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A Summary and Critical Analysis: The Advertisings Fifteen Basic Appeals

Jared Valenzuela

Alezdihar Language Institute

A Summary and Critical Analysis: The Advertisings Fifteen Basic Appeals


In his article Advertising's Fifteen Basic Appeals, Jib Fowles analyzes how companies use emotional appeals to tap basic human needs and emotions,

rather than the consumers intellect. He argues that advertisers are exploiting these unfulfilled motives and passions of the consumers to gain a foothold of their minds

and eventually influence them to buy their products. The motives which were examined were drawn from the research done by Henry A. Murray. From Murrays

research work, he examined and finally concluded to only 15 relevant and important appeals that he considered to be valuable. Ultimately, this study documents and

evaluates the appeals and their influence to the consumers which were originally proposed by The Advertisings Fifteen Basic Appeals(Fowles, J. ).


Emotional Appeals

Effective advertisements influence the consumers by dominating their minds with emotional appeals. According to the article, there are several reasons

why companies invoke the use of emotional appeals as a ploy to attract more and more consumers to bring them to buy their products. First, the ever increasingly

congested american marketplace forces companies to strive to cut through the competition. By this, whatever means available in the market - including emotional

appeals are used just to stay attractive and increase profits in their businesses. Second, today advertisements must be strategic to gain access to the minds. According to

a study done a few years ago at Harvard Universitys `Graduate School of Business Administration that an average american is exposed to somewhat 500

advertisements daily. These advertisements came from different sources like television, newspapers, magazines, radio and so on. To be able to gain access or somehow

dominate the others, companies need to be strategic at times like this, Third, advertisements with emotional appeal may take on the semblance of gratification for the

unfulfilled desires. According to the article, it is presumed that human beings walk around with variety of unfulfilled urges. Giving in to these unfulfilled urges in the

real world would be too rude and unfitting. However, if the appeal on the advertisement is sufficiently introduced , then the person can be hooked and take on that

likelihood of gratification for the unfulfilled motives which are embedded subconsciously. Lastly, advertisements with emotional appeal can find its way into the mind

of the consumers. The shift of attention of advertisement from the sending end to the receiving end that focuses on emotional appeal will in effect is the thin end of the

wedge. The product information including unique selling propositions, explosive copywriting, demographics and so on comes along behind the appeal. The

advertisement can appeal to the need for sex; for affiliation;to nurture; for guidance; to aggress; to achieve; to dominate; for prominence; for attention;for autonomy; to

escape; to feel safe; for aesthetic sensations; to satisfy curiosity; and physiological needs. Thats why companies are using emotional appeals in their advertisements.

Murrays List


The origin of 15 basic appeals comes from a chronological order of events. Firstly, when Fowles was involved in a research project about post World War

II american advertising. He had to categorize some samples of magazine ads into physiological needs. For this to happen, Fowles had to have a complete roster of

human motives. Abraham Maslows hierarchy of needs was the first to come into his mind. But later found out that he needed a more exhaustive list of human motives.

Secondly, when Fowles had to find this exhaustive list from the work of psychologist Henry A. Murrays work. Henry A. Murray with his colleagues at the Harvard

Psychological Clinic has conducted an in-depth series of interviews about human motives. Thirdly, when Fowles followed David McClelland to use Murrays

groundwork for his study. This ignited the interest of Fowles of wanting to use the motivational appeals to advertising. Fowles initially used the 20 motives. After

several tests in the advertisements, motives that did not invoke such appeal were dropped from the roster. From then on, results were refined several times. Finally, after

refinements from the commercials and the efforts of students in advertising classes to decode appeals; some inconsistencies in the list had to be hammered out.

Fundamentally, Fowles attributed the list to the creation of Henry Murray who has the desire to create a comprehensive inventory of human motives. This

comprehensive list became the bedrock of many subsequent researches like the one from Fowles.The motives pinpointed the subrational mental forces that are

susceptible to advertisings entreaties.

Fifteen Appeals

As enumerated in the previous section of the paper, 15 out from the original number of motives are now included in Fowles list. These 15 motives will

now be summarized and discussed further in this section. This summary would discuss each appeal against its points of claim; proofs of claim; how advertisers see the

consumers; and how do they sell the products based on how they see their consumers.

The first in the line is the appeal for the need of sex. According to the article, sex is a kind of appeal that must be used cautiously and casually. The reason

being is that sex is too blaring and might obliterate the product information. As mentioned in the article, mass advertising as Social Forecast said that only 2 percent of

ads were found to pander on the motive of sex in advertisements. It is likely that people will forget the product and for those who will remember it, will associate it

with indignation.Advertisers assume that consumers disdain blatant sex advertisements on tv. They believe that the pitch should be less controversial and equally

fetching which appeal to our need for human contact. Second is the need for affiliation. This need comprises human desire to cooperate, to draw near and to please and

win affection of one another. Many americans lack this sense of companionship and some live their lives in recluse. The fulfillment of this appeal can be segmented

into different examples like romance, courtship, warm family feelings and friendship. Advertisers see the consumers as social animals. Hungering for positive and

endorsing feelings that only those around them can supply. The pitch for advertisement should be that products or goods must be linked to our unfulfilled desires in a


good company. Next in line, is the need to nurture. It is the need to take care defenseless and hopeless creatures. As the article describes, this need is perfectly woven in

our generic fabric for if it did not exist, we could not raise up our replacements. Advertisers see this need appeals mostly to women. The pitch should be something

diminutive that elicits cute and precious. Companies that are selling with advertisements like this are appealing for the need to nurture. Fourth, is the need for guidance.

