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Figures of Rhetoric in Advertisements

Edward McQuarrie and David Glen Mick describe rhetorical figures as “an artful

deviation” (425). The deviations that come from these rhetorical figures lead to the idea

of formal elements. With each formal element, the deviations develop into certain

categories and complexities that set up the framework ads. The figuration develops from

the varied complexities and the types of categories the ads have. These rhetorical figures

guide and give a means for making the sometimes unfamiliar, relatable for recipients.

McQuarrie and Mick describe schemes as “mode(s) (that) occur when a text

contains excessive order or regularity.” They wrote that schemes are “deviant

combinations” and “fit a model of overcoding” (428). Both of these ideas suggest that

the idea of schemes lie upon the ideas of words and sounds. The regularity of schemes

cause the level of processing to be shallower than tropes. This regularity makes the ads

easier to relate to for recipients and find in advertisements.

McQuarrie and Mick describe repetition as the mixture of “multiple instances of

some element of the expression” (429). Repetition can be applied to words or sounds. In

the advertisements that I found, the repetition was in the words.

In ad A, Tiffany & Co. uses the repetition of words also. The ad uses the formal

element of anaphora. Anaphora is the repetition of words at the beginning of phrases.

This ad uses the word “after” at the beginning of the first five lines of the ad. It also uses

the word “after” at the end of the last line. This ad uses the word after to relate to a

wedding and all the events at a wedding. It refers to the cake, dance, and the ring, which

is what they are trying to sell. By relating after to each one of these things, it ties in the

idea of wedding and the word after to represent and be part of all these ideas. The
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repetition of the word “after” plays into the deviation of the ad. People don’t expect

words to be repeated over and over. This ad uses the repetition of the word to make the

ad memorable and stand out because of the use of repetition. The violations of

expectations come from this repetition. A person doesn’t normally read things that use

the same word repeatedly. This violation leads to incongruity of what one is expecting to

read. McQuarrie and Mick write that this incongruity is very common in deviations in

advertisements (426).

In advertisement B, Pentax uses the formal element of epanalepsis. In the ad, it

says, “Focus speed vs. Toddler Speed.” The ad uses the repetition of the word speed

toward the beginning and end of the phrase, making it an epanalepsis. Pentax compares

how fast toddlers can move to how fast its camera can get focused to capture a photo.

The ad plays with conventional meaning of cameras by comparing the speed of a child to

the speed of focusing a camera lens. In McQuarrie and Mick’s article, they refer back to

Sperber and Wilson, saying that when a person knows that there is a violation of a

convention, they will search for a context that will help them understand this violation.

This violation and search for a context to help them applies to this Pentax ad. The

comparison is probably supposed to attract the families and use the idea of family photos.

This ad is supposed to create make consumers think back to times in their lives of when

toddlers wouldn’t sit still to take pictures. To understand the toddler speed and focal

speed, the consumer must have the ability to go back and relate the ad to their lives. The

expectations that are violated in this ad are the repetition of the word speed. In normal

life, people don’t rhyme and say the same word twice in the same phrase. Rhyming
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today is associated with nursery rhymes and little kids. The ad deviates from what is

expected by rhyming and repeating the same word.

McQuarrie and Mick wrote that the “operation of reversal combines elements that

are mirror images of one another in an expression” (430). In the ads I found, the roles of

reversal use binary pairs to make the ads deviate from what is expected.

In ad C, Salmon of the Americas chose to use the operation of reversal,

specifically the element of antithesis. In this ad, they use the binary pair of low and high

to create an eye-catching and deviating phrase. The use of syntactic reversals create a

phrase that leads to a deviation from what the reader expects. In normal, everyday talk,

people rarely use binary words in the same phrase. This escape from the everyday way of

talking deviates from the conventional way people might read this ad.

In ad D, Abreva also uses the operation of reversal, and also used the element of

antithesis. They used the binary pair of hot and cold. With this ad, they are advertising a

product to help with cold sores, so this adds to the idea of hot and cold because of the

word cold sore. In the smaller writing in the ad, Abreva also writes that one can “get

back to your ‘hot self’ fast,” further enhancing the idea of hot and cold. McQuarrie and

Mick would probably view this ad and say that it deviates from expectations by using the

binary pair of hot and cold. This particular ad plays with the readers understanding of the

idea of a cold sore. They incorporate the idea of hot and cold to make one think of

temperatures when a cold sore really doesn’t relate to temperature. The binary pair

enhances the interpretation of the ad.

