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Douglas C.

West Advertising Creative Article 2018

How Rhetoric Theory Informs the

Creative Advertising Development Process
Reconciling Differences
Between Advertising Scholarship and Practice

Alexander Tevi Advertising scholars have been hesitant to identify creativity as the heart and soul of
Macquarie University
advertising, and that has produced a chasm between themselves and practitioners. One
cause of this division is an erroneous perception that advertising is a subset of consumer
Scott Koslow
psychology. To solve this misidentification, the current authors offer rhetoric theory. Although
Macquarie University many advertising academics believe that advertising theory is a discovery of 20th-century
scholars, the striking resemblances between canons of rhetoric (“invention,” “style,”
“arrangement,” “memory,” and “delivery”) and stages of the advertising-development
process (“message strategy,” “idea generation,” “execution,” “media,” and “production”)
clearly define advertising as a rediscovery of rhetoric.

INTRODUCTION Houston, 2016). Practitioners start with good

Contemporary advertising academics have it “strategy”; get a big, “creative” idea; “package”
wrong: They no longer serve practitioners (Nyilasy that idea in an advertisement, campaign, or other
and Reid, 2012). Many scholars avoid the central execution; then “produce” that work—all while
topic of creativity (See Kover, 1995; Sasser and getting the “media” right. Yet academics use con-
Koslow, 2008) and buy into an academic men- sumer “mental-processing theories” (Kim, Hayes,
tality that thinks strategy is a “dirty” word (See Avant, and Reid, 2014) to understand advertising

• Best agency practice in the creative advertising-development process follows the canons of
rhetoric, with creativity occurring at any of these stages.

• Creativity often is viewed narrowly as applying ideation techniques, but in keeping with rhetoric
theory, it spans the whole advertising-development process.

• Creative ideation techniques are a version of classical rhetoric’s figures of speech but still need to
be used in combination for skillful execution of ideas.

• Message-strategy development already is practiced in advertising, but rhetoric theory lays out
aspects it needs to address.

• Academics have much to offer managers about the role of executional factors, but this is only
one canon, or arrangement, and academics need to do more comprehensive work to embrace
creativity better in all its forms.

DOI: 10.2501/JAR-2018-012 March 2018  JOURNAL OF ADVERTISING RESEARCH  111

Douglas C. West Advertising Creative Article 2018

Editors’ Note:
In the March 2017 issue of the Journal of Advertising Research (JAR), we introduced the annual “Douglas C. West Advertising Creative
Article,” a yearly contribution that salutes Dr. West’s quest for greater empirical evidence of how the process of creating advertising works.
Dr. West is professor of marketing at King’s College London Business School and visiting fellow of Kellogg College, University of Oxford.
The JAR series honors both his oversight of—and influence on—the pages of this journal as executive editor (2008–2014) and his distin-
guished scholarship in marketing research. In particular, Dr. West’s work in the field of creativity in advertising has included “Practitioner
and Customer Views of Advertising Creativity: Same Concept, Different Meaning” (with Arthur J. Kover and Albert Caruana, Journal of
Advertising, 2008); “360° of Creative Risk: An Agency Theory Perspective” (JAR, 2009); and the first article of this series in his name,
“Agency Creativity: Teams and Performance,” with Jacqueline Lynch (JAR, 2017).
This year’s contribution to the Douglas C. West Advertising Creative series is by Drs. Alexander Tevi and Scott Koslow of Macquarie
University. The paper is the theory chapter Tevi developed for his PhD thesis, which Koslow supervised. In addition to their careers in
academia, both share in-depth industry expertise: Tevi has worked with major international clients and won awards for his work with global
agencies. Koslow, a prolific and seasoned creativity scholar, has worked with most agency brands. The fruits of that knowledge appear in
the pages that follow.

“executional factors” (Armstrong, 2011; that appear to differentiate their field from theory (See McQuarrie and Phillips, 2008).
Stewart and Furse, 1986). That is, each side consumer behavior are painfully subtle Some are blunt, arguing that rhetoric should
thinks about advertising differently. (Nan and Faber, 2004). Some advocate take center stage in advertising: “Rhetoric
Academics for too long have ignored integrated marketing communications is persuasive communication; advertising
the marketplace context of how adver- (Keller, 2016; Kitchen and Schultz, 2009) as is rhetoric” (Pracejus, Olsen, and O’Guinn,
tisements must be developed and work a framework that can define and differen- 2006, p. 82). Another researcher asserted
(McQuarrie, 1998; Preston, 1985). It is no tiate academics, but others remind us that that “the largest, most pervasive, and most
surprise that there is a growing chasm this approach has not influenced advertis- successful rhetorical enterprise on the
between academics and practitioners—and ing theory much (Rose, 2012). planet is advertising” (McKenna, 1999, p.
we need to resolve this division. Advertising is a creative endeavor—and 103)—and then showed frustration that
Some view the bifurcation of practice it’s bigger than the creative department. To advertising scholars fail to recognize rheto-
and theory as a sign of a “healthy” aca- know the what, how, when, and why of ric’s centrality. There are explanations for
demic field growing in sophistication, advertising, one first must understand the how rhetoric should work in advertising
but the current authors do not share this creative process at its heart. Unfortunately, (Phillips and McQuarrie, 2002), but rheto-
perspective. The division only brings up none of the creative process described by ric’s value still is questioned (Theodorakis,
issues about advertising scholarship’s advertising scholars (Stuhlfaut and Vanden Koritos, and Stathakopoulos, 2015).
identity, direction, and relevance (e.g., Bergh, 2012; Turnbull and Wheeler, 2017) Although rhetoric is central to advertis-
Dahlén and Rosengren, 2016; Schultz, provides the deep structures that generate ing—especially the creative-advertising
2016)—questions that would not be as dif- the surface structure these scholars depict development process—the exact way rhet-
ficult to answer had academics stayed true (Pentland, 1999). Even the surface structure oric relates to the advertising discipline is
to their roots. If the theories are genuinely academics describe fails to feature some more complex than to say “rhetoric equals
good, they should say much about who vital elements of the creative process, such advertising,” as some scholars have.
we are, where we are going, and what rel- as its recursive nature and the micropro- Instead, a better characterization is that
evance we share (Laczniak, 2015). cesses that define each stage (Lubart, 2001). advertising scholars unknowingly have
Academics nonetheless lament that Academics need a theory that fully explains rediscovered many elements of classical
the theories they use focus on consumer the creative process in order to have com- rhetoric—a pattern that’s remarkably com-
responses to advertising, which makes plete grasp of the key constructs and con- mon in academic thought (Niehans, 1995).
them a special case of consumer psychol- cepts they use in their research. It has been argued that most academic dis-
ogy (Royne, 2012). There is a collective Against this background, advertising coveries would have been uncovered by
sense that academics don’t want to be a researchers should welcome recent calls to someone else, albeit later and in different,
special case of another field, but the points recognize classical rhetoric as fundamental possibly less-comprehensive form. True to