This need is the appeal to be guided, protected and shielded. It is mentioned in the article, that there is a child that lingers in everyone of us. People follow authority and

tradition to fulfill this need. Advertisers see the consumers with yielding personalities. The pitch for advertisement should have parent-like and authoritative figures

endorsing the products. Fifth in line is the need to aggress. The constant bombardment of pressure to human beings unknowingly create strong retaliatory feelings ,

thus the need to express it. However, by doing so in reality would warrant serious ramifications from the government. According to the article, human beings have a

need to express anger and violence. Advertisers see the people have harbored energy and aggressive drives. The pitch should be less blaring and not blatant. Disguised

aggressive pitches are less likely to backfire. Following in the line is the need to achieve. The authors point of claim is that people are energized by this need causing

them to strive in their lives and careers. Advertisers see the people their desires to be the champion and the best. So, they identify their products with winning and

success. They sell their products with superlatives like best, finest and the first. Seventh, is the need to dominate. The writers point of claim is that people crave to be

powerful and omnipotent. For instance, people would be contented enough to live their lives like potentate. People see that this appeal are with masculine affinity..

However advertisers see that this appeal is not circumscribed. The pitch is to show that there is power for men and control for women.Eighth, is the need for

prominence. The writers point of claim is that people need to be admired and respected. Enjoy prestige and high social status. Many ads picture success with high

position, expensive items are displayed. For advertisers to hook the people, they have to sell their products with an idea of prominence and state of respect. Ninth in the

line, is the need for attention. Claimed that people have the desire to be looked at. People exhibit themselves in a way that others will look at them is considered by the

writer as an insuppressible instinct of human. Clothing and cosmetic industries pitch by blatantly expose this appeal in their advertisements. Tenth, is the need for

autonomy. The authors point of claim is the need to endorse self-independence and integrity.People want what they want. Advertisers see the people for the hunger to

have control in their own lives. Advertisers can invoke positive and negative ways in their ads. For negative, they invoke the loss of independence and self-regard.

Eleventh, is the need to escape. The claim is that every individual yearns for freedom whenever life becomes too suppressive. People duck out from obligations to seek

adventures. Advertisers see this need - the need to escape from pressure to freedom. The pitch is the sense of freedom and the sensation of pleasure comes with escape.

Twelfth in the line, is the need to feel safe. The writers point of claim is that everybody does not wanted to be battered, poisoned and intimidated. People naturally

want to do whatever to stave off threats to their well being and to their families.Advertisers see the people to do whatever it takes to keep them safe and healthy. The


pitch is for self- preservation. Next in line is the need for aesthetic sensations. This is the need for near perfect photography, filming or drawing. People naturally buy

what looks good. Advertisements should be well-pleasing or attractive.Fourteenth, is the need to satisfy curiosity. The point of claim is that people are naturally curious

about life. This is evident of people interested to trivia, observations counter to conventional wisdom which are all saleable The pitch should have like a question and

answer format to gain attention for this appeal.The last but not the least, is the need for physiological need. The authors point of claim is that it is a biological need.

Advertisers know that people need to eat, sleep and drink. So they pitch by showing how the man is enjoying the smell of the food and its taste. These comprises the

advertisings fifteen basic appeals.


The presentation of the 15 basic appeals can be influenced by the stylistic features. First is the use of humor. Second is the use of celebrities. Finally is the

use of time imagery, past and future. These stylistic features influences the way a basic appeal is presented.

Analyzing advertisements

There are five ways in analyzing advertisements. First is to learn to ignore the product information and as well as your personal experience and feelings

about the product. Quickly, sort out the element that presents itself centrally and forwardly to the reader or viewer Second, understand the viewing angle which the

audience has on the ads subjects. Third, understand the targeted consumers are. Fourth, an ad can have more than one appeal.Rather than looking how many numbers

of appeal appear in the ad. Instead, try to find one or two most striking appeal that present itself clearly in the ad. Finally, analyzing ads should be a group work than a

solo activity. By doing so, there is a higher chance of transcending biases and emotional lure.

Do they or dont

It is clear that advertisements work but do the emotional appeals employ by the companies be considered a manipulation to the consumers? According

to the article, advertisement is only one of many that influence consumption. Indeed, ads work but on the other hand, it hardly works.Consumers have also control to

their minds. Millions of advertisement are shown on tv. If a fraction of which successfully influenced the consumer, then it works. It actually works for experienced

consumers of the product. They associate to the image and steep into it. The number of the advertisements could be a lot but the product information and the associated

imaginative material are partial compensation. This could be the reason, that a number of consumers do not complain about the product or disclose negative


information about it. Providing an evenhanded judgement, both ends of the communications channel have costs and benefits. The consumers surrenders a moment of

time and be carried by the imagery shown on tv; the advertiser spent money and has increased the sales. With this point, neither party can be said to be the loser.

