Rhetorical devices in advertising: when small words generate big results!
Reading time: 15mn
Have you heard about Polysyndeton, Anadiplosis, Anaphora, Antimetabole, Chiasmus, Epizeuxis, Syllepsis?
Those names are so funny and exotic that most people seem to confound them with Star Wars characters.
But, those are not names but literary devices. Literary devices are copywriting techniques used to create distinctive and pointed effects in an ad. They are here to communicate information, and/or to help the reader understand the piece on a deeper level.
These devices are used to get the reader to more strongly connect with either the story.
What are literary devices
Literary Devices are essential to know because they make texts more exciting and more fun to read. And remember that some of the tasks of the copywriter is to attract attention, to arouse Interest and to stimulate desire.
Insofar, to be successful, an ad copy must possess at least the 3 following segments or sequence:
- It must draw attention to itself.
- It must sustain the interest it has attracted.
- It must be remembered, or at any rate, recognized as
That’s what literary devices are for…
The purpose of a literary device is to bring extra meaning to a copy or an ad to draw attention and keep the lead hooked to read the rest of the text.
A Literary Device refers to the typical structure used by copywriters in their works to convey a message in a simple understandable manner to the readers. When employed properly, the different literary devices help readers to appreciate, interpret and analyze a literary work.If you want to influence more people; and compel those people to purchase your services or products; you need to work on your copywriting the same way poets and novelists work on their copy: by attracting the attention of the readers.
Failing to do so will avoid creating a connection with your readers and they’ll be much less likely to purchase your services or products.
The deeper the connection you create with your reader, the easier it is to get them to buy from you.
Because the literary devices are not used very often, they mark a positive disruption in the reading flow. And every time there is a disruption, there is something in the reader’s mind that makes them stop.
Here are 10 literary techniques that you can use in your copy that prove copywriters and novelists (and even poets!) aren’t so different after all.
These literary devices embody the styles and formats of the way we write real compelling copy. One thing though: a lot of them are probably done subconsciously. It’s kind of cool to know there’s a name and history behind each of them.
Parataxis can be defined as a rhetorical device in which phrases and clauses are placed one after another independently, without coordinating or subordinating them through the use of conjunctions. It is also called “additive style.”
The function of the parataxis is to associate the brand-name with a ‘tag-line’ expressing an appealing and distinctive image of the product.
- The newest eye cosmetic of all – Innoxa’s Shadow Eye Shadow
- Eastern – the wings of man (Eastern)
- Burgundy – The home of Pinot Noir. (Burgundy wine)
- Looks different works better. Viking 6 series. Easy start, quick
finish. (Viking mower )
Bold. Creative. Convincing. Diligent. Versatile. Precise. Those are the quality of our copywriters!
Other Example of parataxis:
- Gingery Fudgy nutty creamy mischievous mouthfuls. (Chocolate)
- Front-wheel drive. fuel-injected 2.5 engine. 5-speed
- Creamy, glinting, glamorous
- Euphoria. Live the dream. (Calvin Klein)
- New. Perfectly Real Compact Makeup. Believably perfect. (Clinique)
- Your Life. Your Car. Connected. (Acura)
- Little. The next big thing. Meet iPod mini. Apple
In the standing details, parataxis is commonly combined with a vertical display in the product-and-price listing.
An alliteration is a series of words or phrases that all (or almost all) start with the same sound. These sounds are typically consonants to give more stress to that syllable. You’ll often come across alliteration in poetry, titles of books and poems (Jane Austen is a fan of this device, for example—just look at Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility). Another form might be the use of tongue twisters.
“Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.” In this tongue twister, the “p” sound is repeated at the beginning of all major words.
