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Free Essay Sample «Advertisement Critique: The 2016 Doritos Super Bowl Ad»

«Advertisement Critique: The 2016 Doritos Super Bowl Ad»

The Super Bowl is one of the sports tournaments that draw a huge audience annually. As a part of a strategic marketing, business entities attract the audience with their advertisements. Despite the tendency to develop ads for each Super Bowl season, a commercial comes at a steep price and is subjected to scrutiny by the millions of viewers. In other words, an ad stands for the selling point for most companies because of the emotions they invoke, the character they portray, and their appeal to logic. For this reason, advertisers use various persuasive strategies including ethos, pathos, and logos. In an effort to substantiate these persuasive advertising strategies, this paper focuses on the 2016 Doritos Super Bowl Ad, also referred to as the Doritos “Ultrasound” commercial (Doritos). The choice of this commercial is largely influenced by the satire plot and its disputable meaning. This paper analyzes the Doritos Ad by highlighting the contentious issue, target audience and how the commercial employs ethos, pathos, and logos techniques.

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The Contentious Issue Regarding the Commercial

The 2016 Doritos Super Bowl Ad (henceforth referred to as the Ultrasound commercial) is one of the most discussed commercial due to the contentious meaning perceived by the audience. Some of the Super Bowl 50 viewers took it to the social media platforms to complain about an opinion-splitting content featuring a woman going into early labor because for throwing away a snack (Doritos; Molloy para.1). The humor in this ad is that the unborn child is interested in the Doritos eaten by the father during the ultrasound scan. On the screen, the fetus could be seen responding to the Doritos in the father’s hand. Expectedly, the woman examined is irritated and throws away the Doritos she snatches from her husband’s hand. Comically, this action induces the labor because the fetus is apparently bold and attracted to the snacks. At the end of the advert there is a tagline saying, “Doritos for the Bold.” The commercial has faced criticism from various fronts because it presents subjective meanings to the audience. Typically, advertisements are meant to be as clear as possible to ensure that they deliver the intended message to the audience.

The Target Audience

According to Craig (89), most television advertisements are telecasted at times when targeted gender and age group closely matches the primary consumers of the commercial. From the Ultrasound Ad, it is evident that the advertiser targets middle-aged men and women. For this reason, TV commercials with a high percentage of both middle-aged male and female viewers are telecasted during the Super Bowl breaks. Contrary to the feminist arguments presented in most social media platforms, this advert is not gender biased because it is telecasted randomly. However, the advertisement is popular in between sports events to achieve its economic value (Craig 90). Further, Craig argues that such TV commercials manipulate gender stereotypes to maximize a company’s advertisement strategy. The economic nature of most TV commercials, as well as Internet-based ads directly influences the placement and the content of the advert. Internet-based research has enabled brands such as Budweiser and Doritos to match their product purchasing patterns with the corresponding television viewing patterns (Unruly para. 1). As of consequence, both demographic and psychographic profiles of the targeted audience or product market segments are effectively developed. The Dorito advert is an apt illustration of demographic targeting

The Use of Ethos, Pathos, and Logos

Advertisement compels the targeted individuals to respond consistently with the interest of advertisers or producers. Strategic advertising involves creating awareness of products to the targeted market segment. Consumers are confronted with numerous TV commercial daily, but only a few attracts their attention. Additionally, consumers relate to the product through emotions and deliberations before they procure services or purchase products. In other words, consumers are attached emotionally and logically to commercials based on their credibility. This argument turns this discussion to Aristotle’s principles of persuasive advertisement or communication (Cooper and Schindler 541). Aristotle is recognized for developing the comprehensive theory of rhetoric, which serves the foundation of the Doritos advert. In this advert, rhetoric is used due to its ability to induce persuasive possibilities in this marketing context. The basis of persuasion in this advert is best analyzed through Aristotle’s principles of proof: pathos, ethos, and logos.