this pattern, advertising researchers have parent is classical rhetoric, but the proxim- and campaign effectiveness, especially
rediscovered a less-comprehensive form ity to consumer psychology comes from new media.
of rhetoric—and we would be served “adoption” by business and communica- Finally, academics need to build use-
well to incorporate more rhetoric theory tions studies early in the 20th century. The ful alignment with practitioners, and
into advertising. consumer psychology tools that schol- rhetoric is a helpful direction—especially
The current authors argue that ars have gained from their environment, given that the organizational structure
therefore, will change over time, but their and practice of advertising agencies fol-
• advertising message strategy harks genes—the role of rhetoric theory in adver- low the canons of rhetoric closely. The
back to “invention,” the first canon of tising research—will not. current authors propose that practition-
rhetoric; This article calls for advertising scholars ers see themselves as “doing” rhetoric,
to embrace rhetoric as their core theory and academics should think of themselves
• executional factors in advertisements are
and offers three key benefits to as understanding rhetorical practice and
largely a rediscovery of “arrangement,”
testing when, how, and why rhetorical
the second canon of rhetoric;
• the definition of their collective identity principles work on consumers.
• ideation techniques in advertising as a discipline; To serve practitioners, this arti-
consist of figures, the critical factor in cle explains how the canons of
• their future research directions;
“style”—the third canon of rhetoric; rhetoric encapsulate the creative
• their relevance to industry practitioners. advertising-development process. It offers
• advertising media are a contemporary
an expansive view of creativity, not only
information-storage mechanism operat-
Advertising scholars evaluate rhetoric’s spanning the many parts of the agency but
ing similarly to “memory,” the fourth
effects using psychology’s tools. Confus- also incorporating clients. Creativity isn’t
canon of rhetoric;
ing consumer psychology as core theory just a step in the advertising-development
• advertising production relates to “deliv- rather than an analytic tool leads to a process—it is the process—and failing to
ery,” the last canon of rhetoric. problem known as “consumer behavior recognize the many moving parts of crea-
under the guise of advertising research.” tivity leaves one with only a jaundiced,
This article calls for advertising scholars to Consumer-behavior researchers often use incomplete view.
draw from better analytic tools than clas- what they call “ads” as stimuli or treat-
sical rhetors. In the early years of the 20th ments, but sometimes these “ads” look THEORY DEVELOPMENT:
century, the scientific-advertising move- nothing like real advertisements, because RHETORIC ON ALL MEDIA
ment sought to find a rational basis for they are devoid of rhetorical content. That One definition of rhetoric is “the art or the
advertising to make it more accountable— is, advertising experimental stimuli still discipline that deals with discourse, either
and the tools of choice were psychology need a basis in rhetorical theory. spoken or written, to inform or persuade
based (Kreshel, 1993). This development A renaissance of rhetoric’s five can- or motivate an audience, whether that
also has served advertising well, and it is ons also would alter research direc- audience is made up of one person or a
something classical rhetoric scholars—who tions. For the most part, the emphasis group of persons” (Corbett and Connors,
lacked experimental and survey-research on consumer-research tools has focused 1999, p. 1). Although this definition limits
tools—could not execute. scholars heavily on consumer reactions rhetoric to its spoken and written modes,
The interplay of classical rhetoric’s and to executional factors—that is, the canon its frontiers since have been extended
consumer psychology’s influence on con- of arrangement—with less emphasis to its
temporary advertising is illustrated best on other canons. Returning to academ-
with an adoption analogy. Research over ics’ rhetoric roots should increase their • visual (Crowley and Hawhee, 2012;
half a century (Polderman, Benyamin, De emphasis on invention and style, which Scott, 1994);
Leeuw, Sullivan et al., 2015) suggests that largely address both strategy and creativ-
• sonic (Hung, 2001; Scott, 1990); and
who we are as human beings is a combi- ity; delivery, which dwells on production
nation of both nature (genes) and nurture for specific media platforms; and memory, • chromatic modes (Caivano and López,
(environment). For contemporary advertis- which explains the workings of these 2010; Courtis, 2004; Kress and Van Leeu-
ing research, the rediscovered “biological” media platforms to enhance creativity wen, 2002).