Imagine an inline influx of impeccable & ideal inquiries so important, influential & impacting to your industry that you’ll never be idle in a while… That’s what MyAdGency.Com will do for you…
Examples in ads:
- Performance. Prestige. Passion for Innovation. (Breitling watch )
- Perfect Pictures Posted Pronto (Photobox)
- Light. Loose. Layered. (John Frieda)
- XTROVERT. XPLOSIVE. LOVE THE COLOUR. COLOR XXL (Schwartzkopf)
Hyperbole, derived from a Greek word meaning ‘over-casting’ is a literary device, which involves an amplification of ideas for the sake of emphasis. Businessmen and manufacturers regularly use hyperboles to advertise their goods in an as attractive a way as possible:
You usually don’t see a lot of overnight successes in online marketing but Old Spice’s “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” campaign is an exception. In February 2010, the digital agency Weiden + Kennedy launched the first commercial in the campaign, featuring actor Isaiah Mustafa, and it was a viral sensation.
Other Hyperboles used in advertising:
- No other pain-relieving gel works like Deep Relief (Deep relief)
- The best just got bigger!
- The number one to Eastern Europe
In the last slogan, there is a hyperbole in that it stresses ONLY. It, of course, is by no means the only razor that does so but it does not do too much harm to brag a little bit to attract attention
So much winning, you’ll end up wondering whether MyAdgency.Com hidden name is Publicis…
Rather than praising the benefits of their own services or products with hyperbole, advertisers often resort to using negative hyperbole to attack the competition.
Ads for the DIRECTV Genie DVR service compares the inconvenience of cable-based DVR services to:
- a bite from a turtle at the zoo
- an electric shock from a car battery
- a dentist sneezing into a patient’s open mouth
But that’s political campaign ads that are the standard for negative hyperbole. Most politicians have nothing to propose, so they just belittle the reputation of the other politicians with outlandish claims, exaggerations and sometimes lies of guilt by association.
- Democrats produce mobs, Republicans produce jobs
Using Extra Conjunctions
A polysyndeton is a literary device in which conjunctions (e.g. and, but, or) are used repeatedly in quick succession, often with no commas, even when the conjunctions could be removed.
- For Christmas, would want a doll and a ball and an IPad and a new pair of boots?
- If there be cords or knives or poison or fire or suffocating streams, I’ll not endure it” (Shakespeare, Othello)
- It is respectable to have no illusions—and safe—and profitable—and dull. (Joseph Conrad, Lord Jim, 1900)
Landing pages and copywriting and email marketing and content management and Facebook ads and graphic design! Give us marketing goals, we’ll give you traffic!
Polysyndeton can also make the copy sound laborious and tedious, which can be useful if the copy is describing something laborious and tedious. In that sense, it can be used to underline the pain points of NOT using a product.
- If you don’t use product XYZ, you’ll incur more stress and more headaches and more high blood pressure and your body will be more prone to external attacks and you may incur a stroke…
An oxymoron is a combination of two words that, together, express a contradictory meaning.
Oxymorons are often used:
- for emphasis
- for humor
- to create tension
- to illustrate a paradox
The more difficult, the more we find it easy. Marketing is life for MyAdgency.
Some typical oxymorons are:
- a living death
- sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind
- a deafening silence
- The Sounds of Silence (song title)
- make haste slowly
- he was conspicuous by his absence
- “I am a deeply superficial person.” – Andy Warhol
- “We’re busy doing nothing.” – Bing Crosby
- “No one goes to that restaurant anymore. It’s always too crowded.” – Yogi Berra
- “A joke is actually an extremely really serious issue.” – Winston Churchill
Chiasmus & Antimetabole
Reversal of Structure
A chiasmus is a rhetorical or literary device in which two or more clauses are balanced against each other by the reversal of their structures in order to produce an artistic effect.
- “They don’t care about how much you know until they know how much you care.” (Jim Calhoun)
- “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” (JFK)
- Never let a Fool Kiss You or a Kiss Fool You.
At MyAdgency, we think that it’s not because it is not selling that you don’t promote. It is because you don’t promote that you don’t sell.
Notice that the second half of this sentence is an inverted form of the first half, both grammatically and logically.
In the simplest sense, the term chiasmus applies to almost all “criss-cross” structures, and this is a concept that is common these days. In its strict classical sense, however, the function of chiasmus is to reverse grammatical structure or ideas of sentences, given that the same words and phrases are not repeated.
A Chiasmus is different from antimetabole. An antimetabole is the repetition of words in consecutive clauses but in an inverted or transposed order.
