’re most likely purchasing Nikes because they are heavily advertised, and everyone has them. My husband strictly only uses Pantene shampoo because it’s the most familiar one to him on the shelf. Advertisements exist everywhere we go, every website we browse, and even during the commercial break played during our favorite shows. We can’t ignore ads or eliminate them because if we think about it, we are the ones who initially created ads. As humans we like to save money, we like to purchase products that make us feel good about ourselves, and we like to help others during a time of disaster and need.