Language Of Advertising

The Language of Advertising #

We are are living in a sea of promotions; bombarded with increasing amount of overt and covert (subliminal) advertising that could be considered aural and visual pollution. When advertising becomes so ubiquitous its invasive, intrusive presence can cause conditioned behaviour that may be psychologically damaging.

People, who use language to arrest attention, communicate instantly, arouse desire and create need, anticipation and excitement are copy writers for advertising**. Advertising** has become one of the world’s largest most profitable businesses.

Advertisors use Text types or Genres that: Coax, Entice, Induce, Deceive, Beguile and Persuade

**Professor Marshall McLuhan writes: **“*Ours is the first age in which many thousands of the best trained individual *minds *have made it a full-time business to get inside the collective public mind. **To get inside in order to manipulate, exploit, control is the object now. *And to generate heat, not light, is the intention.”



** George Orwell**: “the rattling of a stick inside a swill bucket.”

** Stephen Laycock**:

* “the science of arresting the human intelligence long enough to get money from it.”*

Characteristics of Persuasive language:

Emotive language – coloured and biased language with affected and associated meanings: new, free, wanted, sensational

Abstract words - beauty*, delicious, satisfying, they* invest their products with significance or symbolism beyond themselves; aristocratic elegance, sportsmanship, good health or sexual attractiveness.*

Catchy Phrases – language to arrest your attention; to lure you in, to seduce, to communicate instantly, briefly, concisely with impact.

**Poetic, Glamorised or Euphemistic Language **– They ransack the language for words and phrases and plagiarise poetry unashamedly. They choose glossy, glamorous flowing language that lulls or hypnotises you, dulling your intellect. Sound effects: alliteration, assonance and rhyme and rhythm

**Imperative Mood **- The language urges, orders or commands you to act in an assertive aggressive enterprising manner.

**Use of the Second Person **- You are being addressed, targeted, made to feel special. You are induced to “treat/indulge yourself” because you deserve it – to arouse self-interest. They speak directly to the reader.

**Abuse of Language **- Advertisers can be very dishonest in how they use language. Without resorting to outright lies, they attempt to make “gilt seem gold, the shoddy silk; to cheat us legally.”

Frequent use of Adjectives - a predominance of superlatives; best, freshest, cleanest, brightest, biggest, most real, special, crisp wonderful…..

Repetition - easy to read, and help to fix the product in the receivers mind. Brand names are repeated ad nauseum as are catchy phrases and jingles.

Neologisms - new words are coined every year; “unzip a banana, temptational, bubbly, minty, tangy, chewy, chunky, crackly, crispy, flaky, meaty, nutty, silky and spicy” are some of the newly coined adjectives. Many compound words such as: mirror finish, longer-lasting, smoother-handling, have been introduced by the advertising industry.

**Humour – **softens us up for the soft sell.

Structures:  (Scaffolding) #

Four ingredients of successful ads: attention, interest, desire and action (AIDA).

Attention: Eye-catching layout, striking features to make people take notice. Clear concise expression short sentences and paragraphs. Captivating Graphics. Spectacular Layout easy to grasp.

**Interest **– to sustain interest, often targeted to a niche market.

**Desire **- the ad will create or develop a need or desire for the product. (See below)

**Action **- an urging for direct action with some incentives; gifts, limited time, special deals….. Usually in the second person with an imperative tone.

Emotional abuse of the collective subconscious Psyche:

Advertisers recognise that we all have fears, hopes, anxieties, aspirations, insecurities and dreams and rather than satisfy desires, not needs, they lull us into false illusions that these will be filled by consumerism. They exploit our psyche by appeals to:

Status – snob values: *Top people read Spectrum, discerning people drink Baileys, discriminating tastes prefer King Island Cheese, the best homes… *exclusive

Fear of non-conformity: *bad breath, B.O., pejoratives, old-fashioned, negative associations.


**Security – *Get with the strength, ** a name you can trust, Est. 1870.


**Ease and Comfort - **Relax, treat yourself, processed food, self indulgence.

**Authority - ***Doctors recommend, or horse trainers/dog trainers/racing car drivers or just famous people, athletes *through either direct testimonial or by association linking the product with fame and prestige.

**Sex and provocative youth – **always a good approach designed to catch attention and associate with your product.

**Brand names: **To establish these you must imbue them with epic qualities and have them branded into the psyches of your target (niche) audience.