Douglas C. West Advertising Creative Article 2018

For rhetoric to explain the advertising- Table 1

development process adequately, it has to Rhetoric–Message-Strategy Fit
perform the same functions in all modes of
Elements Elements of Means of Properties Properties
advertising media. In an attempt to show
of Strategy Invention Invention of Strategy of Invention
that rhetoric comprehensively explains
Elements Elements
advertising, the current authors next
juxtapose each of the five stages of the Challenge The arguer, the The argumentative Opportunity Logic
argument, and situation (kairos); Problem Dialogic
advertising-development process with its
the audience What is the Dialectic
equivalent among the five canons of rheto-
situation? (stasis)
ric. They then highlight the implications of
these similarities for advertising practice
and research.
Community The audience Who are we talking Motivations Emotional
to? (stasis) Logical
Advertising-Message Strategy:
An “Invention” of Rhetoric
Just as one emphasizes sound strategy as Purpose The objective What do we wish to Effect Invitational
achieve? (stasis) Engagement Collaborative
the basis for creative work (Hackley, 2003),
Action Experiential
another argues that the success of an exer-
cise in persuasion should be based on the
first and crucial canon of rhetoric, inven- Connection Insight What “truth” do Insight Human
tion (Marsh, 2007). The means of invention we know about Convention Acceptable
the audience in “Truthful”
are kairos, stasis, topics, and common-
reference to the Argumentative
places. An understanding of all the means
issue at hand? Figurative
of invention suggests rhetoric theory as
the basis for advertising-message strategy,
which is encapsulated in an advertising Promise The issue Topics Attributes Propositional
brief (Sasser and Koslow, 2008). Benefit Controversial
Insight Argumentative
Most elements of strategy have been
highlighted in different studies, albeit
only in clusters (Dahlén, Lange, and Smith, Support Proofs Commonplaces Attributes Accessible
2010; Laskey, Day, & Crask, 1989; Mey- Benefit Argumentative
ers, 1986). A qualitative study, however Personality Figurative
(Parker, Ang, and Koslow, 2018), has crys- Personality The arguer Who is talking? Tone Ethical
tallized the seven elements of advertising- (stasis) Argumentative
message strategy in a comprehensive Figurative
grounded theory. It is interesting to note
that the process of developing each of
these elements in praxis has its equivalent marketer, advertisement, and audience; in points of a speech (Sloane, 1989). The ques-
in invention (See Table 1). invention, the argumentative situation con- tions of stasis are about kairos, the situa-
Brand challenge, the first element of sists of arguer, argument, and audience. tion at hand. That is,
advertising-message strategy, presents The remaining six elements of
each peculiar situation that requires the advertising-message strategy—commu- • “Who is the speaker talking to?”
advertising-development process. This nity, purpose, connection, promise, sup-
• “What does the speaker wish to
is equivalent to kairos, an argumenta- port, and personality—are the subject of
tive situation in invention (Crowley and stasis in rhetoric. Stasis is a procedure by
Hawhee, 2012; Tindale, 2004). In advertis- which a speaker poses questions in order • “On what issue should the speaker base
ing, the argumentative situation consists of to clarify the main issues and persuasive his or her argument?”



• “Why would the audience believe the

that investigate the veracity of brand the fountain of advertising-message strat-
speaker’s argument?”
claims in commercials. egy. This is a more comprehensive and
• “What ‘truth’ do we know about the “Commonplaces” refer to the culture of complete picture of invention as message
audience in reference to the issue at the target audience. They are markers of a strategy than shown in extant literature (in
hand?” people’s collective memory (Pruchnic and Marsh, 2007, or anywhere else).
Lacey, 2011) and sources of “truth” that
• “Does the audience see the speaker as serve as the basis of arguments among Advertising-Ideation Techniques:
credible?” people. In other words, they are sources of Expressions of the Rhetorical Figures
insight and unique selling points: sources In “Style”
These questions cover all the elements of of a unique selling point when the truth is Mastery of language use is one of the
invention, and they are the same questions about a brand, and sources of insight when defining qualities of rhetors. This is the
an account planner attempts to answer in the truth is in reference to the audience. preoccupation in style, the third canon of
developing an advertising brief (Parker They both correspond to emotional and rhetoric. Figures of rhetoric are the most
et al., 2018). Topics are issues. A proposi- rational appeals (Bruner, 1986). Together, crucial factor in style (McQuarrie and
tion is a standpoint on an issue. A stand- they form brand proposition. All the Mick, 1996). A figure of rhetoric must ful-
point requires arguments. sources of insight listed in the qualitative fill three conditions:
In advertising, a topic is an issue that a study (Parker et al., 2018) are represented
brand addresses or should address. This in rhetoric, plus even more (Crowley and • It must have “a repeatable structure.”
is usually a cause of contention between Hawhee, 2012; Corbett and Connors, 1999).
• It must have “a use that is different from
agencies and their clients. Marketers and Rhetoric has a comprehensive list of the
the normal manner of expression.”
their advertising agencies have to be clear sources of insights.
on the main issue the brand should address In the print campaign for Immodium, • It must “attract attention.”
before an agency brief can be written. a diarrhea treatment, the visual element (Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca, 1969,
Once this is agreed, an account planner shows a man or woman strapped to a toi- p. 168)
obtains the right insight on that issue, then let seat. The copy reads, “Immodium—
the brand takes its standpoint on the issue. sets you free.” It can be deduced from the Many scholars have identified figures of
That standpoint is the brand’s proposi- advertisement that the truth in reference rhetoric in different modes of advertising
tion to the target audience. Of course, the to the audience (insight) that served as the media (Durand, 1987; Leigh, 1994; Scott,
brand must have arguments to back up basis for its argument is that “the right to 1994). It is remarkable that, in a compari-
the proposition. Classical rhetoric posits move around is fundamental to human son among figures, ideation techniques,
that arguments must be based on truth. In existence,” and the brand truth (selling and ideation templates, there are striking
modern times, however, there is the con- point) is something like “an effective relief commonalities.
vincing argument for acceptability rather from diarrhea.” Overall, figures of rhetoric fit the
than truth as the basis of arguments (Tin- The commonplace that provided this description of the ideation techniques
dale, 2004). Insights are “human, cultural, insight is definitely human experience, (Pricken, 2008) and ideation templates
category, or brand truths” (Parker and and that of the selling point is science. The (Goldenberg, Mazursky, and Solomon,
Koslw, 2015, p. 30). These “truths” may issue or topic at hand in the advertisement 1999). For example,
not be facts, but they are acceptable in their is running stomach. The standpoint of
contexts (Parker et al., 2018). Immodium on that issue is that a person • ellipsis, a figure of rhetoric, creates a
Here again, there is a correspondence should be cured of running stomach so missing link in the form or content of
between advertising-message strategy that he or she can regain freedom of move- an element and expects the audience to
and topics, a means of invention in rheto- ment. That is why the brand’s proposition guess right;
ric. Advertising agencies, in fact, are so to sufferers of running stomach is that it
very well aware of this important element can restore their freedom. The correspond- • activation, an ideation template,
of truth that McCann-Ericson prides itself ences between advertising-message strat- demands active participation of the
on the slogan “Truth Well Told.” There are egy and the means of invention are not audience in order to get the full under-
even regulatory bodies in many countries happenstance. They suggest that rhetoric is standing of its message;


