In our chapter on research in communication, our authors talk about the role of propaganda in early research efforts (p. 514). Propaganda remains with us and our culture even today, and many of the approaches used in early communication research also continue. One of the most persistent aspects of propaganda are the techniques used to create it. Propaganda does not always “play fair” when it comes to makings its argument and point. Instead, it relies on several techniques. Some of the more popular techniques are explained below, but you can read about further techniques and examples here: http://www.uvm.edu/~jleonard/AGRI183/propoaganda.html
Name Calling: When one side calls the other side names, usually for emotional effect. Example: List of Obama Nicknames
Glittering Generalities: When one side uses well-crafted statements that sound like great ideas, but really are just empty in meaning. They might look and sound great, but they tell us nothing. Example: Think of adjectives used to describe bottled water. Consider: “Pure, fresh, mountain spring water. Bottled especially for you in Utah from only our purest mountain springs.”
Transfer: When one side creates an additional layer of meaning by associating with another symbol or image. Example: Political candidate standing in front of the American flag.
Testimonials: When it uses people to vouch for the value of a product, candidate or idea. Example: Everyday people hailing the benefits of a new weight loss drug.
Plain Folks: When the speaker presents him or herself as an everyday person, just like you and me. Example: 80-year-old random actress touting the benefits of the Colonial Life Insurance Plan.
Card Stacking: When the arguing side ignores all other evidence or perspectives and thus supports only one point of view. Example: Scott paper towel commercial about how the company plants trees to preserve the environment, though the company avoids other arguments, such as using linen towels instead.
Band Wagon: When the argument asserts that because everyone else is doing it, you should, too. Example: Almost any new technology or toy that appeals to kids. Because your friends have it, you should have it, too!
For this assignment, choose a television commercial that you find on YouTube. Ones for household products, such as appliances or cleaning items, work particularly well for propaganda analysis. Ones for athletic products, such as shoe brands and drinks, or political ads may also work. Make sure the commercial is an actual one made for the product/candidate and not a parody made by someone else. If you’re not sure, send me the link and I’ll check it out. Next, watch the commercial several times and take notes as you watch.
Use the following questions to guide your viewing:
What is the product/candidate being sold?
Who is the person trying to sell it?
What features of the product/candidate are being highlighted?
What claims are being made about the product/candidate?
How are those claims supported? Or are they?
Do any of the claims fit within the propaganda techniques? If so, which ones? (If not, find another commercial) How do they fit?
To what effect are they using those techniques?
Overall, is the commercial’s use of these techniques effective? Why or why not?
Use these questions to develop your paper. Structure it in the following way:
In your introduction, briefly describe the commercial (1-2 sentences).
In your thesis, mention 1-2 of the propaganda techniques that it uses.
In your body paragraphs, explain how the commercial uses those propaganda techniques. Use specific examples, drawing from the audio and the visual of the commercial. Also consider the text used (written words on the screen).
In your final paragraph, explain why you think the commercial makers used these techniques and discuss how effective you think they are. What worked in using those techniques? What could they have done differently?
At the end of your document, include a link to the video.
Do not spend too much time describing the whole commercial. Use your details carefully instead to support your points. Remember, I’ll be able to watch the commercial from the link you provide.
Do not do more than 1-2 techniques for your commercial. This assignment is a short paper.
Do not repeat what you wrote in the body paragraphs in your conclusion. Use the conclusion to offer your own evaluation of the commercial and its effectiveness.