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Imagine if someone lost a career due to political activism in America. Now, imagine if this person is well known and liked by half of the country but detested by the other half. Nike took Collin Kaepernick and used his appeal as well as the lack of it in one of the great marketing successes of recent times. On the opposite side, National Rifle Association also invited a person whom many know for her political beliefs, Dana Loesch, and made it the face of their advert. In America, the use of politically and emotionally charged advertisements is one of the most common methods of reaching the audience. The various companies and brands seek to reach both the audience and establish an emotional connection with them. Dream Crazy commercial of Nike that featured Colin Kaepernick captured not only the imagination of many Americans (with some denouncing it and others celebrating the advert) but also managed to get people talking about this company. For the National Rifle Association (NRA), Dana Loesch’s Violence of Lies advertisement is also highly manipulative. While the two advertisements emotionally manipulate their audience, a critical analysis reveals that their differences are cosmetic and should not convince people to embrace their negative messaging.
Age of the Audience
Nike’s Dream Crazy advertisement is one of the year’s major marketing successes. NRA’s Violence of Lies also energized as well as enraged the population. Consequently, from a propagandist point of view, both advertisements were highly successful, as they segmented their core audience while becoming talking points for weeks. The ads were aimed at two different populations. In terms of the age of the audience, Nike’s Dream Crazy focused on the young audience that could identify with the athletes that are featured in the advertisement. Moreover, Nike’s products appeal to the young who are more enamored with the athletes who regularly endorse them, and thus, it is a form of glory by association. Cross notes that glory by association occurs when the propagandist chooses to “transfer positive feelings and respect to the group that he wants one to accept” (213). From the ad, it is apparent that Nike tried to sell a positive dream to the young by showing young people that if the athletes featured could make it, so the young people can. For instance, Nike’s ad starts by showing a young man who is trying to skate on railings but proceeds to fall. Meanwhile, in the background, the narrator explains that if people were to announce that the audience’s dreams are “crazy”, then the audience should persist as per the advert; it is how dreams are supposed to be (Nike). The commercial adds that if the non-believers tell that one’s dream is crazy, it should spur someone to greater heights. The message is emotionally manipulating, as while it would be inspiring for everyone to achieve their dreams of being elite athletes, not everyone is capable of doing that. Consequently, the consumers should take the inspiring parts of the ad and leave out the manipulative ones.
On the other hand, the NRA advert’s audience is meant to be older people who form the majority of NRA membership or those who have an affiance with the organization via the policy positions that NRA stands for. In the ad, there is a segmentation of the population via the use of the word “they” to identify what the NRA considers “NRA and its audiences” nemesis who are the ostensibly younger people. It is argumentum and populum, as the ad seeks to tell the audience what it wants to believe about the younger, more progressive generation (Cross 212). The use of the terms “they” and “them” serves as a logical fallacy and false dilemma to great effect, as the advert makes one feel either part of a group or excluded from the age group the commercial is aimed at (Cross 216). The segmentation of the population enables the NRA to get to its core audience at the expense of objective truth. Consequently, the audience should disregard the message that the NRA presents, as it is manipulative and disruptive.
Political and Economic Demographics
The manipulative effect of the commercials extends to the political arena. With America being highly partisan, it is sometimes not possible to please both sides of the political debate, and thus, some commercials only aim at a specific political audience and exclude the rest of the population. Consequently, the demographics that the advertisements stand for are also clear by the means of using the divide-and-conquer propagandist maneuver. Nike’s Dream Crazy aims at the progressive and poor diverse Americans. By the use of Colin Kaepernick whom many consider their nemesis owing to his campaign against police brutality, Nike knew that it would enrage the right while making people on the progressive left warm up. It did not mean that Nike had suddenly embraced a more progressive platform. Still, it was a way of manipulating progressive buyers and having a lock-in effect on their products as opposed to other companies that sell similar products. Nike also uses other people in their commercials. For example, there is a Muslim female athlete in a Nike-branded hijab, something one would not find in the NRA’s advert (Nike). It is an emotional appeal to the more diverse market, as Nike realizes that the market is not just made up of white Christian males. Moreover, the narrator of the Nike advert is Colin Kaepernick, who then proceeds to pronounce at the end of the advert that one should believe in something, even if one loses everything (Nike). It is a restatement of Kaepernick’s row with the National Football Association after he lost his contract due to his activism. All these athletes do not imply Nike changing its corporate practices to the platforms they endorse, but they have simply been corporatized in the chase for Nike’s profits.