Douglas C. West Advertising Creative Article 2018

• interactive, an ideation technique, double meaning, mixing and match-

mythos or acceptable truth as the prem-
requires an audience or something in ing, omission, and suggestion (Pricken,
ise for its arguments. Whereas rhetori-
the environment to do something to 2008);
cal arguments based on truth are logos,
complete an idea; by so doing, the audi- • fusion, replacement, subtraction, mul- those based on acceptability are mythos.
ence comes to a full understanding of tiplication, division, extreme analogy, The heart of modern rhetoric, therefore,
the advertising message. exaggeration, inversion, and more should consist of ethos, pathos, logos, and
(Goldenberg et al., 1999, 2009). mythos; the last two are alternatives to
By their descriptions, the three are essen- each other.
tially the same. This sameness of descrip- Executional Factors in Advertising: Rhetoric has been shown as a theory
tion occurs among many figures, ideation An “Arrangement” of Rhetoric Theory for visual-communication design (Mejia
techniques, and template (See Table 2). Arrangement is the stage at which argu- and Chu, 2014). The classic print adver-
Figures all share the repeatability of ments are organized to make the most tisement is divisible into headline, visual,
structure with ideation templates (Gold- aesthetic and persuasive impact. As body copy, and call to action. This fits the
enberg and Mazursky, 2008; Perelman noted previously, this canon largely cor- statement of the issue (narration), confir-
and Olbrechts-Tyteca, 1969). Consistency responds to executional factors in the mation (proof), and conclusion aspects of
informs the nomenclature of both figures advertising-development process, where arrangement in ancient rhetoric. The com-
and templates; figures have to fit a particu- the creative big idea is “packaged” into position of television and radio commer-
lar form or content, and templates have to a plan for a specific execution. It focuses cials consists of the same elements.
follow a particular scheme. Previous tech- on ordering of arguments to make the A piece of advertisement can project its
niques lack any such underlying principle greatest impact. The arguments to be strongest argument only if that argument
of structure (Pricken, 2008). They are simply selected, and the order in which they are is given the best place and the most prom-
a set of tools for the use of creative profes- marshaled, largely depend on the situa- inence (Attea, 2008): the several rough
sionals, and for these individuals, a descrip- tion (kairos). Rhetorical arrangements layouts developed for a print advertise-
tion of each ideation technique suffices. usually are broken into six elements: ment before one is selected for finished

Figures, moreover, draw attention, just like introduction (exordium), statement of art; the selection, ordering, and arrange-

ideation techniques (Goldenberg et al., 2009; facts (narration), division (partitio), proof ment of details (Stern, 1994; e.g., editing
(confirmatio), refutation (refutatio), and of frames from a shoot to tell a television
Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca, 1969).
conclusion (peroratio). Not all the ele- story); the choice between either a mono-
Figures also perform the same opera-
ments of compositions are required in all logue or a dialogue in a radio commercial,
tions in their contexts as ideation tech-
cases. The conclusion usually is infused and considerations of the smooth flow of
niques (Durand, 1987; Goldenberg et al.,
with emotional argument (Crowley and either—all these are attempts at using
1999; McQuarrie and Mick, 1999; Phillips
Hawhee, 2012). executional elements to create a powerful
and McQuarrie, 2004). Aside from struc-
One could argue that the current impact on an audience. Most research into
ture, modern scholars have attempted to
authors incorporate the narrative route the executional factors of advertisements
categorize figures on the basis of the opera-
to persuasion (Dainton and Zelley, 2015; thus is an attempt at assessing the impact
tions, such as
Fisher, 1987; Phillips and McQuarrie, of arrangement.
2010) into modern rhetoric (Attea, 2008), Comprehensive studies on executional
• addition, suppression, substitution, and
specifically in the canon of arrangement. factors further illustrate the relationship
exchange (Durand, 1987);
Although the rigidity of classical rheto- between arrangement and executional
• repetition, reversal, substitution, and ric on logic and truth tends to exclude factors. In one of the largest studies of its
destabilization (McQuarrie and Mick, the narrative paradigm from it (Fisher, kind, researchers examined 160 execu-
1999); 1987), one body of work convincingly tional factors (Stewart and Furse, 1986).
persuades on “acceptability” as a premise Despite the scholars’ frustration that they
• juxtaposition, fusion, and replacement
for arguments, rather than truth (Tindale, had no framework they could use to select
(Phillips and McQuarrie, 2004);
2004). The current researchers argue that suitable executional factors, the elements
• “turn it right around,” repetition and this simply admits into modern rheto- of the arrangement canon still are evident.
accumulation, exaggeration, analogy, ric the narrative paradigm, which has The 160 executional factors distilled down



Table 2
Comparisons among Figures and Ideation Techniques
Durand (1987); Crowley and Hawhee Pricken (2008) Goldenberg et al. (1999)
(2012); Corbett and Connors (1999)
Figure of Figure description Ideation Technique description Ideation Template description
rhetoric technique template

Anacoluthon Exchange of form that Break out of Oversteps the physical boundaries of Unification Use of a conventional
breaks the rules of the the frame the advertising medium, integrating or an unconventional
original form the medium into message delivery medium, whereby
Hendiadys Similarity of form Alternative Turns anything into an advertising the medium is
between two elements, media medium involved actively in the
one abstract and one message delivery
concrete All the world’s Converts an open space into an
a stage advertising medium

Ellipsis Missing link in the Come and play Gets the audience involved in Activation Demands active
form or content of an a game—which is actually the participation of
element; expects the advertisement the audience in
audience to guess right Interactive Requires the audience or something order to get the full
media in the environment to do something understanding of its
to complete the idea; by so doing, message
the audience comes to a full
understanding of its message
Omission and Omits the words or letters of copy or Subtraction Omits an element
suggestion visual elements or medium of an advertisement
Replaces elements of copy or visual Replacement or replaces it with
with the product or something else another

