Aristotle was a Greek philosopher born in the year 384 BCE. His wrote treatises on many topics including rhetoric, logic, ethics, theater, and persuasion. It is in his theories and writings on these subjects that modern advertising theory finds an explanation. Aristotle’s categorization of rhetorical persuasion is universally accepted as the archetypical model used in contemporary forms of communication and message content.
To Aristotle, rhetoric meant all forms of verbal communication. Today, advertising theory and methodology expand upon the use of rhetoric solely as a form of the written or spoken word. It is the display like nature of advertising that demands the incorporation of visual elements into Aristotle’s ways of persuasion as well. As with many philosophical hypotheses, Aristotle’s premises on persuasion have been debated and reinterpreted throughout the centuries.
Let’s begin with a basic explanation of Aristotle’s ideas. Aristotle believed there were certain definable components that are used to persuade an audience to accept the significance of a message. He created separate arguments to describe each of five aspects of persuasion. They were Logos, Ethos, Pathos, Telos, and Kairos; the latter two being somewhat less notorious than the first three. Aristotle believed that these idioms represented the primary components in all rhetorical situations.
Logos refers to the use of “logic” and rationality within an advertising message. The application of Logos occurs through the use of information and facts to shape the content of message. Educating and informing an audience are emphasized in this persuasion approach. Logos appeals to an audience that is in search of knowledge about a subject or product. The audience finds interest by seeking an intellectual, logical and rational interpretation of message content.
|"Helmets." Client: Honda. Agency: DDB Bogota Columbia.|
|"Don't drink and drive, please." Client: Toyota. Agency: Saatchi & |
|"in vanilla and chocolate creme." Client: Oreo. Agency: Interface |
Ethos, which translates to “ethics” relates directly to credibility or trustworthiness as it pertains to a message. The threshold component of Ethos is the concept of believability of a message. In advertising, Ethos can also reflect on the particular character and sincerity of a person or personage that delivers or endorses a subject or product. It reflects on the message content as it relates to reliability. This can also be transferred to the advertised subject or product. Ethos content attempts to strike a balance between the viewpoint of a presenter and that of an audience.
|"We agree." Client: Chevron. Agency: McGarryBowen.|
|"Join the global conversation." Client: The Economist. Agency: Memac |
|"Think before you eat." Client: PETA. Agency: Young Gins Submission.|
Pathos is the root word for “empathy“, which in the context of advertising messaging, refers to content with an emotional appeal and is in direct contrast to the reasonable approach of Logos. Pathos is realized by way of association with the personal real life experiences already resident in an audience. A Pathos message can invoke any form of emotion within an audience; anger, happiness, guilt, sorrow, elation, etc. The success of Pathos advertising depends on understanding the state of mind and perspective of an audience.
|"Some children get to heaven earlier." Client: Child Health Foundation. |
Agency: ServicePlan Germany.
|"Some things can't be covered." Client: King Khalid Abuse Foundation. |
Agency: Memac Ogilvy Riyadh
|"Animals are not criminals." Client: Animal Care &Control of New York.|
Telos is a term that is used to explain both the purpose and the intention or attitude of a message. Although not necessarily a part of all advertising, with regard to purpose, the principle behind Telos applies to forms of advertising that require some kind of participation by a viewer. Telos in this capacity is a necessary component for defining a course of action for an audience.
|"Join us." Client: BBDO Dusseldorf. Agency: BBDO Germany.|
|"Just feed them." Client: Agencies In Action. Agency: Cossette.|
|"Don't drive and text." Client: Ecovia. Agency: Terremoto |
In reference to intention or attitude, Telos functions more in the form of a manner of presentation i.e., an inflection or slant of a speaker, a visual style, or a temperament to be imparted in a message. Although a greater emphasis has been placed on Logos, Ethos, and Pathos, Telos has just as much importance and plays a vital role as a facet of persuasion in contemporary advertising.
|"World Press Freedom Day." Client: Reporters without borders. Agency:|
|"Even angels will fall." Client: Axe. Agency: DDB Puerto Rico.|
|"Getting crap done." Client WD-40. Agency: O'Leary & Partners.|
Kairos refers to an element of time, specifically to a moment. In an advertisement it can be looked at as an instant opportunity to present a “teachable’ moment. Kairos is the most favorable time, place, and situation for a message to be presented. Kairos is the all-encompassing environment that sets the stage for a message. It, as well as the other methods of persuasion, plays an important role in influencing an audience.
|"Loose change menu." Client: McDonalds. Agency: DDB Australia.|
|"Locate the logo." Client: Pepsi. Agency: BBDO Germany.|
|"You are the key." Client: Padre Hurtado Foundation. Agency: Y&R Chili.|
Logos, Ethos, Pathos, Telos, and Kairos, although universal in nature, are explanations of persuasive communications that affect a viewer and influence the content of a message about a subject or product. These categories interact with one and other in varying degrees to form the presentation of an advertising message to an audience. It is the specific qualities of these terms that establish basic advertising theory and methodology.
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