On the other hand, the NRA makes it clear that its audience is the conservatives by invoking the fears of a violent left side of the government. The NRA commercial talks of “smashing windows,” “burning cars,” and “bullying and terrorizing” to identify the “other” whom the audience is supposed to oppose. The term “smashing of windows” appeals to those who own property and tend to be wealthy. The tactic is called card-staking, as in a real sense, the rallies performed by the right-wing have been as violent, if not more violent, than those that the NRA seeks to demonize (Cross 218). It is also a hasty generalization, as there is no evidence that the images of violence that the ad presents are linked to those who oppose the NRA (Quitman and Hesse 80). The fact that the ad further talks of how the left had called the present US president a new Hitler further reinforces the bunk mentality and emotional manipulation that the NRA is trying to enforce (National Rifle Association). In its bid to appeal to this demographic, the NRA also uses glittering generalities by mentioning guns as the only guarantee of “freedom” (Cross 211). Moreover, by using Dana Lynn Loesch, a renowned conservative rather than a more benign narrator or someone who is not politically engaged, NRA further seeks to segment the population into those who identify with the organization’s ethos versus those who are on the opposite side. However, a closer look reveals that the differences that the adverts embrace are rather not fundamental. In any country, people would disagree over policy. While the adverts try to embrace a more divisive America, it is notable that a significant part of the population identifies with neither of the political positions the commercials embrace. Consequently, Americans should ignore the divisive parts of the adverts.
Gender and Sex of the Audience
One can also see the gender the ads seek to engage via images in the commercials. Both advertisements are ostensibly gender neutral, and a casual look at them would not expose any gender focus on either. For instance, none of the commercials use words to identify the gender they are mainly targeting. However, a careful analysis of the commercials shows that the advertisements have specific gender preferences that they sublimely identify with. In the case of Violence of Lies, the NRA uses overly aggressive language. as the word combinations, such as “smash and sexism”, “police to do their job and stop the madness”, as well as an image that states “this is war” are aimed to pass their gender message sublimely (National Rifle Association). The entire advertisement seems to be violently aggressive and shows violent images with the narrator also speaking in a highly aggressive manner. The color also shits from black and white for the videos showing the violence, which increases the intensity of the violent imagery. It ascribes guilt to anyone on the left whether they are violent or not. It is consequently guilt by association (Cross 213). Violently aggressive commercials are usually aimed at appealing to masculinity in men. Consequently, NRA’s audience is men.
On the other hand, Nike’s advert seems to be ambiguous in terms of gender. Nike uses both male and female athletes in its ad with prominent athletes, such as Zeina Hassan who is a Muslim female boxer, Megan Blunk who is a wheelchair basketball star, and Serena Williams appears alongside marathon star Eliud Kipchoge, football rookie Odell Beckham, and Colin Kaepernick (Nike). Consequently, on the issue of gender, Nike’s commercial does not segment the audience. It is understandable for Nike, as it seeks to sell its products to both male and female athletes, while NRA has an already established support group that is not likely to leave them regardless of the circumstances.
The two commercials emotionally manipulate their viewers by focusing on the differences between Americans implicitly, and critical analysis reveals that the differences they use are cosmetic and should not convince people to embrace the negative messaging in the adverts. The NRA’s advert targets the older age group. On the other hand, Nike’s ad targets the younger age group. Politically, the NRA’s commercial was meant for the conservatives who embrace gun rights. Nike’s advert was meant for progressives who could identify with Colin Kaepernick and his campaign against police violence. The gender that was meant to be the chief audience of the NRA’s ad is the white males. On the other hand, Nike’s ad sought to embrace both genders. To enforce their message, the NRA and Nike used methods such as glittering generalities and argumentum ad populum. Moreover, they used the glory by association as well as the false dilemma. Lastly, card-staking was also apparent. All these methods had varying degrees of success, but they show the extent to which advertisers use propaganda to reach their audience. Americans should avoid messaging emanating from such adverts, as it is capable of making them think less about issues and embracing issues they should not.
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