What Creative Experts Can Learn From Classical Rhetoric
A deeper appreciation of classical rhetoric could help advertising practitioners and scholars improve their understanding of what makes for strong creative, according a paper in the Journal of Advertising Research (JAR).
Alexander Tevi and Scott Koslow, both of Macquarie University, argued the tools for assessing consumer psychology will change over time, but the “role of rhetoric theory in advertising research” is embedded in the very nature of the discipline.
Their paper, How Rhetoric Theory Informs the Creative Advertising Development Process: Reconciling Differences between Advertising Scholarship and Practice, also highlighted the key connections that link rhetoric and advertising.
Advertising message strategy, for example, tracks back to the first “canon” of rhetoric, in the form of invention, they asserted. Similarly, the executional elements largely reflect the second rhetorical “canon”, which is “arrangement”.
Further correspondence can be noted between ideation and the third rhetorical “canon” of style, while media channels are broadly akin to “memory”, the fourth canon. Production, in turn, relates to “delivery”, the final such “canon”.
Elaborating on this theme, the academics suggested that the three main persuasion appeals are logos/mythos, pathos and ethos – perhaps better known in advertising as rational appeals, emotional appeals, and source credibility respectively.
“Both classical rhetoric and advertising are vexed by accusations of misrepresenting the truth – that is, making appeals that have no support. Whether hard sell, soft sell, or somewhere in between, advertisements always will have appeals,” Tevi and Koslow added.
Pulling rhetoric back to the foreground will also bring clarity to another hotly-disputed topic – namely, that advertising is either a “zombie” or close to death.
“What scholars are confused about is that if advertising’s definition is tied to specific media with traditional paid-compensation methods, then certainly the textbook definition will keep changing with every media innovation,” Tevi and Koslow wrote.
“On one level, it makes little difference whether we substitute terms such as ‘advertising’ or ‘brand communications’ or ‘integrated marketing communications’ – rhetoric is still rhetoric.”
Based on this proposition, the authors recommended that advertising executives and their colleagues in universities would benefit from expanding their field of vision.
“It will serve advertising research and practice well to see more work done in the fields of philosophy (argumentation and ethics), literary studies (narration, drama, and performance), music (genres and translations), and persuasion (principles and practice), from rhetorical perspectives,” they wrote.