03 September 2020
Advertisers use many tactics to convince consumers to buy products or pay for services. Some companies try to get you to buy their product by giving statistics about their product or testimonies from professionals, like toothpaste ads that say “9 out of 10 dentists recommend”. Other advertisers try to convince you to buy their product by appealing to you on an emotional level. They might use humor to give you a good feeling about their product, or they may try to build upon the viewer’s patriotic feelings.
One Burger King advertisement from April of 2020, uses a one-sided argument, likeability, and patriotism to convince its target audience to purchase their food. The advertisement opens with a man laying on his couch and ordering Burger King on his phone. Suddenly, the couch tips up on its side and the man, still in a “laying” position, salutes. Flash to more people, aka couch potatoes, saluting from their upright couches. The advertisement is implying, “Hey couch potatoes, even though everyone should be staying home right now, it doesn’t mean you can’t eat our delicious food, and we can even deliver it to you!” This is an effective advertisement because it sufficiently uses several advertising techniques to persuade its target audience to buy food at Burger King and do so through the Burger King app.
The Burger King advertisement target audience is the American couch potato. Those people who are quarantining at home, bored, and possibly permanently living on their couch. This is shown to be true because all the people in the advertisement are at home, lounging on their couches, by themselves. Since most fast-food advertisements target people who are not healthy eaters, it is fitting that the target audience is the homebound, bored eater. They are targeting these adults because they have money to pay for it (which is why the ad is not targeted towards kids) and even though they are able to drive somewhere for food, it’s just so much more convenient to order delivery food through a phone app, making it so they’ll never need to leave their couches.
Advertisers typically have to decide if they are going to make a one-sided or two-sided argument. One-sided arguments are usually used when the target audience already is familiar with the company or product and there is not much controversy surrounding the brand (Mullin, 2020a). A two-sided argument is used when the target audience already disagrees with whatever is being advertised. The people are also probably very familiar with all the controversy surrounding the company or product.
The Burger King advertisement uses a one-sided argument, which only shows viewers only “one side” of an argument, their own side. The advertisement effectively persuades consumers to buy food at Burger King by using the app because they make their point quickly and offer only the information the consumer needs to know about the product.
The advertisement remains clear and concise as to not confuse the viewers by bringing in contradictory information; like “Burger King’s burgers are so much better than McDonalds burgers, and here’s why…” Prior research (Schlosser, 2011) has demonstrated that the use of one-sided arguments can be an effective persuasion strategy. Schlosser (2011) arrived at this conclusion by surveying participants that read one-sided and two-sided online reviews for movies and asking them if they found the review helpful. The researchers found that when two-sided arguments were too extreme, the one-sided arguments were more persuasive. They concluded that by including the pros and cons in a review it was not always helpful in persuading people one way or the other.
Therefore, by making the advertisement a one-sided argument, Burger King is using an effectively using the strategy of a one-sided argument to persuade their target audience to purchase Burger King food conveniently through their app.
Advertisers will also use likeability or a positive emotional appeal. This can include an advertisement being friendly, interesting, or enjoyable (Mullin, 2020b). They also have vivid imagery, humor, sentimentality, and entertainment value which is designed to give the viewer a good feeling about the product or company. In the Burger King ad, the man ordering Burger
King on his phone is in the spotlight. This not only brings the viewers’ attention to him but also to the Burger King app on his phone.
This, in turn, gives the viewer a positive attitude toward the product being advertised. This is an effective advertising technique because the viewer will begin to associate that good feeling the advertisement gives them with the product and the company being advertised. The effectiveness of likeability and positive emotional appeal has been explored in prior research. For example, Smit, Van Meurs, and Neijens (2006) investigated the factors that make the use of likeability an effective advertising tactic. In the study, researchers showed respondents a series of TV commercials and asked them what they remembered about each of them. The respondents were asked if they remembered what the advertisement was for, then they were asked to rate their opinion on the advertisement, and if it changed their opinion about the product or company.
Many respondents called the ads entertaining, or funny indicating a positive emotion. Many of the advertisements were perceived as amusing, entertaining, or fun. Overall, the study found that likeability was an effective way to advertise. By Burger King’s implement of likeability in their ad, they are effectively persuading their target audience to buy their products and use their app.
The Burger King advertisement also effectively uses patriotism as an advertising tactic. The advertisement says, “Staying home doesn’t just make us all safer, it makes you a couch potatriot” followed by the man in the advertisement saluting and staring off into the distance. This implies that by staying home and ordering food from Burger King makes you a great American Citizen.
The advertisement also says Burger King will donate Whoppers to Nurses and support the American Nurses Foundation. So, not only do they say you’re a good American for buying Burger King, but you are also indirectly supporting the United States’ essential frontline workers during the pandemic. Using the feature of patriotism in an advertisement is an incredibly effective way to engage a target audience. Yoo and Lee (2016) demonstrated this in a study that explored participants’ attitudes towards patriotic-themed advertisements. Participants in the study were separated into two groups, one group was shown the patriotic-themed ad, and the other group was shown non-patriotic themed ads. Participants were shown a fake car and beer ad. The patriotic beer and car ads were perceived better than the non-patriotic ad. After showing the ads, participants were asked how interested they were in the product and how likely they were to buy it. The results showed that patriotic-themed ads were effective and participants were more receptive to advertisements with a patriotic theme, therefore, more likely to purchase the advertised product.
The researchers’ main finding was that the American identity is a powerful advertising tactic to use when advertising to Americans. The study further proved that national identity can lead consumers to react positively towards an advertisement with a patriotic undertone. By Burger King giving their advertisement a patriotic theme, they are better able to persuade their target audience to buy their products through the Burger King app.
The Burger King advertisement effectively uses a one-sided argument, likeability, a positive emotional appeal, and patriotism to convince their target audience of American couch potatoes, who are quarantined to buy their food and do so using their app. The play on words; “Couch Potatriots” is not only funny but memorable, making this advertisement truly effective.
Mullin, D. (2020a). Public Comm & Persuasion Part 2 (message strategies). Class lecture for Communication 1, Department of Communication, University of California, Santa Barbara.
Mullin, D. (2020b). Public Comm & Persuasion Part 3 (more message strategies). Class lecture for Communication 1, Department of Communication, University of California, Santa Barbara.
Schlosser, A. (2011). “Can including pros and cons increase the helpfulness and persuasiveness of online reviews? The interactive effects of ratings and arguments”. Journal of Consumer Psychology, 21(3), 226–239.
Smit, E. G., Van Meurs, L., & Neijens, P. C. (2006). “Effects of Advertising Likeability: A 10-Year Perspective”. Journal of Advertising Research, Vol. 46 №1, pp. 073–083. https://doi-org.proxy.library.ucsb.edu:9443/10.2501/S0021849906060089
Yoo, J. J., & Lee, W.-N. (2016). “Calling It Out: The Impact of National Identity on Consumer Response to Ads With a Patriotic Theme”. Journal of Advertising, Vol. 45 №2, pp. 244–255. https://doi-org.proxy.library.ucsb.edu:9443/10.1080/00913367.2015.1065778