You are on page 1of 26

Running  Head:  RHETORICAL  DISCOURSE  IN  NONPROFIT  ADVERTISING                                                                      1

 
 
 

Exploring Rhetorical Discourse in Marketing and Advertising in the Nonprofit Sector: An
Analysis
Carrie Moses
University of North Carolina Wilmington
6 October 2015

RHETORICAL  DISCOURSE  IN  NONPROFIT  ADVERTISING  
 

2  

Exploring Rhetorical Discourse in Marketing and Advertising in the Nonprofit Sector: A
Literature Review
A strategic communication plan presents nonprofit organizations with the opportunity to
grow and develop. Operating with a strategic plan in mind increases efficiency, productivity, and
the opportunity for effective communication. Developing a plan outlining detailed goals and
future organizational endeavors allows the executive director, board members, and staff to better
fulfill the mission because individuals are working with a clear direction in mind. A review of a
select number of literary sources establishes the importance in connecting the internal
departments of a nonprofit organization, with the external community through outreach. In
maintaining a relationship with the general public through media outlets, organizations may
choose to further their mission and vision through advertising. The ad campaigns produced by
nonprofit organizations serve as rhetorical artifacts that provide a certain level of insight into
both the inner workings of the organization, as well as possible reasons for the use particular
rhetorical strategies. Through a general understanding of both the not-for-profit sector, and
rhetorical theory, readers are given the opportunity to explore a variety of strategies used when
marketing successful nonprofits, including the ways in which content is framed. Each of these
subtopics related to advertising in the nonprofit sector ties into the central theme of rhetorical
discourse. And although these objectives do not characterize the nonprofit sector alone, they
serve as essential communication goals for organizations, goals that increase chances of
prosperity due to their strategic nature.
Introduction to the nonprofit sector
A strategic plan encourages cohesion within an organization, as well as clarity in
organizational procedures. In the same manner that a strategic plan acts as a guiding tool, and

RHETORICAL  DISCOURSE  IN  NONPROFIT  ADVERTISING  
 

3  

foundation for nonprofit organizations, strategic communication also promotes success within
the nonprofit sector. Organizations participating in advocacy and public policy, while remaining
tax exempt, and offering donors tax deductible giving, are labeled as 501(c)(4) organizations
according to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The communication plans for such nonprofits
are structured differently than a 501(c)(3) organization, which shares the same tax exemption
status, while foregoing participation in advocacy and public policy (Hall, 2006, p. 32). Prior to
the mid-eighteenth century, before the separation of church and state, charitable undertakings, as
well as tax collection, were primarily viewed as a responsibility of the church (Hall, 2006, p. 33).
These philanthropic responsibilities of the church, explained in Hammack (2002), predate the
finish of the American Revolution; however, Hall (2006) dedicates a portion of his article to
nonprofit organizations operating before the year 1750. While Hammack (2002), and Hall (2006)
possess varying views on the start of the nonprofit sector, their articles agree that, overall,
American citizens were unhappy with the role the government played in their daily lives, causing
a great deal of reliance on nonprofit organizations. These organizations continue to play a major
role in meeting the basic needs of a large portion of the American population.
In regards to meeting, at the very least, many basic needs for individuals living in the
United States, both Hammack (2002) and Redd (1991) highlight the importance of nonprofit
organizations to individuals in minority groups. Redd’s article focused on the deregulations of
radio, and its effects on Black families (1991). Hammack’s article details major shifts in the
nonprofit sector beginning with its conception. He argues that “the relative expansion of the
nonprofit sector since 1960 [can be attributed to] the steadily increasing affluence of the
American people, the Great Society programs…, and the civil rights movement” (Hammack,
2002, p. 1662). The civil rights movement, beginning in 1955, sought to secure equal rights for

RHETORICAL  DISCOURSE  IN  NONPROFIT  ADVERTISING  
 

4  

people of color living in the United States. “The abyss of uncertainty which Black families
entered was largely filled by nonprofit institutions…and religious social service organizations
that helped sustain their survival,” notes Redd (1991, p. 219). While not-for-profit organizations
serve more than people of color, minority groups are responsible for a great deal of growth in the
nonprofit sector. A well-rounded understanding of historical events provides ample explanation
for the current successes and struggles of the nonprofit sector.
Exploring Rhetoric
While some scholars disagree over when the nonprofit sector began, the start of rhetoric
is not as debated. According to Herrick (2013), rhetoric dates back to fifth century BCE, with
Plato and Socrates being two of the most highly regarded rhetors from fourth century BCE (p.
28). The negative connotation associated with rhetoric stems from the persuasive nature of the
discipline. Rhetoric shapes how people think using a variety of techniques, one of which being
the three appeals. Appeals to logic, appeals to emotion, and appeals to character serve as a basis
for advertising because a rhetor must effectively frame their argument to persuade their audience.
Advertising, which uses the three appeals, is an example of rhetorical discourse. Herrick (2013)
writes, “Rhetorical discourse…is (1) planned, (2) adapted to an audience, (3) shaped by human
motives, (4) responsive to a situation, (5) persuasion-seeking, and (6) concerned with contingent
issues” (p. 8, 9). There is a great deal of potential for change in both behavior and philosophy
when rhetorical discourse is prepared effectively.
In order to increase the effectiveness of rhetorical discourse, it is important to have a
thorough understanding of the psychology behind the foundation of the discipline. Hill’s chapter
entitled “The Psychology of Rhetorical Images” highlights specific reasons as to why figurative
language, as well as specific words and phrasing are more likely to elicit the rhetor’s desired

