The advertisement chosen for analysis is Donald Trump’s first television advertisement in the current Republican campaigns for a presidential nominee. Donald Trump is one of the candidates who are seeking the Republican nomination to run for the Presidency of the United States of America. He has also been recognized as leading among the fellow Republican hopefuls in the polls for a long time. The advertisement started airing in the early voting states of New Hampshire and Iowa on January 4, 2016. An analysis reveals that the advertisement attempts to portray Donald Trump as honest and willing to tell the truth unlike other politicians, and also as being severe on his perceived American enemies. To be convincing regarding this claim, the advertisement employed the rhetorical tools of ethos and pathos.
The purpose of any advertisement, both commercial and political, is to market a product to the audience and persuade them to believe that the product is the best of those available for the particular need (Iyengar and Prior). The advertised product can be a good, a service, or in the case of a political advertisement, a politician and his policies. According to Iyengar and Prior, in the recent years, political advertising has become a central feature of the way politicians conduct campaigns in the USA. With this respect, persuasion is the main tool used in the political advertisement. In the analyzed advertisement, persuasion is achieved by portraying Mr. Donald Trump in the best possible way, while depicting his opponents, chiefly the current President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in a completely opposite manner. Iyengar and Prior termed this technique as “comparative advertising”, which is not allowed in commercial advertising, but can be applied in campaign advertising as there is no regulatory body to monitor the content of campaign advertisements. After the introduction, in the next frame, the advertisement depicts President Obama and Mrs. Clinton in a blurred color and almost juxtaposed against another pair, Syed Rizwan Farooq and Tashfeen Malik, the Islamic fundamentalists of the San Bernardino shootings. The comparison here is not subtle (Davidson). Meanwhile, the narrator is explaining how unlike the “politicians” who choose to conceal the phenomenon, Donald Trump calls it radical Islamic terrorism. The video concludes with Trump declaration to make America great again, which implies that America is not great with the current administration. All the above-mentioned is oriented to give the audience, in this case, the Republican voters in the forthcoming primaries, the reason why they should vote for Mr. Trump and nobody else.
Judging from the video and Trump's rhetoric, the creators of the advertisement aimed it at the Americans qualified to vote in the Republican primaries as those who believe in American Exceptionalism, those who are pro-war oriented, and nativists (Davidson). These three ideas are all portrayed in the advertisement. Firstly, Trump’s statement that he will “Make America great again” is an appeal to the American Exceptionalists. In addition, with the images of a warship and a bomber aircraft in the background, the narrator declares that Trump will “quickly cut the head off ISIS”, while also elucidating that Trump will “take the oil.” Finally, to demonstrate his nativism, there is a video depicting a wall that prevents people from crossing what is presumably a border, while the narrator states that Mr. Trump will build a wall at the US-Mexico border and force Mexico to pay for the cost of such actions.
It should be mentioned that the message any advertisement conveys is influenced by both the audience the sponsor of the advertisement wants to reach, and the context (Iyengar and Prior). It is thus of note that Trump has been leading the Republican polls with what some consider to be extremist ideas (Costa and Rucker). Therefore, in order to consolidate the support from his current proponents and to further increase their number, the advertisement repeated some of the policies he has proposed in his rallies, namely: the closure of the US southern border, the restriction of Muslim entry into the US, and active engagement of USA in the Middle East against the ISIS (Costa and Rucker). Furthermore, the fact that many of the supposed failures of Trump did not affect his position among those who support him also seems to be implied. The thrust of the advertisement is what many mainstream politicians would have difficulties trying to avoid alienating large swathes of the electorate.
Moreover, for an advertisement to prove effective in its target audience, the requisite tone must be employed (Iyengar and Prior). Inevitably, the advertisement adopts a judgmental tone. It starts in a way that suggests that “the politicians” are insincere about terror since, unlike Donald Trump, are not even willing to use proper terms to refer to this matter. The narrator then explains that Mr. Trump urges to prevent Muslims from entering the US and further adds that Mr. Trump will force Mexico to pay for building a wall on the Mexican border (Davidson). This suggests that the creators of the advertisement already have a preconceived negative view of the three groups of people: the “politicians”, the Muslims, and the Mexicans. Additionally, the tone is callous. It is insensitive towards the feelings of Muslims and Mexicans since it groups all Muslims into one mass with radical terrorists whose religion is Islam, whilst Mexicans are to be kept out of American borders by means of a wall paid for by their government.
It is necessary to point out that the advertisement uses visual clues to transmit the message. The images, except those that depict Donald Trump, are mostly darkened to arouse a gloomy feeling. However, when Mr. Trump is declaring his goals the frame becomes bright. The advertisement uses this contrast so as to portray the subjective image of current America which Donald Trump wants to reverse.
An advertisement, like any piece of rhetoric, is only as good as its persuasive value. In order to be convincing, it should use ingredients of persuasion (Iyengar and Prior). In the discussed advertisement, the resort to the question of the “politicians’” honesty and comparing them to Trump as willing to say the truth is an appeal to ethics (ethos). Moreover, the whole advertisement uses emotion as a tool of persuasion. It evokes the emotion of fear (of politicians, radical Islamic terrorism and immigrants) and the feeling of patriotism (“We will make American great again”).
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To conclude, the advertisement tries to market Trump and his policies by portraying him as an honest and severe on American enemies, unlike other politicians. To achieve this, the creators of the advertisement used the twin tools of ethos by indicating that Trump can use proper name to speak about terrorism , and pathos by evoking the feelings of fear and patriotism. In addition, the tone of the advertisement is rather judgmental towards other politicians. This is because of its comparative style, which would not appear in commercial advertising since it contradicts the ethics of commercial advertising. Furthermore, the tone is also callous as the advertisement seems indifferent to the feeling of some of the subjects discussed, such as Muslims and Mexicans. Moreover, to further enhance the message and transmit it to the audience, the advertisement employed visual clues so as to intensify its effect.
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