We have seen that rhetoric (both marketing and propaganda) is irrational to the degree that it violates one or more of six criteria: evidence based; truthful; logical; targeted rightly; not coercive; and transparent. In our handout, we said that by “not evidence based” we mean cases of mere repetition of the message, plus loaded question, question-begging (loaded) language, pooh-poohing, shifting the burden of proof, and purely pictorial appeals to hate, pity, fear (scare tactics), and the crowd. That is, we include the fallacies where not even a small amount of evidence (information) is offered. On the other hand, we mean by “not logical” cases where some evidence is given, but it is woefully insufficient, including: hasty generalization; false analogy; accident; bad appeal to authority; false cause; composition; division; equivocation, and verbal appeals to hate, pity, fear, and the crowd. We include as “coercive” appeals to fear that are direct threats (though there are many other ways for coercion to be used). And we include as “not transparent” cases of accent (though there are other ways ads can fail to be transparent).
This means that as a practical matter, most irrational marketing in America (which does have a truth in advertising law) will be failures to give evidence or giving evidence that is logically flawed. Less common, though still common, are failures to be transparent. Direct threats are rare, so coercive ads are relatively rare. Again, since major lies are illegal, untruthful ads are relatively rare.
For each of the following ads/sales tactics below, say why it shouldn’t persuade you to buy and what rule (or rules) of rational rhetoric is/are broken.
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Question 1 of 10
Ad in newspaper: “Help the Children! These abandoned children are begging for your help, as you can see just by looking at their eyes. What can you, an ordinary person, do? Send money right away to Save the Kids Society! Even a small donation will help.CorrectIncorrect
Question 2 of 10
Ad in news magazine: “Amazing results! Use Supa-loss tablets, and the fat will just melt away! It is the most awesome weight-loss pill on the market today!!!”CorrectIncorrect
Question 3 of 10
Boy Scout to a neighbor: “Hi, Mr. Smith! I’m here to ask you to contribute to our Boy Scout troop so we can go to camp this summer. Last summer, people didn’t donate enough and we couldn’t go to camp. Some of the boys wound up getting into trouble, vandalizing cars and stuff. I hope that doesn’t happen this summer! Heck, it might be your car that gets vandalized.CorrectIncorrect
Question 4 of 10
Ad: “This news just in! Major newspapers are reporting that the new memory aid, Mind-Build, is dramatically improving the memories of thousands of elderly sufferers of Alzheimer’s disease! If you suffer from Alzheimer’s, order your Mind-Build tablets today!CorrectIncorrect
Question 5 of 10
“My memory improved overnight!”
“I don’t forget things anymore the way I used to!”
“The number one cure for memory loss!”
The above quotes are from just some of the hundreds of letters we get every week raving about our new memory-aid pill “GINKO-BOMB.” Just two Ginko-bombs a day and your memory will be like it was when you were in your early twenties.CorrectIncorrect
Question 6 of 10
Scene in a movie: a group of young, attractive people find their way out of a dangerous forest where they were chased by zombies to a highway, and gather together underneath a billboard to laugh and congratulate each other. On the billboard is a large picture of a beautiful girl holding a bag of M&M candy.CorrectIncorrect
Question 7 of 10
Used car salesman (to a prospective customer): “Why do I think that this car for you? First, it has over 150,000 miles on it, so you know that the engine is well broken-in and tested. Second, the tires are bald, which actually increases traction. Also, the car has had has had a lot of owners, which tells you that it is a popular model.CorrectIncorrect
Question 8 of 10
An envelope containing an ad for perfume has printed on the cover: “WARNING: this notification may only be legally delivered by a US government agent!!”CorrectIncorrect
Question 9 of 10
Clerk to customer: I can see that this fine crystal decanter set interests you very much. And it should! It is simply fabulous. Do you want two sets, or perhaps three?CorrectIncorrect
Question 10 of 10
Ad on TV: “Your home is more than just property. It is the loving nest that holds your family together; it is where you make memories together, memories that bond you together for a lifetime. Don’t risk losing this treasure due to fire or earthquake! Buy Allstate homeowner’s insurance now!!”CorrectIncorrect