Pun plus A combination of Making pictures with words or

allusion figures depicting parts of a picture with
words; integrating words with pictures,
logos, signs, and symbols to deliver a
Pun Creates double Double Uses double meaning in copy or visual
meaning meaning
Optical illusion Makes one visual appear as two; does
not require the active participation of
the viewer
Metaphor Implies comparison Metaphor and Expresses something in terms of Metaphor Connects the
(similarity of based on similarity in analogy another; usually done by making image of a product
content) content something seem like another that with a symbol
shares a similarity with it that represents its
Allusion Implies comparison Change the Makes the product or parts of it look message
(similarity of based on similarity in product like something else
form) form Reframing Changes the context of a story or
visual in order to give the story, saying,
or visual a new meaning
Take a look Reveals something hidden (or
inside that appears hidden) by taking its
proposition literally

continued …


Douglas C. West Advertising Creative Article 2018

Table 2 (continued)
Comparisons among Figures and Ideation Techniques
Durand (1987); Crowley and Hawhee Pricken (2008) Goldenberg et al. (1999)
(2012); Corbett and Connors (1999)
Simile Juxtaposes two Compare and Shows the similarity and differences
(comparison) elements that are contrast between two things and thereby
similar in content shows the benefit of the product—
for example, a “before and after”
Chiasmus Expresses contrasting Mixing and Combines two different things,
ideas in juxtaposed matching sometimes to produce something
structures completely new (e.g., merging a
product with something else or
incorporating something into a
Take it literally A word-for-word translation of Extreme Exaggerates the
language into direct pictures consequence benefit of the product
Hyperbole Creates exaggeration Show the Shows the benefit of the product or or service or any
effects service in a more dramatic way than statement or question
ever before to an absurd extent

Extreme Exaggerates the effort

effort put into product
creation or service
delivery; alternatively,
the extent to which
the audience will go
to get or protect the
product or service
Irony plus A combination of Turn it right Does the opposite of what is expected Inversion Describes the
hyperbole figures around exaggerated, absurd,
plus ellipsis or and generally
chiasmus funny condition of
what happens to
the consumer in a
situation of need for
it or in a situation
brought about by lack
of use
Paradox Paradoxes When the existence of a thing Absurd Presents other ways
negates the conditions that make that alternative (silly and outlandish)
existence possible to get the benefit of a
Allusion plus A combination of Absurd, Shows how to get the benefit of the product
paradox plus figures surreal, bizarre product through an absurd, unrealistic
hyperbole means
Alternative Finds absurd alternative uses for the
uses product

continued …



Table 2 (continued)
Comparisons among Figures and Ideation Techniques
Durand (1987); Crowley and Hawhee Pricken (2008) Goldenberg et al. (1999)
(2012); Corbett and Connors (1999)
Anachronism Incongruity in the Playing with
juxtaposition of time
Anaphora, Repetition of an issue Repetition and Repetition of one or more elements in
anadiplosis, or element accumulation an advertisement
epanalepse, etc.
Accumulation Repetition and an
increasing sense of an
issue or element
Rhymes, Figures involving mostly In the Uses of wordplay, popular sayings,
alliteration, familiar verbal forms beginning was quotations, rhyme, catchphrases,
assonance, the word proverbs, or maxims
Proverbs, Applies figures to Spoofs and Created off a saying, someone, or
quotations, visuals that are already parodies something that is already in existence
sayings well known in the Signs and Uses well-known symbols and signs of
society or environment symbols either the product or other things in
unusual ways to deliver a message
Any figure that When figures are highly Wit and humor Uses words or visuals in a way that
can elicit the embedded in cultural gets across as clever or funny; could
desired outcome or societal worldview be based on any technique
Without words Gets message across in pictures only,
without words; could be based on any
of the other techniques
Telling stories Uses any of the previous techniques in
a narrative or dramatic form
Provocation Created by a literal execution that is
and shock shocking and provocative

to 24 statistical factors, and more than half Advertising Media: All That Exists the definition and existence of advertis-
of these dimensions related to each of the In the Rhetor’s “Memory” ing appear threatened (Schultz, 2016), and
six elements of rhetoric’s canon of arrange- The need to align advertising with rheto- some have proffered definitions that safely
ment. Several others related to the delivery ric theory is more obvious in the canon do away with media inclusion (Dahlén and
canon (casting and setting), and the rest of memory than all other canons. Media Rosengren, 2016).
dealt with rhetoric’s persuasion appeals. have been an integral element in the extant Unknown to scholars who nurse this
Although the researchers lacked a theo- definitions of advertising (Dahlén and fear, they simply are reliving historical
retical framework to identify executional Rosengren, 2016; Schultz, 2016). With the antecedents of disquiet that happen when
factors, it is uncanny that these findings various changes taking place in the digital a new and major advertising medium is
corresponded closely to classical rhetoric’s sphere (Hoffman and Novak, 1996; Miles, introduced. Isocrates and other rhetors
cannon of arrangement. 2010), some scholars have posited that present in the transition from the spoken