RHETORICAL  DISCOURSE  IN  NONPROFIT  ADVERTISING  
 

5  

response from the intended audience. For example, “Because imagistic language can prompt
mental imaging and therefore elicit emotional responses, it seems likely that using such language
would increase the rhetorical effectiveness of the message” (Hill, 2004, p. 31). Anticipating how
the audience will respond to language enables the rhetor to be more strategic and intentional in
the development of rhetorical discourse.
Similar to rhetorical discourse, organizational rhetoric is strategic and goal-oriented, two
traits that define the nature of the nonprofit sector. Organizational rhetoric is defined as “the
strategic use of symbols by organizations to influence the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of
audiences important to the operation of the organization” (Hoffman & Ford, 2010, p. 7). Since
organizational rhetoric is a specialized sub-discipline of rhetoric, there is a great deal of overlap
between the two areas of study. For example, the five canons; invention, arrangement,
expression, memory, and delivery are tools designed to enable rhetoricians to skillfully create
arguments that will, in theory, effectively persuade their audiences (Herrick, 2013, p. 95). While
in speech writing all five canons provide a framework for the rhetorical artifact, in some
circumstances, only one canon is the focus. Hoffman and Ford (2010) explain, “Branding is
tightly linked to the canon of style” (p. 127), which Herrick (2013) refers to as the canon of
expression (p. 95). Each canon adds a unique approach to rhetorical theory. Hoffman and Ford
note that “Critical approaches to organizational communication assume that ‘messages can never
be neutral’” (2010, p. 82). This particular idea in organizational rhetoric is perpetuated in
advertising, which is one of the reasons for its strategic nature.
While organizational rhetoric represents many of the strategic qualities of nonprofits and
advertising, it is visual rhetoric that emphasizes the fluidity of the interpretation of photographs,
memorials, and advertising. The study of visual rhetoric is more subjective in nature because

RHETORICAL  DISCOURSE  IN  NONPROFIT  ADVERTISING  
 

6  

visual arguments are often open to interpretation by the audience. Hill and Helmers (2004) write
“The interpretant is…a mental representation; it is not a person …thus… the interpretant is
associative and connotative” (p.15). The idea of the interpretant in rhetorical discourse illustrates
the symbolic nature of the discipline. While nonprofit organizations must remain strategic when
developing advertisements, it is imperative that organizations take into account that messages are
perceived differently depending on the individual. Foss’s “Rhetorical Criticism: Exploration and
Practice” published in 2004 explains, “Symbolic convergence theory is based on two major
assumptions. One is that communication creates reality….A second assumption…is that symbols
not only create reality for individuals but that individuals’ meanings for symbols can converge to
create a shared reality or community consciousness” (p. 109, 110). Because symbols create
shared meaning amongst individuals, this particular theory of symbolic convergence associated
with rhetorical criticism, denotes both the variability of advertising, and the importance of
strategic methods on the part of the rhetor.
Marketing Successful Nonprofits
Ditkoff and Colby’s article, “Galvanizing Philanthropy” published in 2009, introduces
ideas and strategies designed to maximize success in the nonprofit sector. The material found in
the article details the intricate process of founding, and running, a successful nonprofit
organization. While Ditkoff and Colby’s article notes the variability in goals and beliefs for each
organization, their work highlights fundamental characteristics of organizations operating in the
nonprofit sector. Published in 1999, Kinzey’s book, “Using Public Relations Strategies to
Promote Your Nonprofit Organization,” relays fairly outdated information. While her chapters
fail to mention the technological advances that have, and continue to, shape the nonprofit sector,
some of the information she presents has endured the tests of time. Strategic planning, for

