Advertising Techniques Classified by Modes of Persuasion

Advertising Techniques Classified by Modes of Persuasion Table

This article is attempting to establish a relationship between the three modes of persuasion and particular advertising techniques. Ethos is an appeal to authority.  Logos is an appeal to logic. Pathos is an appeal to emotion.  I have added a fourth category, media, because some advertising techniques don’t really fit the modes of persuasion but are media centric.  Marshall McLuhan has argued that “the medium is the message”.  Ancient Greece had limited types of media and would find this category confusing but media technique is increasingly important as part of the art of persuasion since the 20th century.

1) Altruism – The ad presents an altruistic story and hopes the viewer associates the story with the product and/or service.  The ad ultimately evokes emotions and is therefore a type of pathos.

2) Analogy – A similarity between like features of two things, on which a comparison may be based.  This is a type of logical argument and therefore logos.

3) Arouse Curiosity – The ad catches the curiosity and therefore the attention of the customer.  Curiosity is a feeling and therefore a type of pathos.

4) Bandwagon – Trying to convince viewers that a product is good because “everyone” is buying it; encouraging people to “jump on the bandwagon”.  The people are the authority and therefore this is an example of ethos.

5) Card Stacking – Telling the facts from one side only.  This is a manipulation of the logic of the argument and therefore logos.

6) Cartoon Character – An animated character that promotes a product.  This is a good example of a media that did not even exist in Ancient Greece.  This is a mass media technique.

7) Children – In most houses, children have a say in every big or small purchase made. Most parents just give in to the tantrums, a fact well known to the advertisers. Out of ten commercials one sees through any medium, 8 have children featured in them who are generally a little more perfect than the target audience. These perfect children then go on to become role-models that have to emulated by other children.  I think this is an example in which the same commercial persuades the parents using emotion i.e. pathos.  However, there may be an ethos effect on the children watching the advertisement.  Finally, in the very beginning of film the fact that children look good on film was noticed i.e. this is a mass media issue.

8) Comparison Appeal – This brand is better than other brands of the same product.  A taste test between Pepsi and Coca Cola would be ethos.  Comparing the products using facts and figures would be logos.

9) Deal Appeal – This technique involves making the audience a compelling offer, and telling them exactly how to get it. Key words associated with this technique are “free” and “save”.  Saving money is logical but these types of ads often involved a lot of titillation i.e. pathos.

10) 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.  Emotional appeal is the modern way to refer to pathos.

11) Establish Credibility – “I have the honor of serving as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization operating in every southern state, with headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia.”  Appeal to authority and therefore ethos.

12) Exaggeration – Exaggerating products and their uses is another of the good advertising techniques and examples of the technique can explain how this works in the favor of the advertiser. Exaggeration of facts and figures is logos.  Exaggeration the appeal of the products to a peer product is ethos.

13) Exigency – Creating the impression that your action is required immediately or your opportunity will be lost forever.   A good combination of appealing to both logic and emotion and a reason this technique works.  Acting quickly before an opportunity is lost is logical and our emotions also kick in.

14) Facts and Figures – Statistics and objective factual information is used to prove the superiority of the product.  Statistics are the modern version of logic so this technique is logos.

15) Fantasy – Super athletes, superheroes, movie stars, the beautiful, the rich, the powerful, or things associated with them are featured with the hope that the consumer will tend to transfer the qualities of these people to the products and themselves and buy the item.  Fantasy is an emotional experience but I think there is also an element of ethos in that superheroes and movie stars are beings we aspire to be.

16) Fear – Using fear to sell a service and/or product.  This is the dark side of pathos.

17) Green – If you buy this product then you are helping the environment.  The ad can go to in a feel good direction and therefore pathos.  The ad might also be logical in that a dead world means yours truly is also dead.

18) Glittering Generalities – An emotionally appealing phrase so closely associated with highly valued concepts and beliefs that it carries conviction without supporting information or reason.  An appeal to emotion but can also be an appeal to authority depending on the ad.

19) Humor – The use of humor may help people remember the ad and want to buy the product because of the positive association with it.

20) 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?).  The effect is ultimately emotional and therefore pathos.

21) Image Advertising–  Presenting a desirable situation or lifestyle in order to convince the viewers that if they use a product, they, too can have this lifestyle; beautiful people.

22) Innuendo – Causing the audience to become wary or suspicious of a competing product and/or service by hinting that negative information may be being kept secret.  Suspicion is an emotion so this is an example of pathos.

23) 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.  Humor is appeals to emotion therefore this is an example of pathos.

24) Jingle or Slogan – A “catchy” song or phrase that helps you remember a product.  A song or jingle is the use of media to get attention.

