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Margot van Mulken

Editors Comments
Theoretical relevance Even at a glance, it is impossible to deny the importance of visuals in contemporary print advertising. Rather than simply presenting the product advertised, the visual is used to draw the readers attention, and seduce them into buying the product. These goals are achieved by what Scott (1994) has called visual rhetoric. Scott called for the construction of a scheme in order to classify and describe the various rhetorical operations used in the visual. This call has been answered by McQuarrie and Mick (1999). They developed a classication scheme for visual rhetoric. However, they did not test the usability of this scheme but rather illustrated the dierent categories using several carefully chosen advertisements. Van Mulken has collected a large corpus of advertisements and analysed the visual rhetoric of these advertisements using two dierent classication schemes. One scheme is the one developed by McQuarrie and Mick, the other is a classication scheme that was developed for the classication of rhetorical operations in art. Her research shows the strengths and weaknesses of the two schemes as well the (interrater reliability) problems one encounters when applying these schemes. Practical relevance The classication schemes used (and illustrated) in this study may give practitioners a vocabulary to discuss and communicate about what exactly they are doing with the visual element in the advertisements they design. Furthermore, the results of Van Mulkens analysis show that the expected dierence between the use of rhetoric in French and Dutch print advertisements did not arise. The claim that more elaborate rhetorical operations are used in French advertising compared to Dutch advertising is not supported. This knowledge is valuable to those designers who work in an international context and have to decide whether and how to adapt their documents to other cultural contexts.

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Margot van Mulken Analyzing rhetorical devices in print advertisements*

Keywords: Rhetoric, figures of speech, text-interpretive analysis, visual rhetoric, French print advertisements, Dutch print advertisements, tangibility The role of rhetoric may seem evident in print advertising. However, few analyzing frameworks exist that allow for studying the function of the rhetorical devices. This article addresses the issue by examining the validity of two competing frameworks, Text-Interpretive Analysis devised by McQuarrie and Mick (1996, 1999) and the Visual Rhetoric approach by Groupe Mu (1992). In addition to a reliability test, it is ascertained whether the frameworks make it possible to account for a different rhetorical style in French and Dutch magazine advertisements, or for a different rhetorical style in ads for tangible products as opposed to ads for intangible products. The results show that neither framework is completely infallible, and that both frameworks present inadequacies with regard to their feasibility. The model proposed in McQuarrie and Mick 1996 appears, however, to be the most promising.

(1) (2)

Pour russir (to succeed) LEROY-MERLIN MAGASINS (watches) Lu et approuv (read and approved) LU (cookies)

In general, one nds it more amusing or pleasant to read slogans that contain a little surprise than those that do not. For example, the slogan in (1) is less exciting than the slogan in (2).

The wordplay in (2) makes reference to the French collocation lu, vu et approuv (seen and approved), which indicates general approval and at the same time refers to the companys name, LU, a producer of cookies and other foods. It can be seen as funny, leaving the reader with a pleasant feeling. Meyers-Levy and Malaviya (1999) have shown that experiential processing plays an important part in persuasive advertisements: the pleasure of processing the advertisement inuences the appreciation of the ad, and this might enhance its persuasive force. Consumers will have a favorable attitude towards the product, service, or idea, because the processing of the ad is experienced as joyful. People are likely to experience serendipitous sensations or feelings that might be generated from the process of processing the advertisement (Meyers-Levy and Malaviya, 1999, p. 52). A decisive factor in the extent to which the processing is experienced as pleasant is the presence of gurative speech. Tom and Eves (1999) have highlighted the importance of rhetoric for the appreciation of ads.1 The number of rhetorical devices, however, is very large. Do all rhetorical devices contribute to the appreciation of ads in the same way? In order to answer this kind of questions we need a framework to describe and classify the dierent rhetorical devices applied in ads. The literature on gurative speech proposes many dierent taxonomies that have but one aspect in common:


Margot van Mulken

they have been developed for verbal rhetoric. In the case of ads, several studies have been devoted to the classication of rhetorical devices. Durand 1987 proposes a large set of pictorial gures of speech that are commonly applied in magazine ads (see Forceville, 1996, pp. 57 ., for an elaborate discussion of this and other pictorial models). Leigh 1994 investigated the occurrence of a set of 41 types of gures in a large corpus of print ad headlines. Magazine ads, however, only rarely consist of text alone. Scott (1994) has already pointed out the importance of an integrative framework that accounts for both verbal and visual rhetoric. In this paper we will compare the eectiveness of two competing systems which claim to allow the classication of both visual and verbal rhetorical devices, the McQuarrie and Mick framework and the Groupe Mu framework. First we will briey discuss and illustrate the analyzing grids. All examples are taken from our own corpus, since McQuarrie and Mick only present two examples of visual rhetoric and Groupe Mu does not work with advertisements. Further, we will examine the reliability of both systems and test their validity. To this end, the grids were applied to a large corpus of Dutch and French magazine ads.