RHETORICAL  DISCOURSE  IN  NONPROFIT  ADVERTISING  
 

7  

example, is a commonly used technique in the not-for-profit sector. Kinzey (1999) discusses, at
length, the correlation between strategic planning and the success of the organization, writing,
“Public relations is a planned deliberate process that includes research and analysis…and
communication with and feedback from numerous publics” (1991, p. 11). It is the intentionality
that characterizes the strategic nature of the nonprofit sector. Unlike Kinzey, Durham’s
“Brandraising,” includes the latest updates in technology. Technological advances play an
integral role in the ways in which nonprofit organizations communicate with potential donors,
clients, and other organizations and community leaders.
In regards to interacting with individuals outside of the organization, the logo, which
identifies a brand, becomes an important driver in community involvement. While Kinzey’s
book does not discuss the organization’s visual identity, Durham (2010) devotes a number of
pages to the topic. Stafford, Tripp, and Bienstock (2004) write, “Branding is more important for
nonprofits than for corporate clients because nonprofits compete for public attention, volunteers,
patrons, and benefactors” (p. 37). As benefactors support organizations, organizations support
patrons. This cycle of provision is another unique characteristic of the nonprofit sector; therefore,
in order to live out the mission and vision established at the conception of the nonprofit group,
nonprofit organizations need a strong brand. According to Durham (2010), as well as Stafford,
Tripp, and Bienstock (2004), it is important to have a clearly designed logo to increase the
opportunity for recognition and association between the logo and the company. Ambiguous
logos are not received well by potential patrons, or individuals outside of the organization, but
Stafford, Tripp, and Bienstock (2004) write that the more complex the logo, the more effective
the image becomes (pp. 38). In some ways, a complex logo brings a level of strength to the
organization, but Durham (2010) explains that a complex logo can lead to a muddled online

RHETORICAL  DISCOURSE  IN  NONPROFIT  ADVERTISING  
 

8  

representation of the image (p.83). This idea explains how necessary it is that nonprofit
organizations take advantage of the multitude of resources the Internet has to offer. Krueger and
Haytko (2015) write that “only 46% of nonprofits have a website,” and with the digital age
continuing to “change marketing strategies,” “real world relationships have moved to the virtual
world of digital dimension allowing individuals to share knowledge…and promote dialogue
amongst different cultures” (p. 2,4). In agreement with Krueger and Haytko (2015) is Durham
(2010), who also speaks on the power of the Internet. While Kinzey’s book does not mention
website use, she does speak on the intentionality that characterizes the nonprofit sector. Whether
that intentionality is in regards to public relations, or mindfully choosing the typeface for a logo,
successful nonprofit organizations take benefactors, clients, and volunteers into consideration
when making decisions.
Framing Advertisements in the Nonprofit Sector
In addition to the tax-exempt status of non-governmental organizations, the nonprofit
sector is characterized by its mission-driven nature. Each individual not-for-profit is fueled by an
established set of unique ideas that serve as the overarching goal of the organization. Research
shows that nonprofit organizations should adopt business models, including public relations
practices, in order to effectively market their mission. To increase the success of their advertising
campaigns, which actively seek to further the nonprofit’s mission, an organization must first
learn how to effectively reach their target audiences. Bortree, Ahern, Dou, and Smith (2015)
explain the concept of framing theory, which “Suggests that people make sense of information
through a structure called frames, and these frames can act as a means of organizing one’s
understandings of the world” (p.78). The ways in which a message is framed, as well as the
appeals chosen, affect how audiences will receive the content presented. For example, Cao

RHETORICAL  DISCOURSE  IN  NONPROFIT  ADVERTISING  
 

9  

(2015) writes that as perceived susceptibility increases, the more effective a loss-framed
advertisement becomes (p. 6). In other words, if an individual believes she is at risk for an illness
presented in a campaign, the message should focus on the consequences for not performing the
promoted behavior (Cao, 2015, p. 2). In the same way that mission statements differ between
organizations, the strategies used to promote these missions differ as well. Some organizations
prefer to use more unconventional methods. When marketing a mission, nonprofit organizations
are also advertising for a change in behavior. Lacendorfer and Reece (2010) discuss different
marketing tools used in a particular religious campaign. The article notes, “Social marketing is
different [from commercial marketing] because it focuses on resolving social problems rather
than on producing goods or services for profit and emphasizes voluntary behavior change”
(Lacendorfer & Reece, 2010, p. 325). “Shock tactics and threat appeals” as noted by Parry,
Jones, Stern, and Robinson “are frequently used in order to facilitate large-scale changes in
behavior and attitudes” (2013, p. 13). These changes in personal philosophy are, for many
nonprofits, the goal of their advertisements. The product being sold is an idea promoted by the
organization, and selling an idea requires an in-depth awareness of how the target audience will
process a message. In their article, Marchand and Filiatrault (2001) address “ a rational strategy,
an emotional strategy based on a negative emotion (fear), and an emotional strategy based on a
positive emotion (rewarding improved behavior)” (p. 271). In order to maximize the effects of an
advertisement, the emotional implications should be taken into consideration. Similar to
Machand and Filiatrault’s study on the public health issue of HIV/AIDS in advertising,
Hemenway and Miller discuss gun violence as a public health issue. According to their study,
“Policymakers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) describe the public
health approach as a four-step model: Define the problem, identify risk and protective factors,

