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Persuasive Imagery: A Consumer Response Perspective

By Linda M. Scott; Rajeev Batra | Go to book overview

Burke and his pentad invention strategy, that of focusing on a consumer's identification with the scene of an ad:

Imagine an aesthetic (if the word has not become too depreciated) based entirely (completely, radically, in every sense of the word) on the pleasure of the consumer, whoever he may be, to whatever class, whatever group he may belong, without respect to cultures or languages: the consequences would be huge, perhaps even harrowing. (Barthes, 1994, p. 59)


CONCLUSION

Although three of the more explicit ads in this study demonstrate the circulation of a shared vocabulary for sexually oriented appeals, two of these three could be easily interpreted as parody (Jewelry.com) or as an extreme consumer's dearest dream (Opium). When these ads are grouped together and interpreted as part of the “scene”of women's and men's magazines, they can appear as a magnification of sexual foreplay, ostensibly to define the ultimate benefit of a product. That benefit might be a higher probability of sexual encounters or feelings of sexuality, if the ads are interpreted in intrinsic ways of interpreting scene as act. More important are extrinsic interpretations that use the pentad to analyze and dissect busy, distracted, and varied audience members who may have desires and ideas of their own when they interact with an ad. In this way, the pentad opens up an advertisement to doubled interpretations and more.

As a common vocabulary develops for both words and images in sexually oriented advertising, it gains currency and its use increases, but this vocabulary or grammar should not be viewed as static or narrow. Burke's pentad offers a multiplicity of interpretations, unlike other interpretive strategies adopted by Freudians, semioticians, and others, because the pentad does not close down possibilities into one interpretation. Burke and his theories do not propose to unlock hidden meaning, but instead to expose many meanings available to many audiences. Erotic appeals in advertising make many promises, and they may help to sell products. Yet proving or disproving the conventional wisdom of “sex sells” may be less important than the collaborative efforts of empiricists and rhetoricians, working together to devise new ways to trace the discourse communities surrounding sexually oriented ads and their varieties of meanings.

-264-

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