25) Lifestyle Appeal – In this technique, an advertisement provides a glimpse from a particular lifestyle or way of living.  The hope is that the audience will desire this lifestyle and transfer that longing to the product.  This is an example of ethos.

26) Magic Ingredients – The suggestion that some almost miraculous discovery makes the product exceptionally effective.  Ultimately this is a logical argument even if the argument is fallacious.

27) Mascot – Mascot the audience can identify with like Smokey the Bear.  A costumed character is ultimately a type of media that appeals to our emotions.

28) Metaphor – A figure of speech in which a term or phrase is applied to something to which it is not literally applicable in order to suggest a resemblance.  The metaphor may be an attempt to make a logical and/or emotional connection.  Therefore the metaphor could be logos and/or pathos.

29) Name Calling Appeal – In this technique, the advertiser compares its product or service to the competition in a way that is favorable to the advertiser.  This is the use of names that elicit emotion and therefore pathos.

30) Nostalgia – This appeal implies that this product takes you back to the “good old days” or back to nature, etc.  Nostalgia is ultimately emotional and therefore this is an example of pathos.

31) Parallelism – When an author creates a “balanced” sentence by re-using the same word structure, this is called parallelism. Always strive for parallelism when using compound or complex sentences.  Jingles and/or slogans can be improved using parallelism.  A jingle/slogan is media and an improvement on media is a media issue.

32) Patriotism – The suggestion that purchasing this product shows your love of your country.  Patriotism is an emotion so this is an example of pathos.

33) Personification – This technique gives human characteristics to a product, or service.  Novelty elicits positive feelings so this is an example of pathos but computer graphics mean this technique is used more effectively and perhaps more often.

34) Plain Folks – The product is not elitist and suitable for ordinary people.  This is an ethos argument.

35) Promise a Benefit – The ad promises a benefit to the consumer.  Does the benefit have emotional appeal?  Does the benefit make sense logically?  Will the benefit help you socially?  This technique can be slanted to be ethos, logos or pathos.

36) Red Herring – Highlighting a minor detail as a way to draw attention away from more important details or issues.  This is an appeal to logic i.e. using logic to mislead the viewer therefore logos.

37) Repetition – Repeating an element within one advertisement so that viewers will remember the advertisement and will buy the product.  Repetition is an important part of mass media in which ads are played again and again rather than a type of argument.

38) Reverse Psychology – A persuasion technique involving the false advocacy of a belief or behavior contrary to the belief or behavior which is actually being advocated.  This is a manipulation of both our logic and our emotion in tandem.

39) 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.  This is ultimately an appeal to logic so logos.

40) Savings or Free – You will save money or get something free if you buy this product.  Saving money is logical if the price aspect is emphasized but emotional if the thrill of the sale is emphasized.

41) Scale – A product looks bigger or smaller in the ad than the actual product.  This is a graphic design trick and therefore media.

42) Sensory Appeal – The product tastes good, looks good, or feels good.  Sounds or pictures appealing to the senses are featured.  This is generally done with video and is the use of this media to elicit very basic emotions and therefore pathos and media.

43) Shocking the Viewer – An effective method of advertising, shocking viewer gets them more interested in the product, because it is a shift in their comfort zone. Shock is an emotion therefore this is an example of pathos.

44) Simple Solutions – One product and/or service solves several problems at the same time.  Simple solutions are easy to understand logically therefore this is a type of logos argument.

45) Slice of Life Appeal – A problem is presented in a “realistic” manner by “real” people. The real people are an example of ethos.

46) Snob Appeal – The use of the product makes the customer part of an elite group with a luxurious and glamorous life style.  The elite group is an example of ethos.

47) Testimonial Appeal – In this technique, a celebrity or authority figure endorses the product.  This could be a celebrity, sports star, or “professional”.  Ethos yet again!

48) Transfer – Words and ideas with positive connotations are used to suggest that the positive qualities should be associated with the product and the user.  This is the use of the emotional impact of words and therefore pathos.

49) Weasel Words – “Weasel words” are used to suggest a positive meaning without actually really making any guarantee.  This is a sneakier version of word choice (50) and ultimately a manipulation of emotion and therefore pathos.

50) Word Choice – Is a person “slim” or “skinny”? Is an oil spill an “incident” or an “accident”?   This is a narrower version of transfer (48) and therefore still pathos.


There were 24 examples of pathos ad techniques.  There were 18 examples of ethos ad techniques.  There were 15 examples of logos ad techniques.   There were 9 examples of media techniques.  This means most ad techniques make an appeal to emotion.

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