You’re sitting on your living room sofa, cozy in a soft blanket with a cup of delicious Turkey Hill Ice Tea and a huge bowl of Jalapeño Potato Chips as you watch your favorite weekly program. Last week’s episode left you on the edge of your seat and tonight’s show is so unbelievable that your heart won’t stop racing. But as you stare in disbelief as to what you are seeing on the television screen, your mouth drops, your eyes widen and as you wait anxiously to see what is about to be revealed, BAM! it goes to commercial and now there is an array of profanities coming from you’re mouth. Let’s face it, you may be upset that the advertisement interrupted “Ghost” about to find out that Tommy is the snitch, but companies need to get their product out to the public and interrupting your television session is one of the preferred methods. With an attempt to persuade viewers to purchase products with catch phrases such as “Just Do It”, “I’m Lovin It” and “Taste the Rainbow”, ad agencies have been using persuasive techniques that grab much attention and generate interest for generations.
Through centuries, advertising has encountered big milestones from the Egyptians using papyrus to create sales messages to the Printing Press being born in the 15th and 16th Centuries (Gallegos). Once television came along in the 1950’s, advertising through such a new innovation wasn’t so receptive by the critics as they felt it was an invasion upon the everyday lives of families (Campbell, Martin, Fabos and Harmsen). But as we fast forward to the launch of the World Wide Web in the 1990’s, you find that advertising was revolutionized at this time as businesses were now able to connect with a target audience and uphold the loyalty of customers through social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkIn. Yet, advertising wasn’t always through television, magazines, newspapers, billboards and technology. The earliest forms of advertising were actually word of mouth from traders and to be honest is probably still the best way of promoting products or services today (Gallegos). However, one can’t argue, that no matter what the form of advertising may be, it always comes back to the same method; the gift of persuasion.
Persuasion is the centerpiece of the advertising industry. It’s a tactic used with a goal to entice the customer to purchase the product. However, along with persuasion comes strategy and advertisers over the years have perfected this game. Through conventional approaches like Snob Appeal “it will elevate your status”, Bandwagon Effect “everyone is using the product” and Famous-Person Testimonials “endorsed by a well-known person” to name a few, businesses have invested millions of dollars in advertising with the hope of bringing attention to their brand and boosting sales (Campbell, Martin, Fabos and Harmsen). Take a look at Donald Trump or shall we say the “President of the United States”. The media has labeled him as the “Master of Persuasion” as his skills in this area take on a whole new meaning. Not only has his persuasive abilities been the weapon behind the Trump brand, we cannot forget his performance during his presidential campaign. It was at this time that he introduced our nation to the “Make America Great Again” slogan attempting to persuade voters through four easy words to place him into office. But what was it about this motto that incorporated the contemporary persuasive techniques of advertising?
One of the most memorable aspects of President Trump’s campaign for president was his slogan, illustrated in white letters on red hats shining brightly — “Make America Great Again.” As those words spread around from ear to ear and mouth to mouth, the popularity of such a phrase took this nation by storm placing an impression on most citizens and giving our country a modern day cultural artifact. Such a statement could be seen on t-shirts, bumper stickers, posters and even social media created hashtags reminding our Americans that better days are ahead for America. Yet, undeniably no other product stood out more than the controversially hat making it historic as it shouted, “Make America Great Again”; reminding Americans of the change in power that was about to unfold. Still, you can’t help to ask exactly why this hat and phrase became so unforgettable and an advertising masterpiece. Lindsey Ballant, a designer and professor at the Maryland College of Art, told CNN “It was un-designed. It didn’t represent what one thinks of when you think of traditional politics in terms of visual messaging, and that’s essentially what Trump was as well” (Spodak). In all reality if you really think about it, the lettering is your plain Times New Roman default, the color design is nothing more than primary, and the style is just a basic baseball cap that every little leaguer across America wears on the baseball field. Its wasn’t flashy, it wasn’t bold; it just simply appealed to the ordinary every day person as did the slogan “Make American Great Again”. Through those words Trump clearly made an effort to persuade the voters that he, if put into office, would restore America back to the greatness that once existed as he was just like any other hard-working citizen wanting what was best for our country. With this, such an advertising campaign combined basic headwear with the simplicity of a straightforward slogan and implemented the persuasive strategy of “plain folks pitch” with the intention to present Trump as a relatable everyday normal person instead of a billionaire running for office in the hopes of gaining support from the American people.