Douglas C. West Advertising Creative Article 2018

Rhetoric has been shown content itself. This is internalized memory available media and their combinations.
(Pruchnic and Lacey, 2011). External- Hypermedia are an externalized version
as a theory for visual- ized memory is the content created with of what already exists in memory, but the
these systems as internalized memory computer-mediated environment is just
communication design. and deposited on an appropriate channel, the media channel.
whether this be television, radio, print, or
Further to whether or not rhetoric is
medium to the written medium also faced the computer. Media, therefore, are exter-
capable of explaining present-day media
the same dilemma with their audiences nalized memory, but the receptacle for
is the issue of interactivity. One study
and had to learn the peculiarities of the each medium is its channel.
went to great lengths to show a rhetoric-
“new media”—print (See Marsh, 2012). There is a constant interaction between
based, constructionist model of interactiv-
The advent of the television medium internalized and externalized memory
equally was intriguing to advertising prac- (Pruchnic and Lacey, 2011). Modern ity that is devoid of the control that falsely
titioners (See Kover, 2016). Major changes rhetors consume the content on various is assumed to be had in traditional media
in media always have caused disequilib- media channels (including anything and (Miles, 2010). Although the study’s contri-
rium in rhetorical enterprise. everything in society); combine this con- bution is noteworthy and would be most
The panic during media transitions tent with the content of their internalized appropriate for service brands, the ele-
occurs because a fundamental miscon- memory; and use all of these to produce ments of the model—invitation, explora-
ception exists in the definition of media, fresh content, which they deposit on tion, recursion, and coordination—echo
which, when corrected, can take us gradu- media channels. the attributes of rhetorical argumentation:
ally back to equilibrium. We must agree on Media channels form part of the collec- invitation, dialogue, and dialectics (Tin-
what constitutes media to draw a parallel tive memory of a people, because every-
dale, 2004).
between the canon of memory and adver- one has access to those channels (Haskins,
Practiced as rhetoric, advertising should
tising media. From a historical perspective, 2007; Hess, 2007). In other words, “the
be devoid of control, especially because
the spoken word was the first medium of medium is the memory” (Brody, 1998, p.
it is usually based on truth that is accept-
rhetoric (Corbett and Connors, 1999; Crow- 130). This applies to a channel that accom-
able to all parties concerned. The above-
ley and Hawhee, 2012; Marsh, 2012). When modates a medium that is made of a sys-
writing as a medium of rhetoric followed, mentioned study (Miles, 2010), however,
tem of conveying meaning, such as when
it was all letters without pictures. paper accommodates a system of let- nailed down an attribute of digital mar-
Spoken words or language were a sys- ters—the print medium. For the whole of keting that already is being practiced in
tem of sounds that served to convey mean- life, however, with no formalized system advertising—the rapidly changing argu-
ing. Writing was a system of letters that of conveying meaning in many aspects, mentative situation that requires repeated
had the same function. This suggests that memory is the medium. kariotic and static analysis to keep up with
a medium is a system of creating and con- The notion of media as externalized refutations from consumers. In traditional
veying meanings. memory rightly applies to both the sim- media, change in the argumentative situ-
Rhetoric scholars have identified the plest and the most sophisticated present- ation seldom is observed until research is
canon “memory” as media. In ancient day media. The use of ancient texts shows carried out. Real-time interactivity is not a
times, memory, the third canon of rheto- clearly that the canon of memory in medi-
peculiarity of modern media. Interactivity
ric, meant more than just passive recol- eval times is a complex, multimodal use
between a rhetor and his or her audience
lections. To make use of each medium, of color, design, text, and image in learn-
happens in real time, and the audience
rhetors first had to internalize their sys- ing and composition (Gossett, 2008). This
ranges from one to many. Some take sides
tems of expression. runs parallel to hypermedia, computer-
with the rhetor and others against him or
Rhetors used systems of communication mediated environments (as described in
modes in their memory to produce and the seminal work of Hoffman and Novak, her, so that what started as one to many
store content (Gossett, 2008; Pruchnic and 1996). The only exception is motion pic- actually might end up being many to
Lacey, 2011). Memory in preliterate rheto- tures, which were unavailable at the time. many. This approximates the digital-media
ric, therefore, consists of these systems The point, however, is that the canon experience in a previous model (Hoffman
that produce content and the memorized of memory has the capacity to explain and Novak, 1996).



Advertising Production: IMPLICATIONS: ADVERTISING’S from scarcity (e.g., Eisend, 2008) to sex
A Rhetorical “Delivery” of Narratives IDENTITY, DIRECTION, (e.g., Reichert, LaTour, and Ford, 2011)
Delivery, the last canon of rhetoric, is AND RELEVANCE to global and local (e.g., Zhou and Belk,
equivalent to advertising production, Rhetoric Theory Establishes 2004), they generally fall into the three
the last stage of the advertising process. Advertising’s Unique Identity rhetoric categories:
The ethos of the rhetor is produced and Many scholars in advertising make the
reflected in delivery. Voice and gesture assumption that rhetoric is a topic within • Rational appeals focus on the benefit of
are the salient issues in delivery. The vol- advertising, rather than advertising being the brand or product in question, and
ume, pitch, pace, tone, and intonation of an area within rhetoric. The result of that there are fairly close analogues between
a rhetor should be right at each point in a error is that current academic advertis- rational appeals and logos or mythos.
speech. Facial and bodily gestures should ing research is preoccupied with identity
• Emotional appeals (e.g., Bülbül and
follow the rhythm of delivery. Stamping problems that would seem ludicrous to
Menon, 2010) are again another major
of feet, clapping of hands, and similar any outside observer.
category of specific appeals and can be
sound effects from bodily movements With all due respect to Mark Twain,
further subdivided into categories such
also can be used where and when appro- reports of advertising’s death (e.g., Rust
as fear or humor appeals.
priate (Crowley and Hawhee, 2012). Most and Oliver, 1994) have been exagger-
important, rhetors should practice often, ated greatly. Current speculations that • Character-based ethos appeals draw
out loud. advertising now is a zombie (Rust, 2016) from brand personality and source
From the description above, classical equally are overstated. That advertis- credibility.
rhetoric demands more than a soulless ing would suddenly disappear seems
verbalization but requires a passionate unimaginable despite the concern raised Both classical rhetoric and advertising are
performance of the rhetor’s speech. Per- among scholars. vexed by accusations of misrepresenting
formance is one of the key elements that What scholars are confused about is the truth—that is, making appeals that
distinguishes drama from other genres of that if advertising’s definition is tied to have no support. Whether hard sell, soft
literature. Other key factors are narration, specific media with traditional paid- sell, or somewhere in between, advertise-
plot, and character (Stern, 1994). Televi- compensation methods, then certainly ments always will have appeals (Okazaki,
sion commercials contain these key factors the textbook definition will keep chang- Mueller, and Taylor, 2010).
and have been shown to be dramatizations ing with every media innovation. The
(Deighton, Romer, and McQueen, 1989; practice of advertising, however, will What’s Not Part of Advertising but Is
Esslin, 1979; Stern, 1994). keep on going under any name (Schultz, Still Rhetoric. Instead of working hard
One author (Wells, 1989) distinguished 2016). Indeed, the term “advertising” is to differentiate ourselves from consumer
between “lecture” and drama in television itself new relative to our root paradigm psychology or communications, the real
commercials. Rhetoric covers both forms of rhetoric, which has been practiced for challenge should be what differentiates us
of presentation and anything in between, millennia. On one level, it makes little dif- from personal selling. Before television,
however, depending on the degree of ference whether we substitute terms such we considered advertising to be “selling in
dramatization. All these also apply to as “advertising” or “brand communica- print” (Starch, 1923, p. 5), and since televi-
commercials on radio, which already is tions” or “integrated marketing commu- sion we developed the concept of Unique
referred to as the “theater of the mind.” nications”—rhetoric is still rhetoric. Selling Proposition (Reeves, 1961). Dis-
Print is no different. A set of fash- tinguishing us from sales is the fact that
ion advertisements to which research- What’s Part of Advertising. The tripartite advertisers usually speak to and interact
ers referred as “grotesque” (Phillips and heart of rhetoric consists of three types with groups, but salespeople do the same
McQuarrie, 2010, p. 377) are quintessential of persuasion appeals: logos or mythos, with individuals. Salespeople use more
exemplars of “plotted drama” in a print pathos, and ethos. Advertising scholars than just rhetoric in their jobs in serving
advertisement. Each shows (performs) a would be more familiar with the names customers, but using rhetoric (e.g., selling)
story, as opposed to the other set, which rational appeals, emotional appeals, and is probably the most critical part (Lam-
just tells it. Advertisements should have source credibility. Although scholars oureux, 1988). Personal selling is rhetoric
inherent drama (Martin, 1989). have considered a wide range of appeals, individualized.