Critical Analysis

Jib Fowles debunks the idea of using too much sex in advertisement but failed to tackle if sex products are included.. He states The reason this appeal is

so little used is that it is too blaring and tends to obliterate the product information. Nudity in advertising has the effect of reducing brand recall. The people who do

remember the product may do so because they have been made indignant by the ad( Fowles, J. ,pg. 78) . However, Jib Fowles failed to delimit which products sex is

inappropriate. Does it mean that we exclude sex products in advertisement? How about sex toys or products that are inevitably associated to sex? Like

condoms,lubricants and sex toys. Does indignancy to the product surely follows it? Jib Fowles could have better cited also some statistical information that proves that

using the need for sex in sex products creates emotional repulsion associated to the product to balance his claim. Secondly, Jib Fowles argued so much about how

emotional appeals can tug our psychological shirt sleeves to advertised product without providing claims how this seemingly correct ads can be countered. He states

that by giving form to peoples deep-lying desires, and picturing states of being that individuals privately yearn for, advertisers have the best chance of arresting

attention and affecting communication ( Fowles, J., pg.73). Mr. Fowles, although, have argued that advertisements alone cannot arrest us to buy the products. He has

clearly failed to enumerate significant and practical approaches not to fall from these seemingly correct advertisements in the consumer's viewpoint. This does not

convey that all advertisements have malicious intent.Instead, whether the advertisements are true about their intentions, some should not be left victims and helpless. A

list of responses could be crafted to somehow teach the consumers to control their minds when confronted with images that appeal to their emotions. What is really the

deciding factor in buying the products? The advertisements that appeal to us emotionally; or the mind that controls our emotions if the product is worth buying ; or the

balance of the two.

On the other hand, how the advertisers adjust their selling schemes to appropriate to the needs of the consumers are well noted and clearly organized in the

essay. For instance, when Jib Fowles cited the need for nurture; he proves his point by showing that there is a need to take care defenseless creatures. Adding to it is his

proof which states A strong need it is, woven deep into our generic fabric, for if it did not exist we could not successfully raise up our replacements (Fowles, J., page

80). He later comments that the pitch can be directly cater to women who have this inclination to take care and nurture. As he continues to describe When advertisers

put forth the image of something diminutive and furry, something that elicits the word cute or precious, then they are trying to trigger this motive (Fowles, J.,

page 80). This is how the companies assume the personality of the consumers and sell their products by how they see the people.



One ultimate purpose this study brings is awareness of emotional appeals. Although the list is sufficient enough, the list could have been exhaustive. The

flow and organization of his claims are clear. The points, proofs of claim, and how advertisers assume the personality of the people and how they sell the products are

coherent throughout the article. Examples of each claim are introduced through statistical data from reliable source and specific examples citing brand names in the

industry. Another ultimate work this essay brings is the introduction of knowledge to media and marketing students who can benefit from the study. Students who will

later become professionals would greatly reap from this essay. Creation of advertising work and introduction of emotional appeals in advertising would greatly benefit

the company they are working with and later maybe earn more if they build their own businesses.

Looking through the eyes of the consumers, buying products would no longer be the same. That instead of being constantly hooked by the images and

news from the radio, consumers will develop a mental filter to assess whether one product is a need or want. There is now a sense of autonomy to control ones

behaviour when halt with an attractive image on tv. An in-depth understanding of the pent-up longings inside the consumers would bring them back to their

consciousness that buying the products on tv is no longer a solitary road. The need for affection can be quenched in many ways. Calling a friend or talking to a family

member and even going to a community gathering could somehow bridge the gap. For all the while, it is actually not the product that you need.In fact, its the


Mr. Fowles work on Advertising on 15 Basic Appeals is a credible research source and can be a bedrock for further studies in the future. Researches that

scope advertising, media, product presentation, sales, human motives, psychological behavior of the consumers and etc can greatly benefit from what this initial study

could offer.


The essay appeals on the mans frailty. That man as a creature has emotional longings and hunger for something. Realizing that longings in the real world

would constitute actions that would be deemed immoral and turpitude in the present eyes of this world. Giving in to this longings should be in the boundaries of social

and community acceptance. The 15 appeals used by the advertising agencies made this possible. That man can find release and fulfillment by connecting that need to

the value of the products they purchase. The essay provides a succinct and detailed examples of each appeal and how advertisers use these in viewing the consumers

and selling their products. However, there are gray areas in some matter that need to be answered. Overall, the ultimate success of the essay is awareness. Through it,


men are now able to wear their thinking hat and filter images which they deemed appropriate. On the other hand, advertising agencies are now more capable in which

best way they can present their products that can yield better results.


Fowles, Jib. Advertising's fifteen basic appeals. Writing and Reading Across the Curriculum ed.Lavrence Behrens and Lenard J. Rosen. Boston:

Pearson, 2013-551-68.