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The consumer’s perception of the advertiser’s character influences how convincing they find the advert. The projection of credibility through the traits of the characters in an advert is referred to as the advertiser’s ethos (Cooper and Schindler 542). The underlying advert relied on the advertising agency’s ability to convince the targeted consumers that the company is credible; thus, consumers should respond to the product based on the conclusion drawn from its research. As depicted in the advert, ethos relies on how effective the audience is convicted that the characters in the ad are justified delivering information regarding a particular subject. In an effort to inspire confidence in the company, the advertisement exploits goodwill and good sense. Revealing these aspects in the commercial plays a critical role in gaining credibility. However, the variance in the perception of the advert morality induces contention. In agreement with Cooper and Schindler (542), in the current globalized business environment where appearances have virtually become reality or taken over from the intellectual or moral appeal, the persuasive appeal from ethos can be both beneficial and problematic as in case with the Doritos advert.

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Logos refers to the reason or logical argument presented by an advert. Consumers consider reasons that the advertisers use to support their position (Cooper and Schindler 542). Subjectively, this commercial presents the rationality of the right to choose and courage needed to make choices. Logos translates into the use of evidence to support and deliver the message. Comically, the advertisement uses the motion of the fetus to support its interest and boldness in reference to its attraction to the Doritos. The fetus responds to the father’s hand movement, and then decides to come into the world prematurely because it is interested in the Doritos. The advert employs syllogism, whereby some premises are unstated by the presenter. The advert gives the primary premise, leaving the audience with the task of supplying the missing premises or knowledge to reach the conclusion. Evidently, this gap creates variation in the audience’s perception of the intended message.


Rhetoricians consider pathos as the strongest persuasive component (Cooper and Schindler 542). Pathos depends on an emotional connection between an advert and the audience. In other words, it entails an appeal to the targeted individuals’ sense of identity, emotion, and self-interest. Evidently, these appeals exploit common biases: consumers or viewers naturally move in the direction of what is perceived as beneficial or what serves their interest. Consumers hear and process message based on their mental state. If a viewer’s emotional disposition is positive, then he or she is more likely to respond rather that react to the message. On the contrary, a negatively dispositioned state of mind is much likely to less receptive. These arguments illustrate the rejection of the adverts from the feminist point of view who perceive the message as lacking morality by partly promoting abortion. The advert raises emotions because of their power to manipulate the viewer’s predisposition; hence, their purchasing decisions. Knowing the targeted audience’ predisposition, including receptivity or skepticism and predetermining the desired emotional response motivated the advertiser to build the advert’s content and deliver it during Super Bowl to stimulate the desired emotional state. The Doritos ad illustrates the significance of open-mindedness and receptivity as the desired pre- and post-advertisement emotional states. To recap, commercials are associated with persuasion; hence, serving as an effective channel of communication between consumers and advertisers. The Doritos advert is a persuasive discourse in the sense that it consciously attempts to modify the consumers’ thinking and influence their behaviors and actions. In that respect, it is evident that the advert is persuasive or, at least, entails a dominant persuasive component.

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The critique above supports the assertion that an advertisement is an effective marketing approach because of its ability to catch attention and initiate communication between advertisers or producers and consumers leading to improved sales. The most striking aspect of the Doritos Super Bowl 50 Ultrasound ad is the use of humor illustrated by humanizing the fetus. The message sent by the commercial is that Doritos makes people happy and bold. The fact that there is a variance in the interpretation of this advert makes it contentious and viral as in the case with social media platforms. The actions of the fetus are metaphorical, creating an emotional appeal in the sense that the audience gets to relate with the fetus through its actions. Such techniques make the commercial’s message sink deep in the viewers’ minds. The logic is that even the fetus has the right to do what it wants – the right to have the Doritos. In summary, analyzing an advert is more subjective; hence, it needs the engagement of various entities to eliminate emotional lure and biases associated with advertisements. The ad employs different ethos, pathos, and logos techniques to be accepted and remembered by the audience.


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