RHETORICAL  DISCOURSE  IN  NONPROFIT  ADVERTISING  
 

10  

develop and test prevention strategies, and ensure wide- spread adoption of effective programs”
(Hemenway & Miller, 2013, p. 2033). This four-step approach is similar to some strategic
models used in the nonprofit sector, especially those committed to addressing public health
issues affecting individuals around the world. Advertisements focused on public health
have the potential to make a long-term impact on an individual, but organizations must insure
that the impact is positive because a negative message reflects negatively on an organization.
Conclusion
In order to best understand marketing and advertising in the nonprofit sector, the history
and theory of rhetoric should be explored. Ideas dating back to the fourth and fifth centuries
continue to shape how communicators share messages. Whether these messages are framed
eccentrically, or with more conventional attitudes, the content is shaped with the intended
audience in mind. Each commercial, print advertisement, or organization-sponsored coffee mugs
are examples of rhetorical artifacts. Whether nonprofits are selling a change in attitude, or they
are seeking donations, their actions focus on furthering the organization’s mission and vision. As
time progresses, organizations learn how to tailor their artifacts to the needs, and desires of their
target audiences, with the hope that rhetorical discourse will play out in their favor.
Methods
Initially I conducted a thorough literature review to identify topics of points of focus that
had not been sufficiently reviewed by current research. Then, after coming up with questions
from the literature review, I acquired artifacts, and analyzed those artifacts using general tools of
rhetorical analysis. The three questions I used to analyze the artifacts are as follows: 1) How
does an organization’s website promote the mission and vision? 2) (a) How does this artifact
position the organization? (b) Is that done effectively? 3) What can be said about the artifact

RHETORICAL  DISCOURSE  IN  NONPROFIT  ADVERTISING  
 

11  

based on the general tools of rhetorical analysis? These three questions were devised with the
hope that they would guide my analysis to a place of very detailed, well-rounded thought. The
artifacts I analyzed may be found in the appendix. There were a total of ten artifacts included in
this study. Each artifact, with the exception of Ad 1, was taken from an advertising campaign
sponsored by a not-for-profit organization from the United States. Ad 1 was included to
purposefully highlight the drastic change in social norms, in regards to cigarette use, over a span
of approximately ninety years, 1929 – 2015. There were three different public health issues
discussed across the ten artifacts; gun violence, HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment, and antismoking advertisements.
Results
Tobacco Use
In an effort to increase cigarette sales, Lucky Strike, a cigarette brand under the
manufacturer, American Tobacco Company, implemented an advertising campaign specifically
targeting female consumers. Published in 1929, Ad 1 features a slender-figured woman with a
full-face of flirtatious make-up. The woman’s heavily rouged cheeks highlight her pearl earrings,
while her bare shoulders serve as an additional element to increase the coquettish style of the
advertisement. The lead-in to the main tagline reads, “To keep a slender figure…No one can
deny…” which is followed by the phrase “Reach for a Lucky Instead of a Sweet.” According to
the Stanford School of Medicine, the “Reach for a Lucky instead of a Sweet” campaign was
“designed to prey on female insecurities about weight and diet” (Mass marketing begins, 2015).
For many individuals, the art of rhetoric closely parallels with the idea of manipulation of the
audience. As the Sophists of ancient Greece were known as “rhetorically gifted con artists”
(Herrick, 2013, p. 33), many individuals working in modern-day advertising, are also accused of

RHETORICAL  DISCOURSE  IN  NONPROFIT  ADVERTISING  
 

12  

similar behavior. While manipulation may be, for some individuals, synonymous with rhetoric, it
is the art of persuasion that successfully markets the ideas that fuel mission-driven organizations.
Using the insecurities of many female consumers to market a product is not exclusive to
advertising in the for-profit sector. Sponsored by the American Cancer Society, Ad 2 promotes
an anti-smoking agenda featuring a tagline that reads, “Smoking is Very Glamorous.” Revisiting
the advertisement produced by Lucky Strike, the tagline used on the cancer prevention
advertisement could have been found on any number of tobacco promotions.
Founded in 1913 the American Cancer Society (ACS), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit
organization, seeks to raise both awareness and financial resources dedicated to finding a cure
for cancer (Who we are, 2015). The ACS’s website gives the impression that the organization is
thorough in each of their endeavors. Promoting a 24 hour a day, 7 day a week call service is one
way the website advertises the organization’s willingness to support individuals affected by
cancer. In addition to their willingness to meet their constituents where they are emotionally and
financially, the website has the option to enlarge the text, as well as change the language. While
the organization’s website encourages a warm and welcoming environment for clients, Ad 2,
distributed in 1972, promotes a very different agenda from the ACS’s website. Featuring a
middle-aged woman with distressed skin, Ad 2’s caption “Smoking is Very Glamorous” rests in
large print under a woman inhaling the toxins and tobacco in her cigarette. While the woman
pictured in the advertisement represents one potential outcome of smoking cigarettes, it is her
position in life that serves as the interpretant. As mentioned in the literature review, the
interpretant is associative and connotative (Helmers & Hill, 2004, p. 15). The lifeless look in the
woman’s gaze takes hold of audiences, presenting the idea that all cigarette smokers will
eventually have a similar facial expression. Helmers and Hill go on to write that “the interpretant