Symbol Manipulation: You invest objects with significance that transcend themselves through association: Though attractive, the links can be deceptive. Cigarettes to elegance, social acceptance, outdoor health scenes, Cars and sexy women, foods and heroic sporting achievements…..

Impressive Layouts and Graphics with attention grabbing and subtle display and exploitation of colour.

Tactics of commercials: #

In an interview with ad executive Jonah Sachs, YouTube channel AJ+ outlines the main tactics commercials use to reel us in.

  • Empowerment: Think the “Dove Real Beauty” campaign, which used women’s empowerment to promote their brand.
  • Shared values: REI’s “Opt Outside” campaign this past Thanksgiving in the US encouraged people to enjoy the outdoors rather than shop, but it was excellent brand building for REI.
  • Celebrity: George Clooney in those Nescafe commercials.
  • Fear of missing out: The video uses Budweiser commercials as an example. They show everyone else doing cool stuff and make you want that lifestyle, too.

The video goes into more detail, so check it out above or at the link below.

How Commercials Get Us To Buy Crap We Don’t Need | AJ+ (YouTube)

Evaluation of Advertising: #

E.S. Turner in The Shocking History of Advertising (1968)

“A bride is not a young woman on the edge of a great adventure; she is a conditioned consumer, who by buying the right cosmetics and the right brassiere has captured her man, and who, when she returns from her honeymoon, will go into the grocer’s and automatically recite those branded names that have been dinned into her ears for the last twenty years”.

Vance Palmer in The Hidden Persuaders, advances the possibility that the future citizen will be a helpless victim of campaigns of persuasion guided by mass psychoanalysis.

What are the pros and cons?

Advantages of Advertising Gives Public notice - Information of specific details and latest products New innovative inventions Keeps us up to date Revenue for Media: Without advertising we would not have cheap newspapers, free radio and television. Market demand would shrink, jobs disappear and prices of goods rise. DISADVENTAGES OF ADVERTISING Persuades people to buy unnecessary products creating a consumerist consumptive society producing tons of waste material to be disposed of. Encourages built-in obsolescence. Promotes impulse buying Threat of withdrawal can give advertisers undue influence on media. Often promotes dangerous products: Fast cars Drugs, cigarettes Deodorants, Fast unhealthy foods Appeals to self-interest/indulgence Canada has 2/3 of the world’s cleanest water and yet imports French bottled water from the most polluted continent in the world. Deceptive advertising can be confusing, making rational choice impossible Public and Civic Promotions

Road safety

Anti-Drug campaigns

Safe sex – AIDS



Advertising uses psychological appeals to make you spend your money on products that you do not need.

“Your debutant knows what you need, but I know what you want” - Leonard Cohen

In rich countries, consumption consists of people spending money they don’t have to buy goods they don’t need to impress people they don’t like.

No Cheers for the Ad-Man
This trumpeter of nothingness, employed

To keep our reason dull and null and void.

This man of wind and froth and flux will sell

The wares of any who reward him well.

Praising whatever he is paid to praise,

He hunts for ever-newer, smarter ways

To make the gilt seen gold; the shoddy, silk;

To cheat us legally; to bluff and bilk

By methods which no jury can prevent

Because the law’s not broken, only bent.

This mind for hire, this mental prostitute

Can tell the half-lie hardest to refute;

Knows how to hide an inconvenient fact

And when to leave a doubtful claim unbacked;

Manipulates the truth but not too much,

And if his patter needs the Human Touch,

Skillfully artless, artlessly naive,

Wears his convenient heart upon his sleeve.

He uses words that once were strong and fine,

Primal as sun and moon and bread and wine,

True, honourable, honoured, clear and keen,

And leaves them shabby, worn, diminished, mean.

He takes ideas and trains them to engage

In the long little wars big combines wage…

He keeps his logic loose, his feelings flimsy;

Turns eloquence to cant and wit to whimsy;

Trims language till it fits his clients, pattern

And style’s a glossy tart or limping slattern.

He studies our defences, finds the cracks

And where the wall is weak or worn, attacks

lie finds the fear that’s deep, the wound that’s tender,

And mastered, outmanouevered, we surrender.

We who have tried to choose accept his choice

And tired succumb to his untiring voice.

The dripping tap makes even granite soften

We trust the brand-name we have heard so often

And join the queue of sheep that flock to buy;

We fools who know our folly, you and I.

Arthur Seymour John Tessimond