In many advertisements, like commercials, companies try to appeal to the viewers emotions. The emotion most commonly provoked through these advertisements is sadness. They use an idea called, “pathos.” Merriam-Webster defines pathos as, “an element in experience or in artistic representation evoking pity or compassion.” There are very many advertisements and articles in the world today that utilize this idea to make people adopt the advertiser’s ideology. In Everything’s an Argument, Lunsford explains, “Emotional appeals, or pathos, generate emotions (fear, pity, love, anger, jealousy)…” (Lunsford 23). In this blog post, I will be giving examples of this idea of pathos, and describe how they make emotional appeals.
The first example that I will show, is an advertisement made by the ASPCA. This commercial is called, “Moving Day”. This commercial was released in 2010 by the ASPCA, and they use pathos to specifically target humans innate emotion of pity. In the commercial, ASPCA shows a family moving, a husband, wife and child. Then, a dog-catcher type walks up to the child and ask the parents if they are taking the child with him. To which the father-figure says, “No, our new place doesn’t take kids.” Watching this the first time, you would be absolutely shocked by this statement because, really, who would move to a place that does not allow children to live there? When really, this is shedding a new light on people who abandon pets during a move. This commercial is moving, because of this fact. The use of pathos is what makes this commercial work, because if it just said, “Don’t abandon your pets when you move,” chances are that viewers would not care about the commercial at all. The use of pathos in this context is what gives the commercial it’s meaning.
Commercials are not the only thing that use this idea of pathos. Propaganda has existed in many countries across the world use it to bring feelings of love for your country, and anger toward a common enemy in cases of times of war. One of most well known pieces of wartime propaganda is Uncle Sam. This poster features an old man, Uncle Sam, dressed in the classic red, white and blue, and pointing at the viewer, saying, “I want you for the U.S. Army. Enlist now.” This specific poster was used to recruit soldiers for World War I and II. This piece awoke feelings of love and pride for America, which is a core idea of emotional appeals. This use of pathos was meant to be a moral-booster in more ways then one. During this time period of war, America was also faced by the Great Depression. Generally speaking, most people in America did not have work, and one way to solve this was for people to join the military force. At the same time, the country was also recovering from WWI, and gearing up for WWII. So for people needing jobs, and the government needing people to fill boots in the Army, this propaganda was a core piece to raise country pride, and was pivotal in how America grew as a country.
Generally speaking, pathos is somewhat involved in every piece of media we see in our every day lives. From movies to commercials, and from radio ads to propaganda posters. Advertising companies know how people think, act, and feel, and they know that if they manipulate these thoughts, feelings and actions, then they can effectively control the opinions people carry using this idea of pathos.