In the media today, the medium of advertising has proliferated to a point near market saturation. As a result, industry professionals have found themselves in a highly competitive field in which persuasion of the consumer is their primary goal. The contemporary consumer has little time in which to read a highly description of a product and therefore the percentage of text to image in advertising has dramatically reduced in comparison to texts from previous eras.
When asked to analyse the use of persuasive language in a print advertisement I decided to use an advertisement from 1958 as during this era, it was more conventional of the medium to use a larger percentage of text to image. For example, in the Coca-Cola advertisement I have selected the percentage is approximately 30% text to 70% image. This means that there is likely to be a larger amount of text to analyse and a greater amount of persuasive devices employed.
The word advertisement derives from the Latin ‘adverte’, which means to ‘turn towards’. The way in which advertisements encourage consumers to ‘turn towards’ them is through the use of persuasive language; therefore the effective use of language is critical in any advertisement to connote the desired mood as well as the message. The language used in advertising is often described as ‘loaded’ (Cook, 1992). This is because every word that is used has been critically assessed to ensure that it connotes the desired meaning.
For example, in the Coca-Cola advertisement a semantic field is created through the use of adjectives describing how refreshing the drink is, ‘thirst’ and ‘frosty’. These examples are ‘loaded’ as they have a specific purpose, which is to persuade the consumer that this product will refresh and revive them. The language can also be ‘loaded’ in creating a relationship between the advertisement and its audience. A common and highly effective way of doing this is through the use of the personal pronouns, e. g. ‘you’ and ‘we’.
This can make the reader feel at ease and in a sense related and therefore engaged with the advertisement as they are being addressed personally. This technique is used in the Coca-Cola advertisement in which the personal pronouns of ‘your’ and ‘you’ve’ appear and make it sound as if the advertisement is directly addressing you. Leech (1996) carried out a study looking into the verbs used most frequently in advertising. His results showed that ‘get, have, see, look, love and need’ are the most commonly used.
Although none of these verbs feature in the Coca-Cola article in the present tense, the past tense form ‘got’ is used. When looking at Leech’s finding, I noticed that the verbs most frequently used were predominantly concrete in form, and this is also true of the Coca-Cola advertisement, in which the concrete verbs ‘move’, ‘stop’, ‘meeting’ and ‘got’ appear. The use of concrete verbs creates an authoritative tone, which persuades the consumer that the advertisement is truthful and knowledgeable. This is reinforced by the use of imperative syntax. For example, ‘… you’ve got the upper hand…
‘ This requires an active response from the audience, even if it is them disagreeing, as it is telling them something, and not asking. The syntax is fairly compound other than the final sentence, which is simple for impact. The compound sentences’ demonstrate the age of the text as it allows for the use of descriptive pre-modifiers such as ‘frosty’. This is unusual in contemporary advertisements as the lexis must be concise to grab the consumer’s attention. One of the most effective ways in which advertisements can be eye-catching and memorable is to break the rules of language.
Dyer (1982) suggests that unorthodox lexis can “… clarify or add strength and impact to persuasive rhetoric and come up frequently in analysis of advertising, since it refers to a wide variety of techniques, that are designed and employed to persuade and impress people. ” The Coca-Cola advertisement does not feature non-standard lexis as this is not a technique associated with the era. However, it does feature a non-standard syntax structure in that there is a sentence beginning with the conjunction ‘And…
‘ I feel that this rule has been broken to allow the tone to flow so as to persuade the audience that the product is relaxing as they are likely to be taking a break to consume the product. The flowing tone parallels the refreshing semantic field as well as the comfortable imagery, ‘… meeting with an old friend. ‘ Conventional literary techniques such as personification and alliteration are common in advertising, as well as those specific to the medium of advertising e. g. morphology. The Coca-Cola advertisement uses techniques that are still common today. In the main body of the text, the literary device of the simile is used, ‘…
like meeting up with an old friend. ‘ Devices such as simile add substance to a text as well as imagery. The example from the Coca-Cola advertisement creates a familiar tone with a pleasant association- meeting with an old friend. The headline of the text is attention grabbing due to its dominant size over the other lexis in the text, however, the use of the literary device of personification means that it is emphasized further and is therefore more likely to be persuasive, ‘Coke follows thirst everywhere. ‘ Furthermore, alliteration is featured in the slogan ‘Coca-Cola’, though not in the lexis itself.
The vowels in the slogan are open, which creates a soothing effect, that roles off the tongue. This subtly persuades the consumer, as the language is made more attractive and interesting. Directive language is used in the advertisement, which helps influence the audiences’ emotions, actions, beliefs and attitudes. The verb ‘drink’ is highly directive in its’ function and acts almost as a subliminal order. This verb is part of the ‘Coca-Cola’ slogan featured on the vending machine and demonstrates the overtly persuasive purpose of the advertisement.
The use of directive language parallels the contextual language in the text, which conveys the narrative e. g. ‘… camp PX… ‘ and ‘Sir’. While the images reinforce the context e. g. the authoritative uniform. The shift in the narrative voice in the text catches the readers’ attention and makes them think about the advertisement twice. At the beginning of the text the use of personal pronouns and the image of the pilot make you think that the text is speaking to you. However, the simple syntax at the end, ‘Yes Sir, I know’, adds an unexpected twist.
On reflection the audience realises that the initial text is a senior officer speaking to the pilot we can see in the image and the simple syntax is the pilot replying. This narrative shift could be considered a play on words’, which is another common feature of persuasive language in advertising as it grabs the readers’ attention. Advertisements are seen by some as parasitic compared to other forms of language because they tend to make full use of all resources of language e. g. graphological devices, literary devices as well as imagery to attract the attention of their target audience.
However, they are often highly creative in their use of language and analysis must be detailed to decode the meaning. The primary function of an advertisement is to persuade however whether this is done overtly or covertly is non-standard. In the example I have given of the 1958 Coca-Cola advertisement I believe the persuasion is overt, primarily due to the use of directive language ‘Drink Coca-Cola’ although the almost overwhelmingly friendly tone is unmistakable. The lexis itself is highly persuasive and the use of literary devices is effective in creating the desired message, that Coca-Cola will cure your thirst.