Text-Interpretive Analysis (McQuarrie and Mick, 1996, 1999)

McQuarrie and Mick have developed a framework known as text-interpretive analysis. This approach was initially developed as a verbal analyzing grid (a priori text interpretation) in 1996. In answer to Scotts appeal for a visual rhetoric (1994), McQuarrie and Mick also applied their framework to pictorial rhetoric (1999). However, the possibility of transferring all verbal rhetoric to the visual mode has been postulated, not veried. Following Corbett (1990), rhetoric is dened as an artful deviation relative to audience expectation and it is assumed to create pleasure in processing. According to McQuarrie and Mick, ads containing rhetorical gures will produce a more favorable brand attitude toward

the ad. In order to comprehend the message, the viewer/ reader has to resolve the inconsistencies produced by the rhetoric, and this will enhance appreciation of the ad. McQuarrie and Mick propose a three-step classication. First, they subdivide the gurative mode into schemes and tropes, following Leech (1969) and Corbett (1990). Schemes are based on overcoding, in that they involve a deviation from the ordinary pattern or arrangement of words, for example, excessive order or regularity (cf. alliteration or rhyme). Tropes involve a deviation from the ordinary and principal signication of a word, when a text or image contains excessive irregularity (undercoding). On a second level, McQuarrie and Mick discern four distinct groups of rhetorical operations, two schematic operations (Repetition and Reversal) and two tropic operations (Substitution and Destabilization). On a third level, the traditional gures of speech can be found: Repetition covers gures of speech like rhyme and alliteration, whereas Reversal assembles devices like antimetabole and antithesis. Metonymia and ellipsis are examples of Substitution, and Destabilization is the label for gures like metaphor, homonyms, and irony. The distinction between Substitution and Destabilization is sometimes subtle: Whereas in a trope of substitution, one says something other than what is meant and relies on the recipient to make the necessary correction, in a trope of destabilization, one means more than is said and relies on the recipient to develop the implications. Tropes of substitution make a switch, while tropes of destabilization unsettle. (McQuarrie and Mick, 1996, p. 433). In line with Relevance Theory (Sperber and Wilson, 1995), they argue that schematic devices involve less cognitive processing eort than tropic devices and that, therefore, tropic gures will remain longer in the consciousness of the consumer. In general, schemes are less demanding to process than tropes because excess regularity is less deviant than irregular usage. Mothersbaugh, Huhmann and Franke (2002) have established a progressive order in the required processing eort: Repetition < Reversal < Substitution < Destabilization.

Analyzing rhetorical devices in print advertisements


Figures 1, 2, 3, and 4 show examples of Repetition, Reversal, Substitution, and Destabilization respectively (examples are taken from our own corpus, unless stated otherwise). Figure 1 is an advertisement for an e-commerce company and depicts the same espresso machine three times, which becomes cheaper each time as more people become interested in buying it via the Internet. The text reads: Plus on est de fous, plus les prix baissent (the more people participate, the lower prices go).2

Figure 3 is an advertisement for an automobile and illustrates Substitution (visual hyperbole). The innite swimming pool exemplies the impression of space one gets when driving in this car. The headline reads: Et si le vrai luxe, ctait l'espace? (What if true luxury meant spaciousness?).

Figure 3


Figure 1


As an example of Destabilization, Figure 4, another car advertisement, shows an example of a complex metaphor, in which the pearl of an oyster has been replaced by a car, implying that the car is as exclusive and precious as a pearl. The text reads: Nouveau Mercedes SL [New Mercedes SL].

Figure 2 is an advertisement for sanitary napkins and shows a cubistic statue next to a woman. The angularity of the statue contrasts with the curves of the body of a woman. The text conrms this reading: Omdat jij niet recht en hoekig bent (Because you are not straight or angular).

Figure 4


Figure 2



Margot van Mulken

Table 1 shows the analyzing grid of McQuarrie and Mick.

