Teaching Rhetorical Devices with Super Bowl Commercials » Super ELA! (2023)

by Super ELA

Teaching Rhetorical Devices with Super Bowl Commercials » Super ELA! (1)

Now that Super Bowl LVII has come and gone, we enter the period of post-game analysis. The players and coaches are watching footage to see which kicks, throws, and tackles were the most or least successful. This is all well and good if you’re interested in getting better at football; however, the only kind of post-game analysis I’m interested in is the kind that relates to mediated advertising.

That’s right. I’m talking about the commercials.

Though parsing through the action on the field is exciting for some, I’ve always been more interested in what kinds of creative tactics companies use to make the most of the millions spent for their thirty to sixty second spots. Who among us can forget, for example, the iconicBudweiser frogsfrom the nineties? Orthis horrifying Doritos adfrom 2016? Such ads are incredible examples of the power ofpathosto sell an audience.

That said, I’ve written previously about using commercials to teach rhetorical appeals. Now I’m branching out beyond ethos, pathos, and logos (but don’t worry — they made the list, too) to include a few more rhetorical devices that cropped up in this year’s commercials: allusion, hyperbole, and parallelism.

Thus, here is my list of nine commercials from Super Bowl LVII that you can use to help students master rhetorical devices.

(Save the YouTube playlist here.)

Teach Rhetorical Appeals in Your Classroom

Teach ethos, pathos, and logos with commercials in this lesson that includes a PowerPoint and handouts for documenting rhetorical appeals. At the end, students will construct their own appeals with the objects included! Get it now atTPT.

Teaching Rhetorical Devices with Super Bowl Commercials » Super ELA! (2)

(Video) Rhetorical Analysis of Budweiser Super Bowl Commercial - 2015

Allusion

An allusion is a reference to a well-known person, text, place, or event. Allusions can be tricky because the author/creator is banking on the audience recognizing the reference. Fortunately, the following commercials do not leave us with any doubts as to the allusions they’re making.

New year. New neighbor. | T-Mobile

He may not have the same gorgeous head of slicked back hair, but the bald, bearded man in this T-Mobile commercial is undoubtedly John Travolta, or Danny Zuko from the smash movie musical Grease. Lest you waffle on this point, the opening lick of “Summer Nights” makes the allusion to the teen drama crystal clear (even with Zach Braff and Donald Faison chiming in).

(On a personal note, I thought this was an odd choice given that Olivia Newton-John died only six months ago. I felt a modicum of horror watching, as all I could think was, “What about Sandy?!” I certainly wasn’t thinking about T-Mobile’s home internet service. Ah, the dangers of allusions gone awry.)

Trojan HOrse | CrowdStrike

CrowdStrike’s allusion to the Trojan Horse was a smart, if obvious, choice to characterize the ways in which their service protects computers from viruses (often called Trojan Horse viruses). However, the fun twist on this reference is that rather than letting the horse into the city, “Charlotte” from CrowdStrike deems it a threat and kicks out the wedge holding it in place. The camera pans wide as the equine monstrosity tumbles backwards into the Aegean, and the audience applauds at an allusion well done.

Cher | Rakuten

(Video) Which Super Bowl Commercial was the Most Effective? (Class Activity)

There is no commercial on this list for which I am more the target demographic than Rakuten’s allusion to the hit nineties classic Clueless. I’m sure my fellow eighties babies were also immediately glued to the screen when Alicia Silverstone sauntered to the front of the classroom in Cher’s iconic yellow plaid skirt-and-suit-jacket ensemble. Moreover, I couldn’t get enough of the brief references to the film: Cher’s rotating closet, Cher “debating” Amber, and Cher running into the delivery truck with her Jeep because, seriously, how did she get a license? If nothing else, this commercial demonstrates the power of allusion when it comes to honing in on specific groups. Choose the right reference, and you can be pretty sure of your audience’s undivided attention.

Hyperbole

Hyperbole is exaggeration for emphasis or effect. I haven’t conducted any studies to support this, but I would wager that it is among the most used rhetorical devices in commercials because of its ability to convey not only humor, but also how wonderful the brand thinks their product is. (I submit as part of my unscientific case study the Directv commercial with the tiny giraffe.) In any case, here are two commercials from this year’s Super Bowl that employed hyperbole to great effect.