Douglas C. West Advertising Creative Article 2018

What’s Neither Advertising Nor Rheto- nature, then researching canons other • the production unit, which is allied to

ric. Numerous published examples show the creative department and is responsi-
than arrangement should widen the view
that some authors mistakenly think using ble for bringing campaigns to life;
of advertising research. The canons also
stimuli described as “advertisements” in can be used to push the limits of theoreti- • the media department, which ensures
their manipulations means they are doing cal comparisons by systematically relating campaigns get the most profitable
advertising research. The problem is that exposure.
the different canons.
these experimental advertising stimuli
The current authors organized top-
often don’t look or function like real adver- This compartmentalization reflects an ori-
ics that could be suggested within each
tisements—which need to have a strong entation toward invention, style, arrange-
canon and by crossing the canons with
basis in rhetoric theory. Often, the stimuli ment, delivery, and memory—the canons
each other. In a grid they created, along
never even use a brand name, nor is it clear of rhetoric. Other disciplines identified
the diagonal, are research directions that
what, if anything, is being sold. in advertising simply help to manage the
Furthermore, the research questions involve one canon only, but in the upper process the canons describe. Adopting a
and hypotheses are associated remotely part of the matrix, canons are crossed with rhetoric paradigm will help align research
with advertising. They tend to be detached each other (See Table 3). with practice.
from the persuasive rhetorical content nor- The pattern that emerges is that one Practitioners, themselves, have discov-
mally expected in advertising research. more likely can assess cells along the ered the rhetoric basis for advertising.
Such work may be perfectly acceptable, diagonal by measuring individual con- Tom Attea, award-winning former direc-
or interesting consumer-behavior research sumer responses to estimate advertis- tor of Young & Rubicam’s creative school,
relating stimulus to response, but none- ing effectiveness. Elsewhere, assessment said, “In the Rhetoric and Poetics, Aristo-
theless may be presented inappropriately instead involves the judgments of profes- tle provided many principles that apply to
under the guise of advertising research. sionals—clients and agencies—who are creative advertising” (Attea, 2008, p. 45).
The work, however, still often claims to the most likely to have valuable perspec- He emphasized invention to set the right
be about “marketing communications” or problem, style and arrangement to design
tives to share. Yet the main theme is that
“advertising” in the first paragraphs. the right message, and media to find the
there are at least 15 cells full of research
right place to put the advertisement. Attea
directions beyond the single cell on execu-
Rhetoric Theory Widens (2008) then goes on to discuss the only
tional factors that is advertising research’s
Research Directions thing left: production—the delivery canon.
current focus.
The rhetoric route to advertising research With respect to more scholarly reports of
can be as vast and varied as the contrib- agency practice, models proposed for the
uting disciplines. Rhetoric affords each Rhetoric Theory Ensures advertising-development process (Stuh-
discipline the opportunity to explore Relevance to Practice lfaut and Vanden Bergh, 2012; Turnbull
all possible contributions to advertising If academic research is criticized for being and Wheeler, 2017) either fall far short of
research, provided they stay faithful to irrelevant to practitioners, the adoption the depth and width of rhetoric theory or
the distinguishing variables that it con- of rhetoric theory may serve to close the go overboard in their considerations. One
fers on advertising. It will serve advertis- gap between advertising academics and model (Stuhlfaut and Vanden Bergh, 2012)
ing research and practice well to see more practitioners. The rhetoric paradigm con- focused too narrowly on metaphor, just
work done in the fields of philosophy firms the structure, process, and theories one idea-generation technique, to develop
(argumentation and ethics), literary stud- of practitioners. For instance, advertising a generalized advertising-development
ies (narration, drama, and performance), agencies long were structured around the process. Alternatively, another (Turnbull
music (genres and translations), and per- canons of rhetoric: and Wheeler, 2017) spread too widely
suasion (principles and practice), from rhe- to contextual factors already captured
torical perspectives. in social psychology (Amabile, 1996). If
• the account planning department, which
one strips out contextual considerations,
is responsible for message strategy;
Widening Topics for Research. If what the latter (Turnbull and Wheeler, 2017)
allows rhetoric theory to further advertis- • the creative department, which takes grounded theory model still approximates
ing research is rhetoric’s comprehensive care of ideation and campaign creation; the canons of rhetoric.