Table 1 McQuarrie and Mick, 1992 All rhetorical gures Scheme (overcoding) excess regularity Repetition Rhyme Alliteration Reversal Antithesis Antim etabole Trope (undercoding) irregularity Substitution Hyperbole Ellipsis Metonym Destabilization Metaphor Pun Irony Paradox

Visual rhetoric (Groupe Mu, 1992)

A competing approach is the analyzing grid proposed by Groupe Mu (1992). Like McQuarrie and Mick, Groupe Mu goes back to the work of Barthes (1964) and the structuralist view of rhetoric. Starting in the late sixties, this mainly Belgian group of scholars devised a new rhetoric, inspired by Hjelmslev (Mu, 1970). Their rhetorical model developed over the decades, and more recently the inuence of cognitivism is evident (Klinkenberg, 1996; Sonesson, 1996). The authors initially all worked on verbal rhetoric, but the model presented in 1992 was especially devised to cover instances of pictorial rhetoric (together with verbal gures). Like McQuarrie and Mick, Groupe Mu presents a fairly simple grid, which presupposes a categorization of rhetorical devices according to the increasing amount of cognitive eort. More than the McQuarrie and Mick approach, this type of analysis is grounded in pictorial rhetoric. The number of classes is again restricted to four. Groupe Mu denes rhetoric as a transformation of elements in a message so that at the level of perception, readers/viewers have to superpose their own levels of conception. In other words: the observed level must be replaced by a construed level in order to interpret the message (le degr peru ver-

sus le degr conu). Rhetoric creates a gap that readers/ viewers have to ll in on their own. Following Barthes (1964), Mu distinguishes a plastic and an iconic layer in the picture sign. The plastic layer refers to the color, forms, composition, and texture of the sign and is generally considered to be complementary to the iconic layer which contains the elements that permit an interpretation. The iconic level is what interests us here. Their classication is guided by the distance between the degr zero (no rhetorical operation) and the otherness (allotopie) of the message containing a rhetorical operation (Mu, 1992, p. 256). This can be considered a fundamental dierence with McQuarrie and Mick, in that the former dene rhetoric as deviant from the expectations of the viewer/reader, whereas the latter presuppose a zero level, a form of expression without any rhetorical feature. Groupe Mu distinguishes four groups of rhetorical operations. The rst dichotomy deals with the fact that visuals permit the expression of simultaneity, whereas in linguistics, succession is the only option. This dichotomy is thus dened by the locus of the rhetorical operation. Elements can be in one and the same place (conjunction), but it is also possible for elements to be next to each other (disjunction) (Mu, 1992, p. 270). The second dichotomy is dened by the presence or absence of elements of the intended (construed) meaning: if (elements of) the comparant and the compar are both represented, this is called In Praesentia. This distinction between elements that are not present (In Absentia) but still conjoined or disjoined may be di~cult to grasp, but the dierence between the two classes resides, as can be deduced from the illustrations in Mu 1992, in the partial or complete absence of the compar. If the absence is partial, then traces (such as the habitual environment, or typical elements) betray the compar.' This distinction between presence or absence, as well as conjunction or disjunction, is caused by the multidimensionality of pictures not found in verbal language: two entities are susceptible of appearing together, without occupying the same place (Sonesson, 1996). This results in four groups:

Analyzing rhetorical devices in print advertisements






In Praesentia Disjoint (IPD), which accounts for all gures showing both entities in dierent places. Toute image visuelle iconique o deux entits disjointes peuvent tre perues comme entretenant une relation de similitude. Verbal equivalents of IPD are comparison and rhyme; In Praesentia Conjoint (IPC), which accounts for all rhetorical devices showing the two entities in one and the same gure, where there is question of partial substitution. A verbal example of IPC is a portmanteau word, a case of linguistic telescoping; In Absentia Conjoint (IAC), which accounts for all representations combining the entities in one and the same representation, where substitution is complete: Les cas o limage prsente une entit indcise dont le signiant possde des traits de deux (ou plusieurs) types distincts; les signiants sont non pas superposs mais conjoints. Tropes are verbal equivalents of IAC; In Absentia Disjoint (IAD), which is the label for all operations showing only one entity where the other entity is not in the message but projected on the rst entity. Proverbs and resonance are typical examples of this operation.3

(Mu, 1992, p. 454). This results in the following order of cognitive processing eort: IPD < IPC < IAC/IAD. Figure 5 is an advertisement for mineral water and illustrates a case of In Praesentia Disjoint, where the hole in the stocking of the woman is similar to the hole in the cap of the new bottle. The text reads: La nouvelle bouteille avec un trou (the new bottle with a hole).

Figure 5

In Praesentia Disjoint

In Praesentia Conjoint is illustrated in Figure 6, an advertisement of the city of Paris, where the spectacles of a man coincide with the wheels of a bicycle, to illustrate what he is thinking. The text reads: Ce que vous avez en tte, ralisezle (turn whats in your mind into reality).

