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Is it enough to demonstrate a product and list its functions to impress the target customer? Not in the age of abundance and violent competition in the market. What actually works is the use of ambiguous images that deliver simple truths in an original way. When it comes to the field of healthcare, advertisements are to influence the readers’ decision-making by appealing to their health consciousness. Crest, a famous dental care brand, attempts to do it by comparing teeth with cavities to dice. In its vintage toothpaste advertisement, Crest reaches the target audience by using ethos, pathos, and kairos, but failure to provide details about research decreases the effectiveness of appeals to reason.
The Ad’s Intended Audience and Purpose
The purpose of the advertisement is to increase the popularity of the brand’s anti-cavity toothpaste. The text is aimed at reaching people in English-speaking countries. Since the problem of dental cavities affects both men and women, the target community includes people of both genders. Concerning educational levels, to understand the message, a person should be able to read and aware of the most common dental problems. As dental cavities are especially common in children and older adults, it would be logical to target the text at parents and consumers of advanced age (Slayton et al. 1). People’s experiences with dental health issues also play a significant role in defining the intended audience. In particular, the advertisement is likely to appeal to individuals with a history of dental problems reducing the quality of life. Overall, the target customer is an adult English speaker with basic knowledge concerning dental health and experiences in dealing with dental problems.
The authors pay attention to the audience’s characteristics with varying success. As for particular issues, a person with basic knowledge of the topic can quickly get the message behind the image. However, to understand why Crest is presented as the most recommended toothpaste, one needs to know about the therapeutic uses of fluoride and its cavity prevention effects, but this information is absent. Other distinctive traits of the audience are taken into account since the depiction of teeth with holes is likely to elicit a strong emotional response in those who have ever had dental issues. Moreover, since dice are widely used in English-speaking countries, and people understand their functions, the visual means are selected with reference to cultural traits.
Rhetorical Appeals: Ethos, Pathos, Logos, and Kairos
Statements made by qualified experts or well-known companies are known to inspire trust, and modern advertisers widely use appeals to authorities of ethos to affect people’s purchasing decisions. In the analyzed text, Crest is presented as a widely recognized brand, which creates confidence in the product’s quality. Throughout the text, Crest Cool Mint Gel is referred to as the product recommended by the majority of professional dentists, and this idea is paraphrased a few times to stick in the audience’s memory. Situated ethos is the use of reputation as an ethical proof (Davis 13). It can be presented with the help of statistics; as an example, such appeals are evident in the sentence referring to Crest’s profound experience in the market. By stating that the toothpaste was introduced decades ago and mentioning 523 million product units that have already been sold, the authors aim to influence target customers’ purchasing decisions (Appendix). After getting acquainted with these statistics, the customer is supposed to draw a deduction that the brand is trusted by generations.
Pathetic proofs or appeals to one’s emotional state also help the brand to reach the target audience. The visual component of Crest’s advertisement is the most obvious example of such appeals. By depicting objects that resemble teeth with severe cavities and dice simultaneously, the authors introduce a successful visual metaphor. This rhetorical figure based on analogical comparisons is widely used to strengthen modern advertising strategies (Mohanty and Ratneshwar 232). Since this visual metaphor has a low level of incongruity and is followed by a slogan that explains it, no complex cognitive efforts are required to understand the message (Mohanty and Ratneshwar 232). Dice are used in high-risk casino games that inflict significant financial losses on unthoughtful players; even more dangerous “losses” exist when it comes to being careless about health. Both things are associated with negative emotions, such as fear. The advertisement combines the two situations to get a strong emotional response and make the audience ask themselves whether they do enough to prevent cavities and put the odds in their favor. Using pathos, the authors skillfully play on the audience’s fear of uncertainty by introducing Crest Cool Mint Gel as the product that minimizes risks.
Appeals to evidence known as logos help to use facts and evidence to influence customers’ decision-making in a certain way. For instance, saying that “there is no second chance” once a cavity appears, the authors point at the devastating consequences of neglecting dental health when facing the first signs of tooth decay (Appendix). By stating that Crest can “put the odds in your favor,” the company actually appeals to the evidence-based benefits of oral care products containing fluoride (Appendix). Based on scientific research, the use of fluoride toothpaste is associated with a twenty percent decrease in dental cavities (Mark 728; Quelch and Rodriguez 2). Compared to the previously discussed visual metaphor, this message can remain unnoticed if the audience is unaware of state of the art in cavity prevention research. Since the advertisement provides no details related to the product’s action and just claims that Crest is approved and recommended by dentists, its effectiveness in people who have no background knowledge about fluorite is doubtful.
The use of kairos involves being able to recognize and seize opportunities associated with particular rhetorical situations. In the discussed case, a good example of kairos can be found in the advertising slogan – “there are some things you just can’t afford to gamble with” (Appendix). As for their basic function, advertising slogans are aimed at conveying catchy messages related to the product and should be structured to reach “the maximum content intensity” (Baidullayeva 270). Concerning the intensity of the content, the slogan allows achieving three different goals at once. Firstly, it conveys the message that being careless about health is something negative. Secondly, the slogan creates connections between the text and the visual metaphor by using the word “gamble” (Appendix). Thirdly, apart from its general meaning, the verb “afford” can make the target customer think about the financial consequences of being irresponsible when it comes to dental health. These messages are likely to be understood since the slogan stands in stark contrast to the rest of the text due to the selected font size and being close to the visual.
To sum it up, the advertisement reaches the audience by utilizing a provocative image combined with a straight-from-the-shoulder slogan and appeals to the previously earned reputation. In the majority of cases, rhetorical appeals are selected with reference to the target customer’s way of thinking and experience. However, regarding weaknesses, the use of facts may need to be improved to make the audience understand what makes Crest the dentists’ choice.
Baidullayeva, Assel Batyrovna. “Cognitive Mechanisms of Linguistic Manipulation in Advertising Slogans.” Mediterranean Journal of Social Sciences, vol. 6, no. 5, 2015, pp. 270-275.
Davis, Carleigh J. Memetic Rhetorical Theory in Technical Communication: Reconstructing Ethos in the Post-Fact Era. Dissertation, East Carolina University, 2018. ECU, 2018.
Mark, Anita M. “Fighting Cavities with Fluoride.” The Journal of the American Dental Association, vol. 150, no. 8, 2019, p. 728.
Mohanty, Praggyan, and S. Ratneshwar. “Did you Get It? Factors Influencing Subjective Comprehension of Visual Metaphors in Advertising.” Journal of Advertising, vol. 44, no. 3, 2015, pp. 232-242.
Quelch, John A., and Margaret L. Rodriguez. “Colgate-Palmolive Company: Marketing Anti-Cavity Toothpaste.” Harvard Business School Case Collection, 2015, pp. 1-23, Web.
Slayton, Rebecca L., et al. “Dental Caries Management in Children and Adults.” National Academy of Medicine Perspectives, 2016, pp. 1-6.