RHETORICAL  DISCOURSE  IN  NONPROFIT  ADVERTISING  
 

13  

is constantly shifting; no viewer will stop at the first association” (2004, p.15). Not every woman
looking at this advertisement smokes cigarettes, but the likelihood is high that the individuals
viewing Ad 2 in 1972 knew someone who smoked. Helmer and Hill’s research explains that
audiences will reach a number of conclusions when viewing a rhetorical artifact. Though one
idea remains clear, the American Cancer Society does not condone tobacco use. The artifact
itself positions the ACS as being serious about eliminating tobacco use. Although the words used
in the tagline are not incredibly profound, it is the accompanying image that elevates the message
to a place of effectively persuasive rhetoric.
In the nonprofit sector, defining success is not limited to one answer or achievement.
Ditkoff and Colby (2010) explain, “…it’s useful for leaders to select a few strategic anchors—
the people, problems, places, pathways, or philosophies that they really care about—and use
them to guide subsequent decisions about programs, initiatives, and grantees” (p. 2). Before an
organization can reach success, a goal must be established. “To further clarify their goals,”
writes Ditkoff and Colby (2010), “philanthropic investors need to consider both…what do we
know? [As well as]… what do we care about?” (p. 2). The ACS cares about individuals affected
by cancer, and Ad 2 ineffectively portrays this message. While the message was not successful in
reflecting the values of the ACS, the rhetorical message is very clear. According to Herrick
(2013) “Pathos for Aristotle was ‘putting the audience in the right frame of mind’…to make a
good decision” (p. 79). Ad 2 effectively transports the audience’s mindset to a place of thought
where the individual begins to consider the repercussions involved with tobacco use. An
increased perceived susceptibility leaves audiences more likely to respond to a loss-framed
advertisement (Cao, 2015, p. 6). Audiences viewing Ad 2 observe the loss of liveliness in the
eyes of a smoker, but “rhetoric deceives audiences into thinking they are discovering truth when

RHETORICAL  DISCOURSE  IN  NONPROFIT  ADVERTISING  
 

14  

they are dabbling in opinions” (Herrick, 2013, p. 59). While the woman’s appearance in the
artifact highlights the loss of glamour, and rapidly aging physical features, only the woman could
say whether or not her tobacco use attributed to her overall demeanor.
More shocking in nature than Ad 2, Ad 5 takes a similar approach to targeting the female
consumer. Published in 1964, Ad 5 uses a far more extreme appeal to emotion in this antitobacco advertisement (Nasty Effects, 2015). The caption on the poster reads, “If what happened
on your inside happened on your outside, would you still smoke?” Goggin (2004) writes, “The
materiality of constructing meaning is contingent on material resources, cultural values and
cultural positioning” (p. 89). This artifact may heavily influence a culture that emphasizes beauty
and glamour, while a group of people who value aged skin may not understand the nature of the
appeal. While some organizations have the potential to successfully market and advertise their
message regardless of location, nonprofit organizations should consider strategic planning when
creating advertisements relevant to their target audiences. While the American Cancer Society is
committed to preventing cancer caused by tobacco use, there is a lack of racial diversity in Ads 2
and 5. Goggin (2004) writes, “Forced to work with alternative allocative resources on the
margins of hegemonic sociocultural landscapes or in alternative spaces, their discourses have
typically been rendered invisible” (p. 89). For individuals living outside of the dominant group,
or majority population, advertisements targeted toward their own demographic may go unseen.
Featured in 2015, Ads 3 and 4 were also sponsored by the ACS. While the message is the
same, elimination of tobacco use, the approach has changed tremendously in the past fifty years.
The differences between Ad 3 and Ad 4 are the colors in the ribbon on the medal. According to
the American Cancer Society website, Ad 3 was created with the general public in mind, while
Ad 4 was designed for an Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, or Transgender (LGBT) audience (2015). A