Groupe Mu suggests combining IAC and IAD, since both classes share the concept of absence, and they assemble the gures that cause readers/viewers to cover the largest distance in construing the implied meaning (Mu, 1992, p. 273, note 11). Just as in the McQuarrie and Mick grid, the Groupe Mu assumes an underlying progressive order of the groups: the cognitive eort viewers/readers have to expend increases.4 Processing IPD is less demanding than IAC/IAD, since the distance between the observed entity and the construed interpretation is smaller in IPD than in IAC/IAD or IPC, and IPC implies more eort than IPD. The increased amount of cognitive eort is therefore postulated in this framework: [Les modes qui ont en commun le trait in absentia] referment les gures qui demandent au destinataire la collaboration la plus intense pour produire le degr conu.

Figure 6

In Praesentia Conjoint

Figure 7 illustrates a case of In Absentia Conjoint where the cotton pads have been replaced by scourers, to illustrate the cleaning properties of the latter.


Margot van Mulken

General comparison Both frameworks have in common a predilection for a fourpart taxonomy, perhaps inspired by Quintilianuss quadripartita ratio. McQuarrie and Mick follow classical rhetoric in their distinction between schemes and tropes (i.e., syntagmatic versus paradigmatic transformations), whereas Groupe Mu distinguishes expression and content (Groupe Mu, 1970, p. 49).5 McQuarrie and Micks denition of a rhetorical gure as an artful deviation from expectation diers from the one endorsed by classical authors and by Groupe Mu, where a rhetorical gure deviates from the normal or ordinary manner of expression (cf. zero level vs. allotopy). The McQuarrie and Mick framework is in essence a linguistic feature analysis, whereas the Groupe Mu framework can be considered a genuine pictorial semiotics, but it should be stressed that both frameworks originate in verbal rhetoric and both claim to be applicable to both verbal and pictorial rhetoric. The examples have already shown that the same ad can be attributed to a dierent class according to the respective grids. In fact, comparisons and rhymes are classied in the same group, IPD, within the Mu framework, whereas they are represented in two dierent classes within the McQuarrie and Mick framework (Destabilization and Repetition). The classes IAC, IPC, and IAD will often be labeled Destabilization within the McQuarrie and Mick framework. It is therefore not possible to integrate both frameworks. The classical gures of speech have been attributed to totally dierent classes. However, the underlying claim is basically the same in both grids: There is a progressive order in the amount of implied cognitive eort and in the complexity of the gures of speech. Neither classication system has been tested on a large scale. Both groups of authors illustrate the working of their system by a careful selection of examples. In the present study, the systems have been applied to a large corpus in order to test their feasibility.

Figure 7 In Absentia Conjoint

Figure 8 is an example of In Absentia Disjoint, which is an advertisement for an automobile, and which visualizes the fact that this car gives you the impression that you are in three places at the same time, as is shown by a city map with three dots indicating you are here. Note that the automobile is not depicted.

Figure 8 In Absentia Disjoint

Table 2 represents the analyzing grid proposed by Groupe Mu.

Table 2 Group Mu (Mu 1992) Conjunction Disjunction Place of the rhetorical Mode of relation The rhetorical relation Construed level represented Construed level absent

In Praesentia conjoint In Absentia conjoint

In Praesentia disjoint In Absentia disjoint

Analyzing rhetorical devices in print advertisements


Sample In order to test the feasibility of the two taxonomies, a sample of approximately 1000 magazine ads was composed. All magazine issues selected were from the rst half of 2000 and were opinion weeklies. The French Le Point and Dutch Elseviers Weekblad target a comparable reading public (a slightly higher number of business people being numbered among Elsevier readers), and both include a comparable number of ads in each edition. All full-page ads in each issue were analyzed. When duplicate ads were identied, the second ad was not counted. A total of 953 ads was sampled in the corpus, 475 French ads and 478 Dutch ads. Reliability The main question to be answered in this study was whether two (or more) raters arrive at the same classication when applying the framework independently of each other. Two doctoral students trained in the technique and the author performed the content analysis individually. Raters were all of the Dutch nationality. All had stayed more than one year in France, all had studied French at university and all had received a literary education. A reliability check was performed on 25 percent of the sample. Although it is very common for an advertisement to contain more than one device (in headline, tagline, picture or body copy), raters were instructed to classify the dominant rhetorical device. Therefore, each advertisement could contain either one or no rhetorical device. If raters were in doubt as to the most dominant element in the advertisement, they were instructed to select the device that implied the most cognitive eort (according to the frameworks). Validity We were also interested to know whether the grids would account for all forms of rhetoric. Is it possible to cover all

