Academic journal article Argumentation and Advocacy

Dissociation and Visual Arguments: Creating Customers for Levy's Real Jewish Rye

Academic journal article Argumentation and Advocacy

Dissociation and Visual Arguments: Creating Customers for Levy's Real Jewish Rye

Article excerpt

During the early 1960s, a Jewish bakery in New York called Levy's aspired to sell more rye bread. Levy's partnered with the up-and-coming Madison Avenue advertising firm Doyle Dane Bernbach (DDB), and in 1961, DDB's creative team crafted the iconic "You don't have to be Jewish" ad campaign to promote the bread (Fishburn, 2007; Ferretti, 1979). As a result of this campaign. Levy's quickly became the top seller of rye in the entire state of New York, and DDB solidified their reputation as a top agency (Fishburn, 1979). (1)

DDB's approach to selling Levy's bread was simple: the campaign consisted of a series of subway posters featuring people of various ethnicities eating deli sandwiches on rye bread from none other than Levy's bakery. The images are themselves sandwiched by the tagline "You don't have to be Jewish ... to love Levy's real Jewish rye" (Fig. 1). Early ads in the campaign featured a Black child, a Native American man, and a Chinese man, but later ads branched out to represent other ethnic groups, such as Italians. The campaign quickly entered the modern pop culture canon. Parodies of the ads continually surface today, marketing everything from a Heeb magazine subscription to Offlining Inc's 2010 No-Device Day.

The success of DDB's campaign should pique the interest of rhetoricians, particularly those drawn to visual studies, because the rhetorical strategies behind the campaign proved so persuasive that they transformed Levy's from a niche bakery into the proverbial rye breadbasket of New York. To examine these strategies, however, we first need a framework for understanding visual arguments that combine words and images.

In the past, rhetoricians have taken three main approaches to theorizing visual arguments, none of which are fully adequate for explaining the Levy's campaign. The first approach attempts to understand visual arguments in the traditional terms of text-based rhetoric, and it is perhaps best demonstrated by a series of articles in the Summer 1996 issue of Argumentation and Advocacy. The issue opens with a provocative article by Fleming, who posits that images should not be considered arguments in the neo-Aristotelian sense because they do not make clear claims and cannot be refuted. Birdsell and Groarke counter in their introduction to the issue, asserting that images can make clear propositions when considered in context. Blair's contribution follows in the footsteps of Birdsell and Groarke, noting that images can and do argue propositionally. Nevertheless, Blair admits that image-based arguments are often not as clear as those made purely in text, and his concession highlights the inability of text-based rhetorical theories to fully explain how visual arguments work.

A second approach to theorizing images examines them on their own terms instead of those of text-based rhetoric. The New London Group's manifesto "A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies: Designing Social Futures" (Cazden et al, 2000) posits that comprehending images requires a different sort of literacy than comprehending texts, a literacy also different from that needed for comprehending aural compositions. Kress and van Leeuwen (2006) extended the group's work, proposing that text is read sequentially, while images are read spatially. They also provided a "grammar" for comprehending images in Western societies, including guidelines for interpreting a viewer's prescribed attitude based on an image's perspective (pp. 179-93). The image-based approach allows visuals to speak on their own terms, yet it also is not fully adequate because it does not account for the ways that images and texts collaborate in multimodal compositions.

A third approach to understanding visual arguments is that undertaken by Mitchell (1994), Fleckenstein (2003), and Wysocki (2005), among others. These theorists see words and images as hybrid media that often run together inextricably. Mitchell proposes the term "imagetext," beheving that images and texts have an infinitely reciprocal relationship (p. …

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