The Strategic Use Of Rhetoric In Transformational Advertising

Dieuwertje Visser

Student thesis: Master thesis


The purpose of the research was to analyse how an advertising agency strategically uses rhetoric to an informational and/or transformational purpose. According to the literature on the transformation economy, people are looking for authentic and transformative experiences in their consumption and transformational advertising can help reach such an experience. Therefore a better understanding of the way such an experience can be stimulated through communication is worth pursuing. The empirical setting of this research was a case study of the advertising agency Adtomic and the Sleep Technology film they had made for Tempur Hybrid. In the Stage 1 of the analysis the researcher used systematic content analysis to gain an initial understanding of the rhetoric used in the film. In Stage 2 the researcher gathered data by interviewing four of Adtomic’s employees who were involved in the development of the Sleep Technology film for Tempur Hybrid. The methods were furthermore supplemented with participant observation to analyse the context of the case. Based on the types of rhetorical proof present in this film the researcher concluded that this film is a high transformation/low information advertisement. The systematic content analysis showed that the film contained ethos and pathos, but had a clear lack of logos. Although, the interviews revealed that the agency’s goal with the Sleep Technology film for Tempur Hybrid was to inform the audience. Tempur is positioned as a performance brand, which requires them to use rational arguments to back this up. However, the argumentations that were used in the film were merely imitating logos and conveyed the impression of being based on research and technology, without actually forming logical arguments. Providing these detailed characteristics of the product gives consumers a reason to believe in it, because it signals that they are dealing with a credible brand. So it is ethos disguised as logos. Moreover, consumers make a mental leap by relating arguments to benefits which for legal reasons could not be stated. The storytelling in the film appealed to pathos and can be an important element of transformational advertising and positively change the consumption experience. Tempur’s high price was a concern that was addressed with each of the three types of rhetorical proof, supporting the notion that transformational advertising can influence the perceived benefit and increase satisfaction. The findings of the study suggest that there is an incongruence between the perception of the advertisement by the agency and the rhetorical characteristics of informational and transformational advertisements.

EducationsMSocSc in Service Management, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2016
Number of pages124
SupervisorsRobin Holt