forms of visual and verbal rhetoric within one of the frameworks? Scott (1994, p.262) underlined the idea that the use of imagery and its interpretation is culturally determined. Le Pair et al (2000) state that professionals in advertising have dierent intuitions about what strategy to use to persuade their target groups and that research conrms the culturally determined divergence (Le Pair, 2000, p. 370) The dierent stylistic preferences of the Netherlands and France have been highlighted in several publications (Biswas et al., 1992; DIribarne, 1993). Guides into intercultural dierences state that the French, a high-context culture, have a distinct predilection for rhetoric whereas the Dutch are known to be less formal and more down to earth (Hall and Hall, 1990). Highcontext communication does not require clear, explicit verbal articulation, low-context communication, on the other hand, involves intensively elaborate expressions, that do not need much situational interpretation. Callow and Schiman (2002) have shown that consumers from high-context communication systems (e.g., subjects from the Philippines) are more apt than those from low-context communications systems (e.g., subjects from the United States) to derive implicit meaning from visual images in print ads. One might expect then to come across similar dierences in the rhetoric preferences in magazine ads French ads using more complex rhetorical operations than Dutch ads. We therefore hypothesize that Dutch ads will contain fewer rhetorical devices and less complex rhetorical devices than French ads. Another test for the validity of the two systems was to examine whether dierent product categories were characterized by a dierent rhetorical style. On the basis of Staord (1996), one might expect a dierence in the rhetorical devices used in ads for tangible products and in ads for nontangible products, such as services or ideas. In her words, Goods and services require distinct advertising strategies (Staord, 1996, p. 23). Murray and Schlacter (1990), Stern (1988) and Zinkhan, Johnson, and Zinkhan (1992) conrm this. Cutler and Javalgi have found that service advertisements more often contain an emotional appeal (metaphor, storytelling, or aesthetic) than do product advertisements (Cutler and Javalgi, 1993). These ndings strongly suggest that there will be a


Margot van Mulken

similar outcome in our corpus. We have therefore distinguished these two branches in our corpus and hypothesize that ads for tangible products will make use of less complex rhetorical devices than ads for intangible products.

Interrater reliability In general, raters found the application of the taxonomies by no means an easy job. They often felt very insecure about what label to choose. The distinction between the categories and the translation of the theoretical dierences to practice were thought to be extremely di~cult. In spite of the descriptions and illustrations provided by the groups of authors (McQuarrie and Mick as well as Mu), the elaborate instructions given beforehand, and, in the case of the McQuarrie and Mick framework, the similarities with classical rhetoric learned in high school, raters agreed that the feasibility of both frameworks is highly questionable. How di~cult it can be to assign a label in the McQuarrie and Mick framework is illustrated in Figure 9.

ing the dierence between In Absentia Conjoint and In Absentia Disjoint. We have already seen that the authors themselves tend to group the two classes together. In all, three raters (the coraters and the author) applied the contents analysis to 25 percent of the corpus. Cohens kappa was used to measure interrater agreement. The reliability check indicated an interrater agreement of less than .30, which is relatively poor, for the McQuarrie and Mick framework. The mean value is .27 which is, in terms of Landis and Koch (1977), quoted in Rietveld and Van Hout (1993), a fair interrater reliability. However, the same applies to the Groupe Mu framework, although Cohens kappa is somewhat higher (.37). This may be due to the fact that the McQuarrie and Mick analysis always preceded the Groupe Mu analysis and that raters had become more experienced in the recognition of rhetorical devices. This nding is consistent with Leighs comment on the identication of gures of speech in his study, where he reects that reliability levels were lower, as expected, for the identication of the number of gures of speech present and the classication by gure type (Leigh, 1994, p. 25). The low kappa is nevertheless something to worry about, although it should be stated that after discussion, raters agreed on the plausibility of each others judgments. In most cases, the dierence in view resided in a dierent perspective on the salience of the recognized gures of speech. Despite the low kappa, we decided to continue to check the validity of the frameworks with respect to the number of rhetorical devices found, the possible cultural preferences or the possible tangibility bias. It should be noted however, that these ndings are to be considered with reticence. Validity

Figure 9

Reversal or Substitution?

This advertisement for ketchup can be interpreted as an example of Reversal, where the relative status of fries and sauce has been reversed.6 It can also be seen as an example of visual hyperbole, a case of Substitution, where the quality of the ketchup is stressed by illustrating that the fries have become an accessory to the sauce. With regard to the Groupe Mu framework, raters had many di~culties in tell-

Table 3 Validity check of the McQuarrie & Mick and Groupe Mu frameworks Framework Unclassied Classied Total McQuarrie & Mick N % 131 822 953 13.7% 86.3 % 100 % Groupe Mu N % 652 301 953 68.4 % 31.6 % 100%

Analyzing rhetorical devices in print advertisements


Table 3 shows that the text-interpretative framework of McQuarrie and Mick allows most of the gurative speech within ads to be classied: more than 86 percent of all ads can be assigned to a category. Sixty-eight percent of all ads remained unclassiable within the Groupe Mu framework, a fairly considerable amount. Too often one felt that there was question of allotopy (otherness in a rhetorical sense), but it could not be labeled within the Groupe Mu framework. This may well have been due to the fact that the Groupe Mu framework is mainly based on pictorial and tropic rhetoric. Figure 10 oers an example of an advertisement which is indisputably a case of allotopy, but which cannot by classied using Groupe Mu labels. The same is true for purely verbal gures of speech, such as irony, which cannot be assigned.