RHETORICAL  DISCOURSE  IN  NONPROFIT  ADVERTISING  
 

15  

question designed to illicit a great deal of thought by individuals working in the nonprofit sector
asks how is the organization choosing to contact the target audience, and what is the organization
choosing to say to these individuals? (Durham, 2010, p. 20). The ACS has participated in a major
shift in regards to their mission-driven campaigns. No longer are women poised on posters
displayed in a grotesque fashion attempting to persuade audiences to eliminate tobacco use in
their own lives. The shift has taken campaign images to a place of simplicity. While both
artifacts position the ASC to be a source of encouragement for those individuals battling with an
addiction to cigarettes, Cao (2015) explains that “charitable organizations committed to causes
that affect the lives of many…may elicit more individual donations when using loss-framed (as
opposed to gain-framed) fundraising messages” (p. 7). While the advertisement taglines read,
very simply, “Great American Smokeout” and “Quit Like a Champion” the chromatics of each
artifact imply that these images were created with donors in mind. The colors are clean, with Ad
3 featuring a patriotic color scheme. The artifacts are very simple and basic, causing the
rhetorical message to lose any sort of intensity, if there was any to begin with. The scare tactics
have disappeared from the ACS’s advertising, and the new approach has become a subtle
encouraging reminder that individuals who quit smoking are champions in the eyes of the
organization.
HIV/AIDS Prevention and Awareness
HIV and AIDS remains to be a serious public health issue targeting various populations
around the world. The San Francisco AIDS Foundation (SFAF), which is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit
organization established in 1982, believes that San Francisco can be the first U.S. city to end the
HIV epidemic (Mission, 2015). With a predominantly orange and yellow color scheme, the
SFAF website is a very inviting space on the Internet. An advertisement requesting donations

RHETORICAL  DISCOURSE  IN  NONPROFIT  ADVERTISING  
 

16  

pops up when first visiting the website, it features a middle-aged man smiling happily for the
webpage visitors. The website is available in both Spanish and English, which leaves visitors of
the website with the impression that the organization is committed to catering to a diverse group
of individuals. In addition to the bilingual webpage options, the models pictured on the website
represent a variety of ethnic and age groups. In many ways the website reflects the mission and
vision of the organization; however, the mission statement of the organization implies SFAF
serves both men and women in the San Francisco area, but a more thorough inspection of the
website admits otherwise.
The SFAF website has an easy to access photo slideshow highlighting various HIV and
AIDS campaigns published by the organization over the past thirty years. Chosen for review was
Ad 6, which features two young men wrapped in an American flag standing closely together,
while one you man holds a condom in his hand. Looking to be in their late teen years, or very
early twenties, the models for this campaign represent the boy-next-door personality.
Lacendorfer and Reece (2010) explain, “…the effectiveness of a social marketing campaign is
dependent not only on the quality and quantity of the messages, but on the difficulty of achieving
the outcome” (p. 332). HIV and AIDS can be an incredibly overwhelming public health issue.
SFAF’s website presents a ‘together, we can’ attitude that is mirrored in Ad 6. Although HIV
and AIDS is a global epidemic, breaking down the issue into easy preventative measures
removes some of the daunting complexity of the issue. Not only is the SFAF website user
friendly, but the organization has done an excellent job, from a straight ally’s perspective, in
creating a safe space on the Internet for male members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual,
Transgender, Queer, Intersex, and Asexual (LGBTQIA) communities. Ad 6 invites young gay,
bisexual, queer, and intersex men to find themselves in advertising. The organization’s health

RHETORICAL  DISCOURSE  IN  NONPROFIT  ADVERTISING  
 

17  

campaigns reach out to many minority groups sharing the message that any man can contract
HIV and AIDS, and any man can fight these diseases as well. Marchand and Filiatrault (2001)
explain, “…results suggest that the rational message strategy generated more personal concern
for AIDS prevention and the emotional message strategy based on a negative emotion presented
a positive impact on behavior intentions” (2001). Ad 6 highlights condom use, an HIV and AIDS
prevention resource that is widely available in the San Francisco area. Ad 6 positions SFAF as an
organization seeking to bring hope to those affected by HIV and AIDS.
A more recent campaign presented by SFAF features, what appears to be, the everyday
American male. While Ad 7’s four-panel display has minimal age diversity, the artifact
maximizes on the optimistic and confident attitudes of the models in the image. The caption on
each panel reads, “We’re Here,” giving audiences the impression that these men were chosen to
represent the greater gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex male population in San Francisco.
In small print in the lower left hand corner of each panel is the organization’s name, which also
serves as the website address.
The third canon of rhetoric, the canon of expression, is “focused on ‘the fitting of the
proper language to the invented material.’ Rhetors needed a command of language sufficient to
allow them to convey their arguments in striking and persuasive phrases” (Herrick, 2013, p. 95).
The captions on Ad 7 do very little in captivating the audience enough to rhetorically campaign
their message. While the men in the artifact are attractive, in that each man is well dressed, with
a smile, the phrasing could have been more thought provoking. The artifact, while inviting, lacks
luster and appeal. The message promoted is too subtle to convey to the audience, in a timely
fashion what; specifically, the organization is trying to advertise.
Gun Violence