Table 3
Rhetoric-Oriented Research Directions for Advertising Scholarship
Message Strategy Ideation Executional Factors Media Production

Message • What are the different • What is the most • How does message • How does message • What is the role of
Strategy types of strategic creative ideation strategy translate to strategy determine message strategy in
situations brands technique for each executional factors? media use? commercial drama and
face? message strategy? • What executional • How does media use other genres?
• Can we develop • What is the effect factors are critical for reflect advertising- • How do directors
typologies of message of insight quality on various brand-strategy message strategy? advance or hinder
strategy? creative output? situations? • What is the role of message strategy?
• What type of insight • What figures or • How is message media in messaging • How is photography
is used in various techniques are most strategy reflected in and advertisement different in each brand
strategic situations for appropriate for different executional factors? recall? category?
brands? appeals? • What are the • How do target
• How do brands • How does the differences between consumers influence
with more than one originality– agency and client media use?
attribute settle for the appropriateness trade- perspectives on
one to project? off happen? executional factors as
• How is a brand story • What ideation reflections of message
created? techniques work best in strategy?
• Why do we need a each brand category?
brand narrative? • How do creative
• How do advertising professionals convert
agencies take care propositions into
of consumers’ likely figures?
• What informs clients’
choice of campaign
concepts for their

Ideation • How do figures • What are the • Do ideation techniques • Do all advertisements
combine to form new similarities in the perform equally well on created from repetition
ideation techniques? executional factors of all media? figures result in story
• What combinations of advertisements from • What are the drama?
figures result in quality the same figure or differences between • Do some techniques
creative output? technique? ideation techniques or figures apply only in
• Can all figures or • How can executional used in traditional and the production stage?
techniques create big factors change an social media? How effective are such
ideas? idea? • How does media techniques compared
• What is the difference • What are the effects of use limit or enhance with others?
in the effectiveness executional factors on ideation technique? • What is the role
of metaphors and the integrity of an idea? • How have changes of music in idea
allusions? in media affected generation?
• How do creative the development of • How does production
professionals come ideation techniques? enhance an idea?
about ideation

continued …


Douglas C. West Advertising Creative Article 2018

Table 3 (continued)
Rhetoric-Oriented Research Directions for Advertising Scholarship
Message Strategy Ideation Executional Factors Media Production

Executional • What are appropriate • What executional • What is the role of

factors typologies of factors are common a producer in an
executional factors? to all interactive advertising agency?
• What are the advertisements? • What are elements
psychological • What is the effect of of the production
mechanisms for why executional factors on process for print,
various executional the consistency of an radio, and television
factors work on idea across media? commercials?
consumers the way • How are the • What are the attributes
they do? executional factors of of quality voiceover
• What moderates social media different artists, actors, and
the effectiveness of from traditional media? models?
executional factors? • How does media • How does production
determine, limit, or enhance executional
enhance executional factors?

Media • Are all creatives equally • How is production for

good across all media? digital different from
• What are the elements traditional media?
of “paid,” “owned,” and
“earned” media?
• What is the role of
memory in consumer
• What are the elements
of media strategy and
media buying?

Production • What are the elements

of the production
• What production values
are used to assess
• How do the principles
of photography apply to
• What are the
characteristics of ideas
and executions?
• How well do promising
storyboards translate
into good commercials?



It for the Brand You Manage. New York: Really

Practitioners’ theories are at once The call to be relevant does not lie in
Helpful Books, 2008.
similar and different from the views of consumer psychology, although it cer-
researchers (Nyilasy and Reid, 2009a, tainly is a powerful tool in proving the Brody, F.“The Medium Is the Memory.” In The
2009b). Fortunately, on close examination, effectiveness of rhetorical theory. For Digital Dialectic, P. Lunenfeld, ed. Cambridge,
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ABOUT THE AUTHORS tional Appeals in Advertising.” Journal of Adver-
ence as being unique.
tising Research 50, 2 (2010): 169–180.
Part of the uniqueness of each argu- Alexander Tevi is a sessional lecturer at Macquarie
mentative situation is “commonplaces,” University in Sydney, Australia, where he recently
Caivano, J. L., and M. A. López. “How Colour
or the cultural setting of the persuasive completed his doctorate degree on advertising creativity.
Rhetoric Is Used to Persuade: Chromatic Argu-
effort. After exposure, each advertisement He won awards for his work in creative advertising, and mentation in Visual Statements.” Colour: Design
becomes part of commonplaces. The differ- as a creative director, for many years with such global and Creativity 5, 11 (2010) 1–11.
ence in time, plus the clutter that exists in agencies as McCann, Saatchi and Saatchi, and Grey.
the marketplace, becomes one more reason Corbett, E. P. J., and R. J. Connors. Classical
Tevi also has worked for a variety of international clients,
to use a fresh strategy to break through the Rhetoric for the Modern Student, 4th ed. New
including Unilever, Nestlé, British Airways, Coca-Cola,
refutations and defenses of target audi- York: Oxford University Press, 1999.
Peugeot, and Western Union. His research interests
ences and engage them with novel ideas.
are creativity, strategy, and effectiveness in marketing
To be more relevant to practice, research- Courtis, J. K. “Colour as Visual Rhetoric in
communications. Financial Reporting.” Accounting Forum 28, 3
ers need to incorporate the uniqueness of
(2004): 265–281.
the variables at play in each argumentative
Scott Koslow is a professor at Macquarie University. He
situation, as recommended by rhetoric.
Crowley, S., and D. Hawhee. Ancient Rhetorics
specializes in research about advertising creativity, and
for Contemporary Students. New York: Pearson
CLOSING THOUGHTS has worked with most major agency brands. His work
Education, 2012.
Does the path forward start in the past? As can be found in the Journal of Advertising Research

advertising academics, if we keep remind- (JAR), Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, Dahlén, M., and S. Rosengren.“If Advertising
ing ourselves that we are more similar to Journal of Advertising (JA), and Journal of Consumer Won’t Die, What Will It Be? Toward a Working
sales than any other discipline, then surely Research. Koslow also serves as an associate editor Definition of Advertising.” Journal of Advertis-
we will alter research directions such that for both the JAR and JA, and he is a recipient of the ing 45, 3 (2016): 334–345.
we can be more relevant to practition- Advertising Research Foundation’s Great Mind Award for
ers. Rediscovering our roots in rhetoric Dahlén, M., F. Lange, and T. Smith.Marketing
JAR Best Reviewer.
will address most, if not all, the criticisms Communications: A Brand Narrative Approach.
Chichester, U.K.: Wiley, 2010.
raised regarding the chasm we uninten-
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