Figure 10


Table 4 presents the distribution of the categories according to both frameworks.

Table 4

We see that in both frameworks, the categories that according to the authors require the most cognitive eort, i.e., Destabilization and In Absentia Disjoint (IAD), are best represented in the corpus. In the case of the McQuarrie and Mick framework, Destabilization is by far the most frequently used rhetorical operation. The predominance of this category is so overwhelming that the discriminative power of the framework becomes questionable. If, according to the framework, the majority of the advertisements make use of the same type of rhetoric, then the distribution of the advertisements is disproportionate and a renement is required. However, ads frequently make use of a combination of gures. More than one-third of all ads used a combination and more than one rhetorical operation. This, too, is in accordance with Leighs ndings, in whose corpus some 43 percent of the ads combined multiple types of gures (Leigh, 1994, p. 30). See also Mothersbaugh, Huhmann and Franke (2002) for a discussion. As mentioned before, just one rhetorical device was categorized per advertisement, and raters were instructed to analyze the dominant rhetorical device, or, when in doubt, the device that implied the most cognitive eort (according to the frameworks). This might explain the relative importance of the Destabilization category. We applied the two classication schemes to both subcorpora and examined the distribution of the four rhetorical operations. The unclassied ads have been considered as missing values in the further analyses. Table 5 presents the dierences between the French and Dutch advertisements. We see that none of the frameworks suggest a signicant

Distribution of categories according to the McQuarrie & Mick and the Groupe Mu frameworks N 45 21 208 548 131 953 Percent 4.7 2.2 21.8 57.5 13.7 100 Groupe Mu In praesentia disjoint (IPD) In praesentia conjoint (IPC) In absentia conjoint (IAC) In absentia disjoint (IAD) Uncategorized N 51 47 71 132 652 953 Percent 5.4 4.9 7.5 13.9 68.4 100

McQuarrie & Mick Repetition Reversal Substitution Destabilization Uncategorized


Margot van Mulken

dierence between the strategies used. Pearsons chi-square was extremely low. For the McQuarrie and Mick framework 2 (3, n = 822) = 0.81; p = .85; for the Groupe Mu framework 2(3, n =301) = 2.37; p = .50). Neither of the frameworks supports evidence for culturally motivated preferences.
Table 5 The distribution of the rhetorical operations within French and Dutch advertisements McQuarrie & Mick French Ads N % 20 5.1 9 2.3 104 26.4 261 66.2 394 100 Groupe Mu French Ads N % 25 16.3 26 17 31 20.3 71 46.4 153 100 Dutch Ads N % 26 17.6 21 14.2 40 27 61 41.2 148 100 Dutch Ads N % 25 5.8 12 2.8 104 24.3 287 67.1 428 100

Table 6

The distribution of rhetorical operations within Tangible and Intangible products McQuarrie & Mick Tangible Products N % 16 5.6 8 2.8 72 25.2 190 66.4 286 100 Groupe Mu Tangible Products N % 38 33.3 21 18.4 11 9.6 44 38.6 114 100 Intangible Products N % 5 3.7 23 17.2 50 37.3 56 41.8 134 100 Intangible Products N % 23 5.8 10 2.5 110 27.7 254 64 397 100

Repetition Reversal Substitution Destabilization Total

Repetition Reversal Substitution Destabilization Total

In praesentia disjoint (IPD) In praesentia conjoint (IPC) In absentia conjoint (IAC) In absentia disjoint (IAD) Total

In praesentia disjoint (IPD) In praesentia conjoint (IPC) In absentia conjoint (IAC) In absentia disjoint (IAD) Total

The comparison of both frameworks shows that the application of the taxonomies is not unequivocal. In spite of the elegance and relative simplicity of the frameworks (due to the restrictive number of labels), interrater reliability scores show that the interpretation of gurative speech is still a matter of subjectivity especially if ads make use of more than one rhetorical device, which is the case in more than one-third of all ads in our corpus.7 Although raters were instructed to classify the predominant rhetorical device, the determination of the predominant device was often subject to discussion and depended on the personal reader/viewer strategies of the rater. We may therefore conclude that the robustness of both taxonomies remains something to worry about. On the other hand, it is not entirely uncommon to nd fair reliability scores in interpretative analysis. We should not forget that both taxonomies are mainly concerned with the interpretation or connotation of gures more than with their denotation, and connotations are more subjective by nature.