Antimetabole examples resemble chiasmus, as they are marked by the inversion of the structure. In examples of chiasmus, however, the words and phrases are not repeated. Generally, chiasmus and antimetabole are regarded by many critics as similar tools of rhetoric.
- “You forget what you want to remember, and you remember what you want to forget.”
- “All for one and one for all” (Alexandre Dumas)
- “Mankind must put an end to war or war will put an end to mankind.” (John F. Kennedy)
- I know what I like, and I like what I know
- Instead of moving the furniture around, why not move around the furniture? (Dyson vacuum cleaner)
- The new Chevy HHR is proof that cool can be useful & useful can be cool. (Chevrolet)
- You can take it out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of it (Salem cigarettes)
- I am stuck on Band-Aid, and Band-Aid’s stuck on me (Band-Aid bandages)
- Starkist doesn’t want tuna with good taste, Starkist wants tuna that tastesgood! (Starkist Tuna)
Contrast 2 words, opposing ideas, features, or benefits. Usually expressed in a parallel form. Think of antithesis as opposing things like:
- Big vs. small
- Hot vs. cold
- Up vs. Down
- Before vs. After
- Us vs. them
- Parent vs. child
Antithesis relates to words, clauses or sentences. It is based on antonyms or opposite ideas.
Example of Antithesis in ads:
- Talks inside. Shouts outside. New 2006 Fiesta (Ford)
- Imagine a mini phone with maximum style and design
- Feel the surge of calm (Lexus)
- I’m a big loser. (Slim Fast)
- Small seeds generate big ideas. (CNN)
- Everybody doesn’t like something, but nobody doesn’t like Sara Lee. (Sara Lee)
Simple Repetition of Words and Phrases
In rhetoric, an epizeuxis is the repetition of a word or phrase in immediate succession, typically within the same sentence, for vehemence or emphasis. It is also called diacope.
The most well-known example is the real estate mantra that it’s all about “location, location, location.”
- Never give in — never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense.”
( Winston Churchill)
- “It’s been a year of high highs and low lows.” (Harry Weller)
- The answer to that question is no, no, no, a thousand times no.
- Give me a break! Give me a break! Break me off a piece of that Kit Kat bar! (Kit Kat)
Repetition at the Beginning
In copy writing or speech, the deliberate repetition of the first part of the sentence in order to achieve an artistic effect is known as Anaphora.
Anaphora, with roots in Biblical Psalms, was used to emphasize certain words or phrases and therefore possibly the oldest literary device.
But the most famous example of anaphora is probably the “I have a dream…” speech by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Examples of Anaphora
- “Mad world! Mad kings! Mad composition!” (William Shakespeare, King John)
- Real stock. Real simple. Knorr Simply Stock is just that. (Knorr)
- Oh! That’s smart! Oh! That’s delicious! Oh! That’s quick! (Samsung oven)
- First to bring broadband internet to your seat. First to give you access to your network in flight. First to let you follow your team at 35.000 feet. All for this one moment. Lufthansa
- Needle or not? How do you plump your lips? Lose the needle. (No needles. No waiting. No kidding.) LIPFUSION XL
- More defined. More conditioned. More beautiful lashes. More than mascara (Estee Lauder)
Repetition at the End
Epiphora is the same thing as Anaphora but in reverse…
Epiphora is derived from a Greek word that means “turning upon,” which indicates the same word returns at the end of each sentence. Epiphora is a literary device that can be defined as the repetition of phrases or words at the ends of the clauses or sentences. It is also called “epistrophe.”
Epistrophe examples are frequently found in literary pieces, in persuasive writing, ads, and in speeches.
Epiphora is the opposite of anaphora which is the repetition of the beginning part of a sentence.
- “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny compared to what lies within us.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)
- The right thing says everything. (Samsung phone)
A metonymy is the use of something’s single characteristic to identify a more complex entity. It is extremely common for people to take one well-understood or easy-to-perceive aspect of something and use that aspect to stand either for the thing as a whole or for some other aspect or part of it.
Metonymy is common in cigarette advertising in countries where legislation prohibits depictions of the cigarettes themselves or of people using them.