McQuarrie and Mick wrote that tropes, “occur when a text contains a deficiency

of order or irregularities” (427). The common figures of tropes are metaphors and puns.
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The tropes can be thought of as, “deviant selections” (428). McQuarrie and Mick also

suggest that, “tropes fit a model of undercoding.” Tropes found in the advertisements I

found require a much deeper meaning then the schematic ones from above. This deeper

level of meaning leads to a more complex and higher amount of deviation.

McQuarrie and Mick describe substitution as a statement that forces the recipient

to think deeper or to alter the message in order to understand it. McQuarrie and Mick

wrote that, “Because tropes of substitution have a single resolution, we can speak of the

recipient applying a correction to what the communicator offers” (432). They suggest

that these substitution tropes take place through a “pre-established relationship” (432).

What McQuarrie and Mick suggest can be applied the ads that I found. Both ads require

the use of information that the reader must conjure by his or herself to be able to relate to

the ad.

In ad E, The North Face uses the substitution operation and uses the element of an

ellipsis. The North Face chose to use the absence of words to imply a deeper and more

complex meaning. By simply having the words, “Endurance is,” The North Face allowed

readers to think of all the things they believe endurance is and to relate the ideas with the

picture given. This ad shows an older man running and gives a short blurb at the bottom

about the man in the picture. The deviation of what someone would normally think about

this ad is that there is no formal definition that follows to explain what endurance actually

is. This deviation develops from information that the reader already knows. This

previous knowledge allows the person to define endurance for his or herself, like

McQuarrie and Mick suggested.
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In ad F, Exxon Mobil uses the operation of substitution also, but uses the element

of a hyperbole. A hyperbole is an exaggerated or extreme claim. The claim Exxon Mobil

makes is that they can buy you time. This idea is completely false, but they want the

person reading this ad to “perform a correction” (432). The hyperbole is one of the

higher gradients of deviation. The deviation in this ad violates what is expected by

stating an outrageous claim. The reader knows that this claim is false and, in turn,

rethinks the idea to relate the claim to the product in the ad. McQuarrie and Mick suggest

that when the recipient will read this ad, they will be able to come away with a meaning

by using previous knowledge and relation to the product. This new meaning and

understanding allows Exxon Mobil to convince people that they can help them in their

everyday lives by making it easier to buy their gas. They use the idea of saving time and

relate it to their company by giving you a way to quickly purchase gas.

McQuarrie and Mick wrote that, “destabilization selects an expression such that

the initial context renders its meaning indeterminate” (433). They state that for the trope

of destabilization to work, one must develop the implications of the ad (433). The

implications of the ads I found use a picture and paradox to force the recipient to discover

a new meaning in the ads.

In ad G, Pedigree uses the operation of destabilization and the element of a pun.

In this ad, the pun of resonance is used, because the phrase that is given, “I needed 3

shoes a day, just to get by,” is read differently when a picture of a dog is given in the

background. Pedigree uses this picture of a dog to make the statement actually mean

something in relation to their company. The idea of the ad is that the dog used to need to

eat 3 shoes a day. With the Pedigree Super Chews, the dog can chew on toys instead of
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chewing on shoes. This is the idea that the reader is supposed to take away from the ad.

The deviation in this ad comes from the relation of the phrase to the picture. The phrase

in itself means nothing without the picture. The violation has to do with the idea that this

phrase is spoken from the dog’s point of view, saying that the dog normally chewed three

shoes a day. One normally does not hear about what a dog is thinking about and this ad

goes against that idea. The deviation creates a new way of thinking for the reader that

supports the idea behind the ad.

In ad H, Jergens uses the operation of destabilization and the element of paradox.

A paradox is a self-contradictory, false, or impossible statement. The paradoxical

statement in this ad is, “My skin just discovered its voice.” This statement is impossible.

The deviation in this ad is the fact of the impossibility. Jergens tries to get recipients to

read this message, reapply what they know, and use their knowledge of Jergens to

associate this statement with their product. It uses an opposition of what is expected.

McQuarrie and Mick would suggest that “a concept conventionally part of the

understanding…has been destabilized.” The understanding of skin has been changed and

given “a voice”. The ad makes the idea of skin come alive because of the use of Jergens

lotion. Jergens chose to oppose an old take on skin by recreating the meaning of skin and

giving it a voice.

Works Cited

McQuarrie, Edward and David Glen Mick. “Figures of Rhetoric in Advertising

Language”. Journal of Consumer Research, 22: 1996.