The results of the test for dierences in tangible and nontangible products are presented in Table 6. Ads for products of which the tangibility or intangibility was disputable (e.g., mobile telephone subscriptions) were excluded, hence the diering totals in Table 6. We see that the comparison provides no support for this dierence within the McQuarrie and Mick framework 2 (3, n = 683) = 0.61, p= .89). However, for the Groupe Mu framework, there is a signicant dierence between the two product categories. Ads for tangible products appear more often to make use of In Praesentia Disjoint (IPD) than intangible product ads, which have a relative preference for In Absentia Conjoint (IAC) (2 (3, n = 248) = 50.50, p< .01; Cramers V = .45).

Analyzing rhetorical devices in print advertisements


With regard to the validity check, we may conclude that the fact that almost three-quarters of all ads could not be classied within the Groupe Mu framework seriously questions the usability of this framework. This model may have come up with better theorized equivalents of verbal gures, but some important verbal gures appear to have been forgotten on the way. Although this framework claims to be able to deal with both verbal and pictorial devices, it has been developed especially to deal with pictorial rhetoric. However, it can not be used to classify all verbal or combinatory gurative elements in print advertising. One awaits the implementation of the pictorial framework within the general rhetoric devised in the seventies. As to the predictive validity of the frameworks, only the Groupe Mu analysis provided support for the expectation that tangible products make use of dierent rhetorical operations. Of course, it may well be the case that there are no signicant dierences between the rhetorical styles used in French or Dutch ads, or in ads for tangible or nontangible products. The McQuarrie and Mick framework has the advantage of enabling the classication of most ads, whereas the scope of the Groupe Mu analysis is fairly restricted. However, the fact that two-thirds of all ads appear to make use of Destabilization reduces the discriminating power of the McQuarrie and Mick framework. It may be worthwhile to evaluate this framework by comparing the rhetorical devices used in advertisements created in the twenties or thirties with the advertisements of the last decades in the 20th century. In view of the evolution of advertising language, one might expect to nd that signicantly more ads make use of the schematic mode in the earlier stages of advertising. In general, we conclude that, after a careful, precise, and charitable application of the two models, the results are fairly unsatisfactory in certain important respects. The relatively poor interrater agreement, the large number of unclassiable advertisements in the Groupe Mu framework, and the suspiciously large number of destabilization ads in the McQuarrie and Mick framework are ndings that lead us to conclude that neither of the models manages to present a satisfactory all-encompassing model. The McQuarrie and

Mick model fails to nd feasible pictorial equivalents of verbal gures of speech and the Groupe Mu model does not allow the complete range of verbal rhetoric to be discerned within their framework, nor the verbal counterparts of their pictorial classes. We have seen that on occasion the frameworks predict dierent outcomes with regard to the complexity of the rhetorical devices used in advertisements. Groupe Mus indications for complexity are rather intuitive, whereas McQuarrie and Mick derive their complexity axis from Sperber and Wilson (1995), but for both frameworks the complexity prediction remains to be veried. Van Dijk (in preparation) makes complexity operational by combining problem solving theory with Relevance, and, in an experiment, asks subjects to range print ads in a progressive order from easy to understand to di~cult to comprehend. Eventually, Van Dijk will combine the rhetorical dimension with complexity, and then it will be possible to measure the inuence of the complexity of the rhetorical device on the ads evaluation. We have already noted that whereas the McQuarrie and Mick framework is primarily based on verbal rhetoric, the Groupe Mu taxonomy is much more focused on visual rhetoric. Both frameworks claim to account for both modes, but the initial provenance of the classication systems seems to leave traces in the application process, and this implies that neither of them provides an entirely satisfactory model. We therefore submit that a new framework should be developed which accounts for the classication of rhetorical operations in the verbal mode, the pictorial mode and the combinatory mode. In this regard, the McQuarrie and Mick framework promises to be the more fruitful taxonomy, since this framework already allows for the classication of ads using rhetorical devices which focus on the interplay of text and image: these ads are classied as resonance within Destabilization. In our corpus, almost half of all ads in the Destabilization class were cases of resonance. According to McQuarrie and Mick, resonance confronts viewers/readers with incongruous polysemy, like puns and wordplay, but it is the juxtaposition of verbal and visual elements that distinguishes resonance from other rhetorical gures.


