Propaganda and the Mass Media Glossary

[Secondary LESSON PLAN: Loaded Words]

Persuasive Techniques

1. Straightforward Ads: The reader is told what the product is, what it does, how much it costs, where you can buy it. Many newspaper ads are of this type. They do not try to influence the reader, they only give information. (Is this approach the most honest?)

2. Special Offer: The reader or viewer is offered a money-saving coupon, a free prize, or a chance to win a contest. Cosmetic companies offer free gifts with a minimum purchase. This technique is also called red herring. Many states have restrictions on these offers, and the federal government has investigated some of the contests. (Is it better to buy a product because you know it is good, or because of something else you get with it?)

3. Eye Appeal: A photograph or drawing shows how good the product looks through color, design, shape, etc. in order to suggest how good it tastes, smells or feels. In cartoons the drawings are exaggerated drawings called caricatures. These caricatures can be positive or negative.

Argument For the Man/Woman: When the physical features of a person are drawn in an attractive way to deliberately take the reader's attention away from the issue under consideration.

Argument Against the Man/Woman: When the physical features of a person are drawn in an unattractive or ugly way to deliberately take the reader's attention away from the issue under consideration.

4. Happy Family Appeal: The message used to sell cleaning products and foods is often: "Your family will be healthy and happy if you use our product. Show how much you love your husband and kids by shining your floor with our wax or giving them the vitamins in our bread."

5. Testimonial: There are three types of testimonials or product recommendations:

a) "An expert says..." - Since chefs are experts about food, people will trust one of them to recommend a brand of food. Basketball players can be trusted to recommend tennis shoes or sports equipment. This is also true of other professions.

b) "Famous People Say..." - The endorsement of a product by a celebrity is a very old and popular advertising device. It plays on the viewer's desire to identify with someone famous. (Do baseball players really know more than anyone else about razor blades, cars, or beer? Does a rock group have specific knowledge about automobiles?)

c) "Plain Folks" - This is a recommendation from a plain, ordinary, non famous person who tells the reader or viewer that the product worked for him or her. Therefore, it will would for you.

6. Bandwagon Appeal: The message is: "Our product is so good that everyone buys it. You should too." (If a product is very popular, does that necessarily mean it is good?) Comes from 19th century political campaign slogan "jump on the bandwagon."

7. Appeal to a Target Audience: This approach targets a specific group of people and then creates an ad that appeals to this audience. The various approaches are youth appeal, appeal to maturity, appeal to teenagers, young children, men, women, professionals, etc. Advertisers suggest that their product is for this specific target audience and will use pictures, slang, music, etc. that appeals to the type of person targeted.

8. Snob Appeal: This is a reverse of the Bandwagon Appeal. Its message suggests: "Buying our product will make you better than everyone else--especially since other people can't afford it." (If a product is more expensive, does that mean it is better?)

9. Symbols: A sign, emblem, token, etc. which represents something. As in other literary forms, a symbol in advertising is a quick way to get a message across: The "Jolly Green Giant" suggests the vigor his vegetables give. The flag is a symbol of our country.

10. Something New: Something new can be added to a product to make it better - or to make it sound better. Many products now advertise that they contain oat bran, that they are lower in fat or cholesterol or use the word "light" in the packaging. (Are the magic ingredients in a product necessarily new, effective, or unique to the brand being advertised?)

11. Humble Approach: By admitting that your product is not the best or is not the most popular, you can attract attention to your ad, and you can help convince the reader or viewer that you are doing everything you can to make your product better. Your company tries harder.

12. Statistics: Often a good way to sell a product is to include statistics about the effectiveness of the product or about the number of people using the product. (How are these surveys carried out? Can you trust the company that manufactures the product to give honest results? Would the company mention a survey that showed unfavorable results?)

13. Ecology/Public Service Appeal: Some products are advertised as causing less damage to the environment than others. Sometimes the company tries to win favor by the good things it does--sponsoring drug abuse programs in the schools, helping its employees improve their standard of living through medical insurance--since the viewer may decide to do business with a company that seems to care about more than just making a profit.

14. Sex Appeal: This is one of the most common appeals. It is used to sell the strangest products--from perfume to car mufflers! (Why is it more effective to advertise soap as a way to be sexy and popular than simply to say it will get one's face and body clean?)

15. Humor: This is a good way to make people have good feelings about a product or at least to get them to watch or read the ad. Some humorous ads have become famous although their effectiveness in selling products has been questioned. Sometimes humorous ads use personification to turn a product into a human or partly human character (i.e. often used to accompany children's Saturday morning T.V. shows).