Binky Dad | Kia

Oh no! The worst has happened: Dad forgot the baby’s binky. Luckily, as this commercial demonstrates, owning a Kia allows one to race through winding mountain roads, cascade down snowy hills, pull evasive maneuvers through a construction site, and drive across an active football game to arrive unscathed at home in order to retrieve the binky. This is a fun example of hyperbole in that it heightens the unrealistic pursuit with live tweets, news coverage, and crowds flocking like lemmings to watch the action. It’s too bad that despite all of the hullaballoo, Dad grabbed the wrong binky.

Sticky | E.L.F. Cosmetics

Jennifer Coolidge lends her comedic chops to this delightful commercial about E.L.F.’s “sticky” primer. The hyperbole abounds from Coolidge’s exclamation that the primer makes her look as smooth as a “baby dolphin,” to the impossible stickiness that glues her face to her shower door. Unperturbed by the damage the primer has done to her person and her home, she chirps, “E.L.F. sent me a gift box—yes, isn’t that sweet?” as she sidesteps through her hallway with the glass door glued to her face. It’s a hyperbolic triumph, if you ask me.

Parallelism

Parallelism, or parallel structure, is the use of repeating grammatical constructions. When you repeat a similar grammatical construction, it creates balance in a sentence (think of the repeating prepositional phrases “of the people, by the people, for the people” in the Gettysburg Address). Here are two commercials from Super Bowl LVII that use parallel structure in exactly the same way. (You might even call them parallel commercials.)

Great Acting or Great Taste? | Pepsi

In this commercial for Pepsi Zero Sugar, Steve Martin employs parallel structure to explain all of the different emotions he portrays faithfully as an actor:

“As an actor, it’s my job to make people believethat what they’re seeing is real.”

That the frustration is real.”

The disappointment is real.”

That the joy is real.”

Sure, he forgets the relative pronoun “that” in the third line, thereby disrupting a perfect series of parallel statements, but Martin redeems himself in the end with this parallel gem: “But it’s not real; it’s acting.”

Parallel Commercial

For another version of essentially the same commercial with sillier vignettes, check out this Pepsi commercial with Ben Stiller.

(Video) Rhetorical Appeals in The Princess Bride | Ethos, Pathos, and Logos
(Video) Pathos, Ethos, Logos Commercials

Rhetorical Appeals: Ethos, Pathos, Logos

Aristotle’s rhetorical appeals (ethos, pathos, and logos) refer to the ways in which we use words to persuade others to believe an idea or take an action. Ethosis the speaker’s credibility, logos is the logical appeal, and pathos is the emotional appeal. I don’t think a commercial exists without at least one of these appeals; indeed, usually they utilize all three. That said, here are two commercials from the Super Bowl that harness the power of rhetorical appeals to the max.

Forever | The Farmer's Dog

If you haven’t seen this commercial yet, find a quiet spot where you can sit unnoticed and weep uncontrollably. Given this preamble, you’re probably unsurprised to learn that this dog food commercial packs a wallop of pathos with its trifecta of cute puppy, cute little girl, and sweet music. Add to that a montage of the dog and girl growing up together and encountering all of life’s milestones, and I’m already a little teary. Add to that a final scene in which the girl-now-woman lies in bed, staring twinkly-eyed over a newborn baby at a gray-faced dog and sing-whispering, “I’m gonna love you forever,” and I’m ugly crying into my ice cream.

Notably, there is also an argument to be made here that the commercial uses logos, for logically one would want to feed their beloved pet a brand of food that contributes to that pet’s longevity. But for the most part, this commercial packs more pathos than a thousand Sarah McLachlans singing “Angel” in unison.

Jack's New Angle | Doritos

Full disclosure: I had no idea who Jack Harlow was until a little over a week ago when I watched him not win a Grammy for best rap album (which was eerily similar to watching the end of this commercial). Since then, I’ve discovered that he has name recognition beyond my small bubble, thus landing him this spot in a Doritos commercial. His celebrity acts as a form of ethos (as do the other more famous celebrities in the commercial, like Missy Elliot and Elton John), and his embrace of the eternally nerdy triangle provides the commercial’s humorous undercurrent (pathos). Notice that the commercial offers no logical appeals for eating Doritos; very likely, that is because there is no logical reason to eat Doritos.

Which were your favorite Super Bowl LVII commercials? Did you notice any rhetorical devices not listed here? Let me know in the comments, or email me at maskedmotif@super-ela.com.

FAQs

What are the rhetorical devices in TV commercials? ›

Methods using images are more efficient than traditional ones using words. They are known as visual rhetoric. In television advertising, the most used rhetorical figures are repetition, hyperbole, metaphor, and comparison. Keywords: Rhetoric, visual rhetoric, rhetorical figures, advertising.