Margot van Mulken

(McQuarrie and Mick, 1992, p.182) In their view, resonance is determined by the presence of wordplay in an ad and by a reinforcement of this wordplay via an accompanying pictorial. In other words, resonance is a primarily verbal phenomenon and the visual elements can only reinforce the verbal rhetoric (McQuarrie, 1989; McQuarrie and Mick, 1992, p.181). However, in our corpus, we found many instances where the visual elements contradicted the text, and thereby provoked and enhanced the destabilizing eect (see Figures 8 and 10 for an example). This type of resonance should therefore be interpreted in the sense of Eisensteins montage of attractions, a conictual or dialectical way of editing in which discordant images would be presented not in chronological sequence but in whatever way would create the maximum psychological impact. In either sense of resonance, we conclude that in print ads, the interaction of text and image plays an important role in enhancing the attractiveness of the ad, and that this combination of text and image, which is so typical of the genre of print advertising, deserves to be granted a more important place in the taxonomy of the rhetoric of advertisements. Resonance can especially be said to retain the attention of the viewers/readers, since they are invited to reconsider their initial interpretation of the ad. One might reason that the processing eort required to analyze resonance is more considerable than the eort to process metaphor, for instance, and that its incremental eects are larger. The presupposed successive and consequential processing is an indication of this phenomenon. In other words: all cases of resonance, or preferably, every interaction of text and image, should be considered as a dierent mode, in addition to text and image. The various rhetorical devices that are typical of this mode should be included (for example: intradiegetic or extradiegetic text, dierent types of anchorage and relay). This brings us to another point. The heterogeneity of the destabilization class is rather large. Some ads make use of a rather conventional metaphor or pun (see Figures 11 and 12), where the cognitive eort needed to analyze the gure is arguably smaller than the paradox used in Figure

13. In Figure 11, Internet as a source is compared to the source of light for a ber producer.

Figure 11

Conventional metaphor

In Figure 12, an ad for an online credit bank, two meanings of the verb ramer are exploited: to row (see the paddle) and to make ends meet (pas besoin de ramer).

Figure 12

Conventional pun

Figure 13


In Figure 13 above, an advertisement for Mexican beer (not in our corpus, but found in the Lrzers Print Archive), it is not clear at rst glance what message the advertiser is seeking to convey. However, the three ads will all be classied as Destabili-

Analyzing rhetorical devices in print advertisements


zation. In other words, the Destabilization class deserves to be calibrated in terms of the conventionality of the dierent gures. Future research should therefore rene the McQuarrie and Mick framework by distinguishing the rhe-

torical gures according to the verbal mode, the pictorial mode or the combinatory mode and in which the destabilization class is subdivided in less or more cognitive eort demands.

* Thanks to Hans Hoeken, Renske van Dijk and two anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments. 1. McQuarrie and Mick (1994) found in a sample of 154 full-page print ads that 86% of all ads contained a gure of speech. 2. Note that the text is a variation on a French proverb (plus on est de fous, plus on rit [the more the merrier]) and therefore is a case of Destabilization in text (pun). 3. Forceville (1996) proposes a taxonomy that has some a~nities with the Groupe Mu framework. Since Forceville does not propose an all-encompassing framework, we simply mention his typology, restricted to pictorial metaphors: 1. pictorial metaphors with one pictorially present term, 2. pictorial metaphors with two pictorially present terms (cf. the Groupe Mu distinction of conjoint and disjoint), 3. pictorial similes and 4. verbal-pictorial metaphors (Forceville, 1996) 4. On aura remarqu que les quatre modes de prsentation sont placs [ ] an de marquer la distance de plus en plus grande entre le degr peru (toujours manifest, par dnition) et les facteurs qui induisent le degr conu. (Mu, 1992, p. 273) (It should be noted that the four modes have been placed in an order to mark the increasing distance between the perceived level (always manifest, by denition) and the factors that imply the construed level.) 5. As early as their Rhtorique Gnrale (1970), Groupe Mu had rearranged the schemes and tropes into four other categories, that do not coincide with McQuarrie and Micks framework. These categories are mtaplasmes, mtataxes, mtasmmes and mtalogismes (Mu, 1970, p. 49). According to this taxonomy, devised for the

classication of gures of speech, metonymy belongs for instance to the same category as metaphor (Mu, 1970, p. 117). 6. We thank one of the reviewers for pointing out this interpretation of the ketchup ad. 7. It should be added that the complexity of rhetorical speech in ads does not depend on the number of rhetorical devices used: the simple addition of two rhetorical operations, as for example repetition and substitution in one ad does not imply that this ad contains more complex rhetoric than an ad using destabilization.

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Margot van Mulken

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about the author

Margot van Mulken is assistant professor at the Department of Business Communication at Nijmegen University, where she teaches French and Communication. She is contact person for the section rhetoric and persuasive communication in the CLS Research Program Communication in Business Context. Contact: m.v.mulken@let.kun.nl