RHETORICAL  DISCOURSE  IN  NONPROFIT  ADVERTISING  
 

18  

Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America (MDA) is a grassroots organization
working endlessly to share the message that gun violence is an epidemic in the United States.
MDA campaign efforts reflect the hard-hitting appeals to emotion displayed on their website.
The chromatics of the website, a red, white, and blue color scheme, present the idea that gun
violence should be a public health issue at the forefront of American politics. The language used
in the “About Us” section of the MDA website captures emotions, and sparks a desire in readers
to seek change. Ads 8, 9, and 10 were created and sponsored by the MDA. The artifacts position
the organization as being a powerful force in the community. Established in 2012, after the
Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, MDA is a fairly new organization (Who We Are,
2015). The artifacts produced by the nonprofit capitalize on the understanding that almost
everyone in American knows a child. Parry, Jones, Stern, & Robinson (2013) conclude,
“Shocking imagery is often used in advertising as a stimulus to invoke fear in audiences, fear
being the emotional response to the advertisement” (p. 112). While the gun violence campaigns
sponsored by the MDA show children sitting in, what appear to be, ordinary elementary school
settings, the large military-style weapons introduce the shock factor into the argument.
“Generally, when individuals feel personally involved in the commercial [in this case the
poster],” writes Marchand and Filiatrault (2001) “they will be more inclined to behave as
recommended” (p. 281). Parents can put the faces of their own child on each of the artifacts
produced by MDA. Knowing a child changes how this campaign is received, especially if it is
the audience member’s own child. In each of the posters, Ads 8, 9, and 10, the child of color is
holding an object already banned from schools, while the white child holds the firearm. Hill
(2004) writes, “Convincing people to change their minds or to take a stand, especially on
important policy issues, can be exceedingly difficult for several reasons….many controversial

RHETORICAL  DISCOURSE  IN  NONPROFIT  ADVERTISING  
 

19  

issues are very complex, and arguments about such issues may involve assertions about facts and
principles that not every novice audience member may feel confident to evaluate” (p. 28). Gun
control is a complex public health issue. While the subject alone leaves individuals feeling
uneasy, the multi-faceted nature of the topic may prevent a large portion of the nation from
beginning to ask the questions that need to be asked in order to create change in this sphere of
the political arena. One question that may be difficult for individuals to ask is why is it that the
white children in Ads 8, 9, and 10 are holding the firearms? This question has the potential to
spark a great deal of controversy due to the volatile state of race relations in America. In order to
make a change, audiences must know why a change should be made. For example, individuals
working with and volunteering for MDA must be well versed on policies and laws dealing with
gun safety and gun ownership. Before a law can be changed, the law must be understood.
The facial expressions of the each child holding an everyday childhood object (i.e. Ad 8 a
basketball, Ad 9 a chocolate candy, and Ad 10 a storybook) in Ads 8, 9, and 10 are tugging on
the emotions of the audience. Using pathos, an appeal to emotion, suggests that the issue of gun
violence should resonate far beyond surface levels of understanding, and into deeper emotional
connections found in humanity. In addition to pathos, MDA uses logos, appeals to logic, to
market the organization’s beliefs and ideas. At the top of each artifact it reads, “One child is
holding something that’s banned in America to protect them. Guess which one.” Ending the
second sentence with a period suggests that MDA is almost daring audiences to guess
incorrectly. This is where individuals see the appeal to logic. It only seems logical that in Ad 10,
the firearm would be banned in America, while “Little Red Riding Hood” is readily available in
classrooms.

RHETORICAL  DISCOURSE  IN  NONPROFIT  ADVERTISING  
 

20  

Conclusion of Results
While the public health campaigns produced by nonprofit organizations have the
potential to reach a larger audience than ever before, advertising methods and strategies have
remained fairly constant over the course of fifty years. Whether the topic revolves around
tobacco use, HIV and AIDS prevention and treatment, or gun violence, organizations producing
these campaigns are marketing a social change, rather than a tangible product. While success in
the nonprofit sector is defined differently for each organization, social marketing is successful
when the desired change in behavior is made. While the ACS, SFAF, and MDA have very
different missions and visions for their organizations, each nonprofit desires to see a positive
change in their local communities, as well as their nation. Because most individuals have their
own personal agendas, not every advertisement produced by the observed nonprofits positioned
the organization as an effective one. Rhetoric, as a discipline, dates back to Ancient Greece.
Laying the foundation for an area of study that would ultimately impact almost every facet of
communication, scholars observed how messages could shape the world around them. Rhetorical
discourse is an art that, when done correctly, can make a thoughtful change in the world.

