Nowadays, the helping professions play an essential role in society, for people are often faced with problems they find difficult to overcome and may require external help to do this (Hutchison, 2013). However, companies that provide helping services may sometimes use advertisements that utilize propagandist rather than rhetorical methods to attract clients; this, it is paramount to differentiate rhetoric from propaganda and adequately assess the claims of such organizations, for sometimes they may do more harm than good (Gambrill & Gibbs, 2009). In this paper, two advertisement videos will be analyzed to identify whether they contain more rhetorical or propagandist features.
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On the whole, the provided videos (Morningside Recovery, 2014; PeopleStar FilmWorks, 2014) appear to use propaganda rather than rhetoric. The shorter video (PeopleStar FilmWorks, 2014) mainly features the executive director of the “Morningside Recovery” company, who might be described as an attractive person, which creates additional appeal in the viewers of the video; the director briefly outlines what the company does, and cites its mission.
Background music is present; the viewers have demonstrated a boat going down a river, a sea beach, etc., suggesting that the clients of the enterprise will participate in similar activities. The scenery is beautiful, whereas the demonstrated indoor settings look comfortable, welcoming, and cozy. All of this creates quite an appealing atmosphere for the customer. Thus, there are numerous emotional appeals, such as background music, pleasant people, beautiful scenery, and cozy indoor setting (Gambrill & Gibbs, 2009, p. 69-70); however, no particular rational arguments are provided in the video.
The longer video (Morningside Recovery, 2014) also seems to appeal more to emotion, as well as to ideology, than to evidence. Again, much beautiful scenery is shown in the video; the viewers are told that the organization’s customers can have numerous experiences provided in the adventure programs of the company. “It’s not every day that someone stands… on a summit overlooking most of California,” the executive director says (Morningside Recovery, 2014, 5:00).
The advertisement also describes the cozy atmosphere that the clients of the company can experience; for instance, it is stated that they can take their pets with them if they desire, and so on (Morningside Recovery, 2014). It is emphasized that the organization helps its clients to become “active members” of the society, to “achieve success,” which is apparently an appeal to certain ideologemes; it is said that “if you can dream it, we’ll help you do it” (Morningside Recovery, 2014, 3:40) – another reassurance for the potential customers.
At the beginning of the longer video, a man speaks about what the company offers; it is mentioned that “people [can] choose [the method of treatment] that works best for them” (Morningside Recovery, 2014, 0:20), which can induce doubt is considered critically. It is also stated that, for instance, “we use evidence-based practices, dialectical therapy, cognitive behavior therapy, and solution-focus therapy” (Morningside Recovery, 2014. 0:50), which are terms that probably do not mean much to many of the potential customers, but may sound “smart” and “solid,” providing additional credibility for the enterprise. It is stressed that all the employees of the company are professionals licensed in the state of California (Morningside Recovery, 2014); however, it would be strange if they were not.
Therefore, numerous appeals to the emotions of the potential customers are made (Gambrill & Gibbs, 2009, p. 69-70); the advertisements also use some common ideologemes (success), as well as widely recognized notions (evidence-based practice). However, no facts or statistics are provided in the video, even though it would not be difficult to state, for instance, which percentage of the clients successfully obtained aid from the company. No references to particular studies are made; research is only vaguely mentioned once.
Thus, the provided videos make very strong emotional appeals; however, they present no concrete information or data pertaining to the effectiveness of the services the advertised company provides. The potential clients are probably expected to contact the company ASAP. Therefore, it might be concluded that the viewed advertisements demonstrate the features of propaganda rather than those of rhetoric.
Gambrill, E., & Gibbs, L. (2009). Critical thinking for helping professionals: A skills-based workbook (3rd ed.). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Hutchison, E. D. (2013). Essentials of human behavior: Integrating person, environment, and the life course. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.
Morningside Recovery. (2014). About Morningside Recovery. Web.
PeopleStar FilmWorks. (2014). MSR – executive director video. Web.