What are the 3 rhetorical strategies used in advertising? ›

The logical triangle and its relation to persuasive techniques in advertising
  • Ethos: Appeals to the audience based on the ethics or character of the speaker.
  • Pathos: Appeals to the audience's emotions.
  • Logos: Appeals to the audience's sense of logic by arguing with hard facts.
Feb 4, 2022

How do you rhetorically analyze a commercial? ›

In your analysis, comment on how the commercial appeals to ethos, pathos, and logos (or if it does not appeal to one or more of these dimensions of rhetoric). Also, comment on a rhetorical device that the commercial employs (See list of rhetorical devices). Your response should be eight to 12 sentences long.

What is the rhetorical analysis of the Coke commercial? ›

Coca-Cola's commercial, “I'd like to teach the world to sing (in perfect harmony)” is filled with rhetorical elements, primarily the rhetorical appeal to values and the appeal to style through the use of the words “harmony”, “love”, and “world” used to conjure idea of unity over something that is very universal: a ...

What is an example of a rhetorical question in advertising? ›

If a rhetorical question is used in an ad, then its intended purpose is probably to make a person wonder why he should buy something. Here's an example of a rhetorical question that may be used in an add: "Do you ever wonder why stains are so hard to remove? Well, no need to wonder anymore.

What are some examples of rhetorical devices? ›

Example: He was a wolf among sheep.
  • hyperbole. A hyperbole is an intentional exaggeration. ...
  • onomatopoeia. An onomatopoeia is a word that imitates the sound it refers to. ...
  • allusion. Allusion is the act of casually referencing something, usually a work of popular culture. ...
  • oxymoron. ...
  • paradox. ...
  • irony. ...
  • euphemism. ...
  • meiosis.

How is ethos used in commercials? ›

An ethos advertisement plays off the consumer's respect for a given spokesperson. Through that respect, the spokesperson appears convincing, authoritative and trustworthy enough to listen to. Of the types of persuasive techniques in advertising, ethos is best used to unlock trust.

Can you find 3 examples of rhetorical techniques? ›

Meaning-related rhetorical devices: these types of devices use the word's semantic aspect, or their meaning. Some examples are hyperbole, litotes, metaphors, metonymy, oxymorons, similes, synecdoche and synesthesia.

What commercial uses pathos? ›

It's the root of the words 'empathy' and 'pathetic'. Advertisers use pathos by making an audience feel what they want them to feel, whether it's humour, anger, pity, or any other emotion. You might call it 'tugging on the heartstrings' or 'dialing up the emotions'. Gillette's new ad is a prime example of pathos.

How do you analyze a TV commercial? ›

How do you Write an Advertisement Analysis?
  1. Identify Target Audience. ...
  2. Examine How the Advertisement Tries to Entice You. ...
  3. Observe the Graphics Used. ...
  4. Read and Understand the Message or Language. ...
  5. Feel the Emotion that the Ad is Attempting to Evoke. ...
  6. The Official Soundtrack of the Ad. ...
  7. The Cultural Significance.
Mar 8, 2022

How is visual rhetoric used in advertisements? ›

These are just a few examples of how ads use different types of visual rhetoric to convey their message, namely: association and symbolism, common-sense reasoning, and recognition of non-photorealistic objects. Understanding advertisements automatically requires decoding this rhetoric.

What literary devices are used in advertisements? ›

The common rhetorical devices used in English are demonstrated in engaging detail. The theme of car commercials provides a useful context in which students can explore the effect of multiple techniques, including allusion, simile and metaphor, hyperbole, personification, evaluative language and parody.

What kind of speech is TV commercials? ›

An example of commercial speech is an advertisement on the internet, such as advertisements in virtual games. Creating awareness about a product using flyers is also a commercial speech. Television commercials are also a good example of commercial speech.

Videos

1. Ethos, Pathos, & Logos: How to Use Persuasive Ad Techniques
(StudioBinder)
2. The Art of Rhetoric: Persuasive Techniques in Advertising
(Daniel Kuglich)
3. Nike commercial Rhetorical analysis
(Alina Zasimczuk)
4. Top 5 Ads (commercials) to Analyze for Middle School
(Growth Through the Middle Years)
5. How to Analyze Advertisements
(Professor Lenz)
6. 2014 Chevy Commercial - Maddie
(Lloyd Lee Choi)

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