Nevertheless, the “plain folks propaganda” wasn’t the only technique of advertising used within the “Make America Great Again” slogan. We also see “hidden-fear appeal.” Trump played on the insecurity of our nation’s citizens and reached the fears of voters who felt that the nation they lived in and the country that they adored had vanished. This slogan didn’t just speak to those who wanted a new and improved America but an America who wanted to return to a day where many were living the American Dream. By announcing such a slogan as “Make America Great Again” he not only tried convincing the voters that he believed our nation was in crisis but also to not elect him as President was taking a risk as he would be the hero that would save our nation from any further destruction.
Now while 2016 gave our people the “Make American Great Again” slogan, the 90’s gave VHS Tapes! HitClips! GameBoy! Spongebob! and the one and only Got Milk ads; which was advertising at its best. Who would have thought, that a boring white liquid, that everyone already knows exists, and can’t possibly be improved would have become the subject of advertising history making the iconic advertisement a legend. With the photo campaign using more than 300 actresses, models, athletes and musicians posing with white mustaches, the tagline became an overnight sensation (Lin). Celebrities such as Britney Spears, Dennis Rodman, Angelina Jolie, David Beckham and even Kermit the Frog graced print ads bringing awareness to the importance of drinking milk and asking “Got Milk”? The ads were funny, somewhat sexy, motivational, simple, highly popular and much needed by the milking industry.
In 1993, it became noticeable that soda, ice teas, energy drinks and flavored water were becoming dominant and milk consumption was fading as a thing of the past. After the realization of such a decline, the California Milk Processor Board challenged the advertising agency of Goodby, Silverstein & Partners to build a campaign not only encouraging individuals to drink milk but to see it more as a daily beverage (Rankin). As the agency welcomed this task, a focus group was formed and with a basic question and answer the “Got Milk?” advertisement was born lasting 20 years before its retirement. Jeff Goodby stated “here’s what really happened. Jon Steel and Carole Rankin were at a focus group when the clouds parted and a woman said, “the only time I even think about milk is when I run out of it.” Goodby scrawled “Got Milk?” From there, the ad executives got to work building on the concept of that phrase and originated a commercial and a print ad surrounding the “Got Milk” notion. The commercial featured individuals in a difficult situation, with a mouth full of dry food, without a glass of milk to help swallow. Turn the pages of magazines and the print advertisements presented notorious celebrities with the renowned white mustache and either a “got milk?” or “where’s your mustache?” logo (Rankin). Still, whether the preference was the commercial version or the print ad, no one can doubt that the perception was genius and incorporated those persuasive strategies that advertising agencies always base their thoughts around.
When we look for a glimpse of persuasiveness in the “Got Milk?” campaign, we see the Famous-Person Testimonial technique. In using public figures to promote their product, they are persuading people to think that if a celebrity is associated with the product than it must be a good idea to purchase (Media Illustrated). Back in the day, at the height of his career, Professional Football Player Donovan McNabb was featured in a “Got Milk?” ad. The page read “Milk’s number one in my playbook. It has the nine essential nutrients I need to go all the way. So ask somebody to pass the milk. It’s your best call” (Google Images). By McNabb presenting this testimonial it gets fans thinking; if he likes milk and he recommends this drink, then we should too as it will be good for our bodies. Now while the Famous-Personal Testimonial strategy is definitely present in the “Got Milk?” advertisements so is the Bandwagon Effect. The Bandwagon Effect leaves consumers feeling that if they ignore the product than they get left behind (Campbell, Martin, Fabos and Harmsen). This is especially evident in the Got Milk?” ads because of the abundant amount of celebrities who participated in this campaign. It leaves a feeling of “everyone is doing it, why shouldn’t I” or “if it’s good enough for the group, than it’s good enough for me”. It’s almost like the advertisement is the leader and you are the follower wanting to be in with the popular crowd.
In conclusion, every ad agencies goal is to get the consumer to buy the companies’ products or in a political situation to believe in the person’s promises. We live in a world where persuasion surrounds us through advertising. It manipulates a person in to believing that a product is now their want or wish through persuasive strategies or techniques. Ads can be unrealistic! They can be confusing! They can be misleading! Most importantly, they can be very persuasive!