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The Language of Advertising Claims by Jeffrey Schrank In the essay that follows, Jeffrey Schrank gives a list of the techniques advertisers employ to make claims for their products. Written by a teacher, this selection should serve as a tool: As you read it, consider additional ad claims that fit within each of Schrank's categories.
Students, and many teachers, are notorious believers in their immunity to advertising. These naive inhabitants of consumerland believe that advertising is childish, dumb, a bunch of lies, and influences only the vast hordes of the less sophisticated.
Their own purchases are made purely on the basis of value and desire, with advertising playing only What is in a bad ad essay minor supporting role. They know about Vance Packard and his "hidden persuaders" and the adwriter's psychosell and bag of persuasive magic.
They are not impressed.
Although few people admit to being greatly influenced by ads, surveys and sales figures show that a well-designed advertising campaign has dramatic effects. A logical conclusion is that advertising works below the level of conscious awareness and it works even on those who claim immunity to its message.
Ads are designed to have an effect while being laughed at, belittled, and all but ignored. A person unaware of advertising's claim on him or her is precisely the one most defenseless against the adwriter's attack.
Advertisers delight in an audience which believes ads to be harmless nonsense, for such an audience is rendered defenseless by its belief that there is no attack taking place.
The purpose of a classroom study of advertising is to raise the level of awareness about the persuasive techniques used in ads. One way to do this is to analyze ads in microscopic detail.
Ads can be studied to detect their psychological hooks, they can be used to gauge values and hidden desires of the common person, they can be studied for their use of symbols, color, and imagery.
But perhaps the simplest and most direct way to study ads is through an analysis of the language of the advertising claim. The "claim" is the verbal or print part of an ad that makes some claim of superiority for the product being advertised.
After studying claims, students should be able to recognize those that are misleading and accept as useful information those that are true. A few of these claims are downright lies, some are honest statements about a truly superior product, but most fit into the category of neither bold lies nor helpful consumer information.
They balance on the narrow line between truth and falsehood by a careful choice of words. The reason so many ad claims fall into this category of pseudo-information is that they are applied to parity products, products in which all or most of the brands available are nearly identical.
Since no one superior product exists, advertising is used to create the illusion of superiority. The largest advertising budgets are devoted to parity products such as gasoline, cigarettes, beer and soft drinks, soaps, and various headache and cold remedies.
The first rule of parity involves the Alice in Wonderlandish use of the words "better" and "best. So "best" means that the product is as good as the other superior products in its category. When Bing Crosby declares Minute Maid Orange Juice "the best there is" he means it is as good as the other orange juices you can buy.
The word "better" has been legally interpreted to be a comparative and therefore becomes a clear claim of superiority.
Bing could not have said that Minute Maid is "better than any other orange juice. The only time "better" can be used is when a product does indeed have superiority over other products in its category or when the better is used to compare the product with something other than competing brands.
An orange juice could therefore claim to be "better than a vitamin pill," or even "the better breakfast drink. If an ad hedges the least bit about a product's advantage over the competition you can strongly suspect it is not superior--may be equal to but not better.
You will never hear a gasoline company say "we will give you four miles per gallon more in your care than any other brand. Gasoline is a parity product, and, in spite of some very clever and deceptive ads of a few years ago, no one has yet claimed one brand of gasoline better than any other brand.
To create the necessary illusion of superiority, advertisers usually resort to one or more of the following ten basic techniques. Each is common and easy to identify.Descriptive essays can be the easiest essays to write, once you come up with a good topic.
Here is some bits of advice and a nice long list of great descriptive essay topics to help and inspire. What is the difference between good and bad writing? Cynthia Crossen on smug sentences, slovenly language and obscure prose. July (This essay is derived from a talk at Oscon ) A few months ago I finished a new book, and in reviews I keep noticing words like "provocative'' and "controversial.''To say nothing of "idiotic.'' I didn't mean to make the book controversial.
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