16. Emotional Appeals: This technique plays on people's fears, joys, sadness, etc. The telephone ads that "reach out and touch someone" show people sharing tender, nostalgic or special moments over the phone. Sometimes these ads play on people's fear of death or the unknown.

17. Card Stacking: To present only the good points of your product. If you discuss another product, you only present the bad points. A long time ago, Brand X was used to name a competitor's product. Now, actual brand names can be used.

18. Glittering Generality: A word or phrase that is not definite enough to have much meaning or value. The word or phrase sounds great, but its meaning is empty. (Coke is It! What's "it"? Superman fights for truth, justice and the American Way!)

19. Hasty Generalization: To jump to the easiest, quickest, most obvious conclusion without enough examples to support it. (Your teacher can't speak French, you can't speak French, therefore, no one in this class can speak French.)

20. Smoke Screen: Something which hides or clouds the real issue. (Politicians who fly off on tangents when asked specific questions on issues.)

21. Stereotyping: Labeling or name-calling. To put a person, thing or idea in a class or category based on superficial qualities or prejudgments.

22. False Analogy: An incorrect or misleading comparison. A variation of this is called Negative Transfer which compares the bad characteristics of a person or group with the person or group you want to discuss. Positive Transfer (Analogy) compares the good characteristics of a person or group with the person or group you want to discuss. A correctly used analogy can also be a technique.

Media Terms

23. media (medium): means for reaching people with a message. Common media are newspapers, magazines, radio, television, films, billboards, computers, fax machines, e-mail, etc. Mass Media refers to messages that reach the masses--the common people, large numbers of people.

24. propaganda: a systematic effort to spread opinions or beliefs; a plan or method for spreading beliefs.

25. fallacy: a false or erroneous idea.

26. subliminal: subconscious thoughts, existing outside of personal consciousness or awareness.

27. internet: (coined from the words interconnection + network) A set of computers "talking" over fiber optics, phone lines, satellite links and other media accessing pieces of information. The network formed by the cooperative interconnection of computing networks. Also called the World Wide Web (www). Websites or pages that feature personal and corporate information, buying sites, etc. are an important part of the internet.

28. cyberspace: An abstract term referring to the universe of information contained in the internet which is accessed through computers.

29. e-mail: electronic mail, sending and receiving letters, messages through computers.

30. morphing: Altering photographs, film, video through electronic imaging. Elaborate digitized systems enable resolution and color to be easily changed. Electronic squares (pixels) are given a binary code that makes them easy to adjust. Thus, heads can be put on different bodies, buildings can be moved, people can be added to photographs and the changes are virtually undetectable.

31. digital buddies or "bots:" Virtual "friends" on the internet. They are programmed to make friends and small talk. They take cues from a human acquaintance's questions and answers and search databases for conversational information. Bot-speak can be formulaic, but it can also be startlingly lifelike. They are a powerful new dimension in marketing. They make direct connections with people and can market movie tickets, magazine subscriptions, reality T.V. shows or any product or service. Most buddies are programmed with personalities that appeal to their target audiences.

Literary Techniques

32. denotation: the exact, literal dictionary definition of a word.

33. connotation: what is suggested in addition to the literal meaning of a word. Often these are "loaded words" whose connotations evoke emotional responses.

34. euphemism: use of a mild or indirect expression instead of one that is harsh or unpleasant. ("passed away" instead of "died," "slender" instead of "bony")

35. irony: method of expression in which the ordinary meaning of a word or situation is the opposite of the thought in the speaker's mind; when the opposite of what you expect to happen occurs.

36. parody: a humorous imitation of a serious writing; to make fun of something by copying it. A parody follows the form of the original.

37. sarcasm: bitter, cutting remarks intended to hurt someone's feelings.

38. exaggeration: to stretch the truth, make something seem better or worse that it really is. Hyperbole, a exaggerated ridiculous comparison for effect, can also be used.

39. ridicule: to make fun of something.

40. pun: a humorous use of a word where it can have different meanings; a play on words with almost the same meaning.

41. figurative language: metaphors, simile, personification used to enhance comparisons. Metaphor: a comparison between two unlike things that are alike in one way, does not use "like" or "as." Simile: a comparison between two unlike things that are alike in one way, use "like" or "as." Personification: giving human characteristics to inanimate objects or animals.

42. allusion: a reference to a person, a place or event from a word of literature, myth, the Bible, history, sports, science, the arts, etc.

43. satire: using irony, sarcasm, ridicule, etc. in a literary composition to hold human vices, weaknesses, etc. up to ridicule; the author's purpose is to to encourage the correction of the weakness, etc.

Last updated: February 28, 2015

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