The Evolution of Advertising
Stephen McKenna’s “Advertising as Epideictic Rhetoric” attempts to draw parallels between modern advertising and classic rhetorical theory through the notion of modern advertising as a form of Epideictic rhetoric. In doing so, McKenna serves to make classic rhetoric relatable to modern culture and provide a platform for other scholars of rhetoric to comprehensively study the connections between traditional and contemporary rhetoric. Though McKenna’s observations aren’t as complete as it could be, his examination of modern advertising effectively foreshadows the continual evolution of rhetorical advertising.
Mckenna poses the issue on the current lack of comprehensive studies on modern rhetoric in advertising. Perhaps it’s due to its direct, image-based, anti-situational nature; advertising seems to explain itself and therefore makes it difficult to apply classic rhetorical methods to modern advertising. Mckenna attempts to bridge that gap by characterizing modern advertising as a form of epideictic rhetoric and expanding it to fit into modern context. His evidences are divided into two parts: how advertisings epideictic nature allows it to thrive and its effectiveness through religious connotations; at the same time drawing parallels with classic rhetoric and modern advertising. Both are meant to appeal to the “social sphere” (105) and are “timeless” in practice. The difference with modern advertising is its evolution into common-place economic motives, which allows more focus in manipulating its epideictic element. Modern advertising is effective through its spiritual connotations because it appeals to audiences’ pursuit of “exemplary well being” (106); it’s deeply rooted in the praise aspect of epideictic rhetoric. McKenna digresses and refers to Beale’s relation of “speech act theory” (108) in advertising, in which ads creates its own realm of existence and therefore is “real” in itself. And Mckenna concludes that in order to...
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