One of the most famous cigarette slogans was developed by Sigmund Freud’s nephew, Edward Bernays who, in creating the phrase ‘You’ve come a long way, baby!’ hoped to ‘expunge the hussy label from women who smoked publicly’ by referring to cigarettes as ‘torches of freedom.’ This was one of the early examples of an advertising slogan that relied on social context to be imbued with meaning. As with most good metonyms, this image was linked with a cultural referent that aided in the persuasion.
Examples of metonymy
- The press’ for the news media
- Wall Street’ for the American financial industry,
- The Crown’ for the British monarchy.
- He reads Shakespeare.’ (= his books)
- I drink Champagne’ (= a drink)
In digital advertising, an associated word often expresses the whole group:
- I like Volvo’ (= Volvo cars),
- Woman is an uncharted territory’ (= all the women)
- a fragrance of Sabatiny’ (= perfumes made by Sabatiny).
- You never actually own a Patek Philippe. You merely look after it for the next generation. (Patek Philippe)
Above all, all those literary devices can be used either in a text or even in a graphic and that’s notably true with metaphors.
Metaphors merge two seemingly incompatible images or concepts in an effort to create a symbiotic symbolism. Metaphors are frequently used in digital
advertising as a way to bolster the perceived value of a product or to make it seem more personal. Metaphors also help to create a particularly strong brand image.
A metaphor used as an ad vehicle usually combines a copy with a visual image to dramatize the effect.
An example of a visual or pictorial message that could lead to a metaphorical interpretation in an advertising context is given in the RENFE ad. The Spanish high-speed train. An image of the train has been juxtaposed next to a picture of an eagle’s head.
The text in the right upper corner of the advertisement says; ‘The best way to protect nature is by imitation. The frontal design inspired by the eagle head makes the train 25% more energy-efficient.’
Even though the copy is not using any literary device, the advertisers want to emphasize the train’s energy-efficiency as a result of the streamlined form of the train’s front. The streamlined form (ground) that is used in the frontal design of the train (target) has been inspired by the form of an eagle’s head.
The metaphor here is that the train is an eagle…
Other examples of a metaphor in advertising
– What comfort tastes like.
Werther’s used this metaphor to associate eating its candy line with “comfort food,” to make consumers feel good when eating them. caramel and chocolate fans are led to believe that eating the candy will provide a break from their everyday stresses and be able to experience a pleasurable sensation; removing the guilt (of eating sugar) from the equation.
The below is the Mitsubishi Motors advert for their “Instinct car”.
Even though the product in this advert is the car, the literary device used to present the car is the rhino. The rhino is used to emphasize the strong features of the car, it shows the car’s:
- and its wild side
The words in the far left corner are here to complement the metaphor by saying “It’s more than technology; it’s instinct.“
This hinges on the fact that a rhino is possibly one of the strongest animals in the savannah and need excellent instincts to survive. The picture of the rhino suggests that the car possess the same characteristics.
Other metaphors used in ads:
- Your daily ray of sunshine (Tropicana)
- Isn’t it time you gave yourself some TLC? (Dannon)
- Red Bull ‘Gives you wings’ (Red Bull)
- No-one grows ketchup like Heinz (Heinz)
Metaphor, Metonymy, and Synecdoche
A lot people are often confused by the differences between metaphor, metonymy, and synecdoche.
- A metonymy is about referring: a process of naming or identifying something by mentioning something else which is a component part or symbolically linked.
- Metonymy resembles and is sometimes confused with a synecdoche. Even though it is based on the same principle of contiguity, a synecdoche occurs only when a part is used to represent a whole or a whole to represent a part. For example, when workers are referred to as ‘hands’ or when a soccer team is implied by reference to the state to which it belongs: ‘France beat Italy.’
- In comparison, a metaphor is about understanding, clarification and perception: it is a means to understand or explain one paradox by describing it in terms of another.
Don’t worry if you can’t remember all those literary devices, but be aware that those are just the tip of the iceberg. There are actually several hundreds of literary devices that can be used to emphasize your copy…
If you love copywriting and want to know more to do-it-yourself, check here…
But if you love copywriting and think it’s too difficult or that you don’t have the time to do it, we also have the “Done-for-you” solution below…