Advertisers lean heavily on propaganda to sell products, whether the "products" are a brand of toothpaste, a candidate for office, or a particular political viewpoint. Although propaganda may seem relevant only in the political arena, the concept can be applied fruitfully to the way products and ideas are sold in advertising. What kind of propaganda techniques do Advertisers use?
NAME CALLING Name calling is a propaganda tactic in which negatively charged names are hurled against the opposing side or competitor. Ads for products may also use name calling.
In transfer, Advertisers try to improve the image of a product by associating it with a symbol most people respect, like the American flag or Uncle Sam.
The testimonial is one of Advertisers' most-loved and most-used propaganda techniques. Similar to the transfer device, the testimonial capitalizes on the admiration people have for a celebrity, to make the product shine more brightly - even though the celebrity is not an expert on the product being sold. Print and television ads offer a nonstop parade of testimonials: here's Cher for Holiday Spas; here's basketball star Michael Jordan eating Wheaties; Michael Jackson sings about Pepsi; American Express features a slew of well-known people who assure us that they never go anywhere without their American Express card. Political candidates, as well as their ad agencies, know the value of testimonials.
When a candidate claims that an opponent has "changed his mind five times on this important issue," we tend to accept the claim without investigating whether the candidate had good reasons for changing his mind. Many people are simply swayed by the distorted claim that the candidate is "waffling" on the issue. This kind of propaganda often succeeds because many people have a deep desire not to be different. Political ads tell us to vote for the "winning candidate. Why do so many of us buy the products, viewpoints, and candidates urged on...