Advertisements are some of the most influential pieces of information that a person is exposed to on a given day. They are specifically designed for a person to identify with the message that they are pushing so that the viewer will want to purchase the product or service that the advertisement is attempting to sell by having an emotional connection to the ad. By playing on the viewers emotion, advertisements or social media posts through Twitter can present information in such a way that the viewer will not even have to have much information about the actual product or service that is being pitched to them. A perfect example of this in action is a commercial for Anheuser-Busch’s leading product: Budweiser. One of more recent commercials released to promote this product can be seen to appeal to the viewer’s sense of compassion in order to persuade the potential consumer that purchasing Budweiser is the right choice for him or her. Not only does this commercial appeal to the viewer’s emotional sense of compassion, but it also presents information in a very specific way. The commercial can be classified as working as a heuristic because of the extreme emotions that are aroused by the commercial. The careful combination of emotional appeal and presentation of information by the Budweiser ad in question serves to create an advertisement that is both catchy and well-made and serves as a perfect example of the power by which an advertisement can appeal to a potential consumer’s emotions in order to attempt to persuade him or her to purchase a particular product without having a high level of information about that product actually revealed to the viewer of the advertisement.
The commercial in question was first released during the Super Bowl. Being that it was released on such a televised event, it was slightly longer than the typical commercial that one would see during regular programming hours. In this commercial, a rancher is depicted as he goes about raising a Clydesdale from the time that it is born until it is taken by the Budweiser company to become one of their trademark Clydesdales. During the initial onset of the commercial, the viewer sees how the rancher has grown close to the young horse as they routinely sleep in the same area, originally the rancher is seen tending to the young horse as it falls asleep then after a cut the horse is seen waking the sleeping rancher in its stall, spend their days together, and, generally, grow a special bond to an almost family like status. After Budweiser takes the horse, the rancher seems a bit saddened by the loss of his close friend but remains stoic. With a slight fade out, signifying that some time has passed, the viewer next sees the rancher reading his paper and seeing that the Budweiser Clydesdales are going to be in Chicago the coming weekend, which prompts him to get in his American made truck and drive to see his long lost friend. During the parade where the Budweiser Clydesdales majestically march down the street, the rancher notices his old friend and hopes to make eye contact so that the two will at least know they are near each other again, but this does not happen. The rancher disperses with the crowd and heads back for his truck, but right before he can enter, he looks back and sees a lone Clydesdale galloping towards him from down the street. He runs from his truck and stops the horse only to realize it is his old friend, and the two embrace as best as a human and horse can. Finally, the Budweiser logo is displayed and the commercial ends.
This commercial most definitely plays on the viewer’s emotion of compassion. The viewer feels an “altruistic concern for another’s suffering and the desire to relieve it,” (Nabi). Throughout the commercial, the viewer sees how much the rancher cares about the horse and, therefore, feels bad for him when his friend is taken away. Through the use of other factors especially those of the music chosen for the advertisement and the particular use of slow-motion footage as the horse runs down the street to the rancher, the viewer gets conformation that the feelings of love and friendship are shared by the two. These factors help the viewer feel very entrenched within the deep, connected relationship that the rancher and the horse share and makes a viewer want to see the two of them together and happy.
By playing on this particular emotion of compassion, it is clear that the process that this commercial is using to sell its product to the viewer is that of a heuristic. In general, a heuristic is used in the case of, “extreme emotional arousal,” (Nabi). This is definitely the case of this particular advertisement. It is hard to view this particular advertisement and not feel touched by the unique and special relationship shared by the rancher and the horse. The advertisement is put on in such a way that the viewer feels a multitude of extreme emotions that lead to what Nabi would most likely agree can be classified as a heuristic.
What is most interesting about this particular advertisement is that it is not, on the surface, actively pushing for the sale of its product. In this advertisement, the viewer is told a story of friendship where one person must give up their close friend because it is what is best for the other. The story of friendship and love is completed by the horse showing that it has not forgotten what the rancher has done for it and still feels that same sense of love and friendship towards the rancher. The emotional appeal of this commercial is the real power of advertising. A viewer will see this ad and, hopefully, want to purchase the product because they will associate it with those feelings that were felt when viewing the particular advertisement. An individual will, therefore, see Budweiser as a product that serves to those that have had a very connected and close personal relationship. There is no doubt that the majority of individuals in the world have had a relationship similar to the one in the advertisement, be it with another human or their own animal friend, and the advertisers’ hope would clearly be that the potential consumer will associate their own past relationship with the commercial and then the product and be more inclined to purchase it in the future. Coca-Cola has been doing this for decades. That is the power of the advertisement: the comparison that is drawn may help to sell the product through emotional appeal.
Nabi, R. (n.d.). Discrete emotions and persuasion. In Affect and Persuasion