RHETORICAL  DISCOURSE  IN  NONPROFIT  ADVERTISING  
 

21  

Reference List
About us. (2015). Retrieved from http://momsdemandaction.org/about/
Bortree, D., Ahern, L., Dou, X., & Smith, A. (2011). Framing environmental advocacy: A study
of 30 years of advertising in National Geographic Magazine. International Journal of
Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Marketing. Sect. Mark., 17, 77-91. doi:
10.1002/nvsm.437
Cao, X. (2015). Framing charitable appeals: The effect of message framing and perceived
susceptibility to the negative consequences of inaction on donation intention.
International Journal of Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Marketing. doi:
10.1002/nvsm.1536
Ditkoff, S.W., & Colby, S. J. (2010) Galvanizing Philanthropy. In Bridgespan Group (Eds.),
Getting results in nonprofits and philanthropy: Key lessons in strategy, funding, and
leadership (pp. 1-8). Boston, MA: Bridgespan Group
Durham, S. (2010). Brandraising. San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass
Foss, S. K. (2004). Rhetorical criticism: Exploration and practice. Long Grove: Il: Waveland
Press, Inc.
Hall, P. D.. (2006). A historical overview of philanthropy, voluntary associations, and nonprofit
organizations in the United States, 1600-2000. In Powell, W. W. & Steinberg, R. (Eds.),
The Non-profit sector: A research handbook (2nd ed.) (pp. 32-65). New Haven, CT: Yale
University Press
Hammack, D. C.. (2002). Nonprofit Organizations in American History. American Behavioral
Scientist, 45, 1638-1674. doi: 10.1177/0002764202045011004

RHETORICAL  DISCOURSE  IN  NONPROFIT  ADVERTISING  
 

22  

Herrick, J. A.. (2013) The history and theory of rhetoric: An introduction (5th ed.). New York,
NY: Pearson
Hemenway, D., & Miller, Matthew. (2013). Public health approach to the prevention of gun
violence. The New England Journal of Medicine, 368(21), 2033-5. Retrieved from
http://search.proquest.com.liblink.uncw.edu/docview/1355102146?accountid=14606

Hill, C. A. (2004). The psychology of rhetorical images. In Hill, C. A. & Helmers, M. (Eds.),
Defining Visual Rhetoric (pp. 1-23). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Hill, C. A. & Helmers, M.. (2004). Introduction. In Hill, C. A. & Helmers, M. (Eds.), Defining
Visual Rhetoric (pp. 1-23). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Hoffman, M. & Ford, D.. (2010). Organizational rhetoric: Situations and strategies. Thousand
Oaks, Calif.: SAGE.
Instead of a sweet. (n.d.). Retrieved from
http://tobacco.stanford.edu/tobacco_main/images.php?token2=fm_st045.php&token1=fm
_img1093.php&theme_file=fm_mt014.php&theme_name=Keeps%20you%20Slim&subt
heme_name=Instead%20of%20a%20Sweet
Kinzey, R. (1999). Using public relations strategies to promote your nonprofit organization.
New York, NY: The Haworth Press.
Krueger, J., & Haytko, D. (2015). Nonprofit adaptation to web 2.0 and digital marketing
strategies. Journal of Technology Research, 6. Retrieved from
http://search.proquest.com.liblink.uncw.edu/docview/1704172117/fulltextPDF?accountid
=14606

RHETORICAL  DISCOURSE  IN  NONPROFIT  ADVERTISING  
 

23  

Lancendorfer, K., & Reece, B. (2010). Can you market God? A case study of the ‘God Speaks’
social marketing campaign. International Journal of Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector
Marketing. 15, 324-338. doi:10.1002/nvsm.401
Lawrence, R. (1991). Radio Deregulation: The Impact on Black Families and Nonprofit Social
Agencies. Journal of Black Studies, 22, 216-238. Retrieved from
http://www.jstor.org/stable/2784595
Marchand, J., & Filiatrault, P. (2001). AIDS prevention advertising: Different message strategies
for different communication objectives. International Journal of Nonprofit and Voluntary
Sector Marketing. 7, 271-287. doi:10.1002/nvsm.185
Mission. (2015). Retrieved from http://sfaf.org/about-us/our-mission/
Nasty effects. (n.d.). Retrieved from
http://tobacco.stanford.edu/tobacco_main/images_anti.php?token2=fm_anti_st350.php&t
oken1=fm_anti_img12464.php&theme_file=fm_anti_mt010.php&theme_name=Disgusti
ng&subtheme_name=Nasty%20Effects
Parry, S., Jones, R., Stern, P., & Robinson, M. (2013). ‘Shockvertising’: An exploratory
investigation into attitudinal variations and emotional reactions to shock advertising.
Journal of Consumer Behaviour. 12, 112-121. doi:10.1002/cb.1430
Stafford, M., Tripp, C., & Bienstock, C. (2004). The influence of advertising logo characteristics
on audience perceptions of a nonprofit theatrical organization. Journal of Current Issues
& Research in Advertising, 26, 37-45. doi: 10.1080/10641734.2004.10505155
Who we are. (2015) Retrieved from http://www.cancer.org/aboutus/whoweare/index

RHETORICAL  DISCOURSE  IN  NONPROFIT  ADVERTISING  
 

24  

Appendix
Ad 1
Ad  2

 

Ad  3  

 
Ad  5  

 Ad  4  

RHETORICAL  DISCOURSE  IN  NONPROFIT  ADVERTISING  
 
Appendix

Ad 6

Ad  7  

25  

RHETORICAL  DISCOURSE  IN  NONPROFIT  ADVERTISING  
 

Ad 8

Ad 9

Ad 10

26