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4 — Persuasive techniques used in advertising: Part 2

In this sequence, the students will continue to explore the persuasive techniques used by advertisers, with a particular focus on the language of appeal and the power of an advertiser to create and present a particular point of view.

This sequence draws on the General Capabilities of Literacy, Critical and Creative Thinking, and Information and Communication Technology.

The language of appeal (emotive language)

Explain that when it comes to using language, advertisers draw on a number of techniques. For example, they use language to appeal to our desire to obtain a bargain or to present a product as being a breakthrough in technology. Infomercials in particular make heavy use of the language of appeal or emotive language. Students will be familiar with the the ideas of ‘buy one, get one free’ or ‘order now and you will receive a bonus’. Explain that the use of words such as new, free, fast, introducing, at last and easy in this context is the language of appeal or emotive language.

Share this ShamWow! infomercial (YouTube 1:01) and ask students to identify words and phrases that aim to appeal to the target audience. Similar to the 48-hour Rapid Detox commercial (YouTube 1:00) viewed in the previous sequence, the product advertised promises immediate results. What other advertisements use obvious examples of the language of appeal? Share the Covergirl cosmetics advertisement (YouTube 0:46) as a further example. Encourage students to browse through a collection of advertisements and highlight the language of appeal.

Share how modality is achieved through discriminating choices in modal verbs, adverbs, adjectives and nouns. To show a high degree of certainty about the likelihood of events, verbs of high modality are used. If we feel tentative about something, we use low modality. Encourage the students to refer to the following chart (adapted from Derewianka, 2005) when investigating the language of advertising and the modality used. ACELA1536

High modality Medium modality Low modality
ought to
has to
need to

As well as modal verbs, modality can be expressed through choices of nouns, adjectives, and adverbs:

A cosmetic ad, for example, is more likely to use language such as, ‘You will notice an immediate change’, rather than, ‘You might notice a change’; or ‘It’s a must have item’, as opposed to, ‘You might want one’.

Activity 1: Changing modality

Using one of the advertisements viewed thus far in the unit, ask the students to experiment with changing the modal language used. They can also draw on other elements (beyond grammatical modality) that reinforce the overall strength of a message (for example, visual aspects, non-verbals and authoritative vocal tone).

Encourage the students to continue to inquire into the language of advertising and to contribute new insights and ideas to the classroom anchor chart of persuasive ideas. They can also add to their Digital advertising glossary worksheet.

Note: Additional resources that can be explored with the students include Morgan Spurlock’s documentary POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold and ABC TV’s ‘The Gruen Transfer’. As both of these are M rated, it is strongly recommended that you view these resources first to ascertain their appropriateness.

For further information about the language of persuasion, see Humphrey, Love and Droga’s Working Grammar.

Activity 2: Deconstructing an advertisement

Present the students with a print advertisement (preferably an advertisement where it is unclear what is actually being sold). This Skin Cancer Foundation public service advertisement is a good example. To maximise the effect of this advertisement, cover up the caption and logo at the bottom for the first viewing. Allow the students to concentrate on the visual scene.

Note: The Skin Cancer Foundation public service advertisement is reprinted in Wilhelm, Wilhelm and Boas, Inquiring Minds Learn to Read and Write.

In this example students will notice how the advertiser generates a point of view. The positioning of people in the scene, their attire, the camera angle and the social distance all contribute to painting an implied meaning that this could be a funeral scene. ACELA1764

When it comes to a lot of advertising, students are required to move beyond simple recall quite quickly, to making inferences and analysing concepts and themes. The Three-level questioning guide worksheet will help guide and assess student thinking. Students will use their prior knowledge to identify the purpose and possible audience for an advertisement as they analyse and explain its features and structure and explore its evaluative language.  ACELY1721ACELY 1722ACELA1782

Students can now revisit the advertisements they have looked at outside of the classroom. What further techniques and ideas can they now see after completing the deconstruction and analysis activities in class? They can write a response in their journal about what they have learnt about advertising thus far in the unit.