Product Placement: Facing Yet Another Dark Art

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Product placement is a form of advertising that has become progressively popular in today’s business world. In Keith McPherson’s 2008 article “Product Placement: Facing Yet Another Dark Art”, McPherson attempts to persuade teacher-librarians to assist students in developing their abilities to identify the intent of product placement messages, make reasoned judgments in light of this intent, and take sensible actions.

I believe that McPherson is successful in persuading his audience by demonstrating specific examples from different kinds of evidence, by appealing to readers through the use of logos, pathos and ethos, and by using some of the nine major rhetorical strategies to support his argument. McPherson’s ability to use precise examples through different categories of evidence is his first step towards a successfully persuasive article. McPherson’s begins his article by asking the readers to imagine they are viewing the sitcom Friends as well as a telecast of a Major League Baseball game.

The author then asks the audience to pretend they are one of the few people who have noticed, and are surprised of, the use of modern product placement advertisements within the two examples. An initial persuasion is established with audience through the use of these plausible hypothetical scenarios. McPherson continues to explain product placement by using data from library or Internet research. “[T]he placement of Coca-Cola glasses in front of reality-show hosts and the use of an Audi within the movie iRobot” are just two of the many examples that display a powerful type of researched evidence.

With the intent of backing up his research, McPherson even goes so far as to cite screen-shots of some of his researched examples so the readers can become less skeptical of the accuracy of the data. Finally, McPherson uses data from field research in order to list the many different types of activities that teacher-librarians should use to educate students about product placement. McPherson says “the instructional activities that [he] include[d] in this article make use of the tools and media with which students are already engaging and the product placement that advertisers are utilizing.

This type of research is important for the readers because it delivers the feeling of scientific credibility and increases typicality by expanding the database beyond one example. McPherson demonstrates a successful use of examples because there was a sufficient amount of evidence, the evidence represented his topic clearly, and his accurate and up-to-date information was completely relevant. McPherson’s three appeals to readers are the second fundamental reason why his article is successfully persuasive.

McPherson establishes the use of Logos, otherwise known as the logical structure of the argument, at the beginning of the article by using a simile in the title, stating that product placement is like a dark art. McPherson waits until after examples of product placement are given in order to reintroduce his argument, stating, “product placement is important, as are the actions that we choose to take against such deceptive advertising”. The argument is established in such a way that the readers understand the subject much better once the argument is finally explained.

In order the support the examples that McPherson uses to explain what product placement is, he cites different visual images so that readers can envision what he is writing about. The ethos of his argument, otherwise known as the credibility, is immediately enriched based on the fact that the readers can see the same things that he did. McPherson’s examples from field research also establish a sense of credibility that increases the ethos of his argument. The pathos, otherwise known as the emotional attachment of his argument, is heightened based on the broad range of examples McPherson gives to the audience.

The author uses examples ranging from the movie E. T. to video games to music videos. The use of the movie E. T. could create nostalgia for some, while video games and music videos appeal to a wide-ranging audience. Another strong influence of the Pathos of the argument comes from the title. Establishing product placement as a dark art has a direct effect as it creates a negative connotation towards product placement. Overall, McPherson uses the three appeals to readers in such a way that his arguments, supported by his evidence, can easily be deemed persuasive.

McPherson uses some of the major rhetorical strategies in order to persuade the viewers to follow his arguments. First, narration is used when McPherson begins his article by asking the readers to imagine they are taking part in a hypothetical event. The author uses narration to get all readers feeling as if they are apart of the hypothetical event that is being narrated. Second, description is used throughout the article to explain what product placement is and the different methods that can be used in order to refrain from being controlled by it.

At one point McPherson describes, “product placement advertising is essentially the paid exposure of products within visual and auditory content, such as that contained in television shows, films, and video games”. One of the other rhetorical strategies that McPherson uses in the article is comparison, in which McPherson discusses the differences between advertisements that are shown on commercials and the ones that are covertly placed into telecasts. This rhetorical strategy establishes some important differences that let readers understand the subject more clearly.

One of the most important strategies that McPherson uses is known as cause and effect analysis. When listing different exercises that teacher-librarians should try with their students concerning product placement messages, McPherson describes how students might react to certain exercises and which other exercises they should follow as a result. Detailing the effects of these exercises gives readers a better understanding of the goals that McPherson is looking for.

All the rhetorical strategies used by McPherson ultimately enhanced his argument and made his article look more genuine. Many different writing strategies are used by Keith McPherson in his article “Product Placement: Facing Yet Another Dark Art”. McPherson’s use of specific examples, his use of the three appeals to readers, and, his use of major rhetorical strategies all have impacts on readers transforming students into active masters, not passive servants.

The only negative sentiment one might have with respect to McPherson’s writing of this article concerns the fact that he leaves out the negative effects associated with a student not learning to identify the intent of product placement messages, make reasoned judgments in light of this intent, and take sensible actions. Regardless, McPherson’s argument, evidence, analysis and presentation are all enough to lead me to believe that the author has written a convincing article.

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