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Kailah Korsh

Writing 2
Professor Zack De Piero
4/9/16
Billboards and Consumerism
People drive by billboards everyday, but pass them so quickly that they probably do not
give a second thought to the ads effect on their consumption. However, that larger-than-life
bottle of Coca Cola flashed before your eyes with the caption, Refreshing, might have more of
an effect than you would think. You may not notice, but the next day when you are suddenly
craving a refreshing drink and a coke pops into your head, there is a reason why. The reason is
that billboards advertising food use specific tactics of persuasion, or rhetorical devices, to get
customers to buy their products. The way that we use language and images to persuade is
called rhetoric (Carroll, 38). I have analyzed the rhetorical devices, or persuasive techniques,
used on the billboards of three companies, Nestle, McDonalds, and Target to find that food
billboards have a number of conventions and similarities that tie them into their own genre.
These conventionscontext, repetition, and catchy slogansultimately help the companies
ingrain the company name and product into the consumers heads to persuade their customers.
Firstly, the context of food billboards creates constraints that aid in defining the genre.
For example, the exigencethe circumstance that the rhetoric is responding tois always the
same: companies wanting money, and consumers being hungry while driving (Carroll, 40).
People in cars are often focused on the road, so the words and/or images of the message tend
to be very salient, or eye-catching, in order to draw attention to the ad, and hopefully have an
effect on the consumers. This is true in the Nestle, McDonalds, and Target ads, which all have
colorful images of their food items, paired with eye-catching written messages. The messages
read, Nestle repeated four times, Mmmmm on the McDonalds board, and Lights, camera,
fresh! for Target, all in brightly-colored, large font. All three advertisements contain short, clear
messages, likely because the drivers passing speed constrains the messages to be readable
and comprehensible in a short period of time. Since every aged person has the potential of

being hungry and being in a car, none of the messages are complex, and the pictures and
words are salient, the billboards are built to appeal to people of every age. The discourse of this
form of rhetoric functions in the context of the highway to reach out to hungry people as they
drive quickly past the large boards.
In addition to the context and audience of food billboards, they also have developed
other characteristics, such as repetition, in order to get the consumers attentions and create an
impact on their decisions. The boards advertising fast and unhealthy food tend to use repetition
to ingrain the companys name in the brain of consumers. For example, the repetition on the
Nestl billboard lies amongst an image of splashing chocolate and other Nestle brand food
items. Those four words are the only words that appear on the entire ad. In another ad,
McDonalds uses their signature M logo to spell out the sound Mmmmm that someone would
make when they are enjoying their food. Because McDonalds is so famous, the M logo has
become a symbol for the food and company that is commonly used while advertising. Their
slogan has been repeated so often that when people see it, they immediately associate it with
the brand and food. These tactics of repetition do not reveal anything about the products being
sold, however they do catch the eye of those driving by and can not help but make an impact on
their brain. Since unhealthy and fast food advertisements do not usually boast about the quality
or health benefits of their more unhealthy food items, repetition is a common tactic used to gain
familiarity with consumers and associate their product with positive thoughts.
As important as grabbing drivers attentions and making a positive first impression is,
catchy phrases are a way to keep the attention of consumers and create a credible source. The
well-known McDonalds slogan, Im lovin it, appears on their billboard. This phrase creates a
source for the product that is alternative to just a fast food company; it creates a source of
someone who has experienced the food and loves it. This establishes credibility in the eyes of
consumers because they will be more likely to trust a fellow consumer, than to trust the
producers of the food who just want money. As mentioned in the reader, the credibility of the

rhetor is referred to as ethos (Carroll). By using this slogan, McDonalds appeals to the ethos of
the consumer. Target also appeals to the consumers ethos, but in a different way. For example,
an ad for food from Target uses the slogan, Lights, camera, fresh! on a billboard next to fruits,
vegetables, and cooked chicken. Talking about the quality of the actual food being sold makes
consumers want to trust the source because it means the company knows the background of
their food in terms of where it came from and what is it in. It would be impossible for a source to
say their food is healthy without knowing what their food actually contains. This ad gives the
impression that the food from Target is fresh and healthy, and therefore the source should be
trusted. This ad also appeals to the consumers logos, or intellectual side (Carroll, 46),
because the audience knows that healthy food is better for them, and when given the choice,
should choose a healthier option. Once the attention of the audience has been captured by
repetition or salient words and pictures, catchy phrases are used to keep the consumers
attention and create longer-lasting impression on them.
Food billboards do not only contain their own conventions as I have shown, but they try
to achieve a different goal than other billboards and other advertisements as well. They try to
get consumers to make a quick, rash decision about where to buy their food while driving on the
highway for an extended period of time. It is extremely important for consumers to be able to
identify the persuasive tactics used by food advertising billboards, so that they can look at these
ads more objectively and make their own choices. It is too easy to see a picture of a enticing
Nestle chocolate, a symbol that conjures up images of a McDonalds Big Mac, or a homecooked dinner using ingredients from Target, and immediately crave what is being thrown at
you. A mindless consumer would get right off the highway without thinking and purchase these
items. To take a step back and think about what you really need and want, rather than just
listening to what advertisements are telling you to need and want, is to be a more mindful
consumer. Being a mindful consumer is important to everyone in terms of making better choices
and not giving in to companies that do not have the best interest of individuals in mind.

Dissecting the specific conventions of food billboards gives window into the persuasive tactics of
rhetoric that should not always be trusted, especially in advertising.

Works Cited

Carroll, L. B. (2010). From Backpacks to Briefcases: Steps toward Rhetorical Analysis. Writing
Spaces : Readings on Writing, 1, 38-46.