Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Undeclared Holiday of Advertisements

What a wonderful time of year it is! Thanksgiving has recently passed and Christmas is on the way. Our stomachs are full of Turkey, our gifts are bought for Christmas, and our favorite football teams are concluding their seasons. The weather in Nebraska is becoming chilly and the leaves have fallen. Along with the changes in weather and spirit, the changes in advertising are also around the corner. This occurs once a year and lasts from around Thanksgiving until Christmas. Companies put more finances into advertising and the majority of advertisements involve a cheery Christmas theme. The Undeclared Holiday of Advertisements has arrived.

Turn on your TV or radio and it won't take long for a commercial break. We, as the audience, are forced to listen to/watch the advertisements presented before us by the rhetors (companies producing the advertisements). What better way to get an audience's attention than to play on their emotions. With Christmas Break being the light at the end of the tunnel for students around the country, we love hearing Christmas carols, making a list of gifts we want, and wearing those hideous Christmas sweaters we get once a year. The spirits are high and marketing companies love that. As mentioned in Rhetoric in Civic Life, The key to appealing to an audience is identification. "Identification is a communicative process through which people are unified on the basis of common interests or characteristics." A common interest among the people of the United States is that we love the holiday of Christmas  (assuming we leave out Ebenezer Scrooge and the Grinch). By playing on this shared interest, advertisements are created to appeal to a wide audience.

 A new holiday has been created that lasts from Thanksgiving to Christmas and is not based on religion, race, or ethnicity. The Holiday of Advertisements is among us. According to, "The United States' retail industry generated over three trillion U.S. dollars during the holidays in 2013." This made up for 19.2 percent of all retail industry sales that year. How is it possible for such a dramatic increase in sales to occur so commonly around the same time every year? I believe an understanding of rhetoric can explain the reasoning behind this.

One way to explain the increase in sales during Christmas is by applying the rhetorical definition of performance. As defined in Rhetoric and Civic Life, performance is "All the activity of a given participant on a given occasion which serves to influence in any way any of the other participants." The commercials are the activity created by a certain company which attempts to influence the shopping habits of the audience. The performance causes an immediate response by the audience. For example, a simple car commercial will draw the attention of viewers interested in that car. I believe that car commercials that show Santa delivering a car or the car being gifted during Christmas draws the attention of all viewers. Instead of thinking "Wow, I could buy that car if I wanted," Viewers think "How awesome would it be if I was gifted that car." While it is highly unlikely to have a car gifted to you, you can more easily gift yourself (assuming the car is within your budget). While we generally think of a performance as being a theatrical work of art performed for an audience, the commercials we see daily are also performances.

A second explanation to the increase in sales is the identity behind the commercials. Rhetoric and Civic Life defines Identity as "The physical and/or behavioral attributes that make a person recognizable as a member of a group." I believe this relates to Christmas sales due to the theme that is so common in holiday commercials. The scenes involving a Christmas tree, Santa, etc. allow the viewer to recognize the product as being associated with the group of emotions that standards of Christmas (a time of giving, family, and joy). I encourage you to watch the video below to see what I would consider to bee a standard commercial by Best Buy.

This commercial combines humor with a wide variety of products to send a message to the viewer. Personally, the only thing I would give Best Buy after watching that commercial is a chuckle after the man slapped himself in the face over not buying a 4-D television. Now, take a look at a Christmas commercial by Best Buy

This commercial also adds humor combined with detailed information about the sale being offered on laptops. If I was wanting to buy a product such as a laptop from Best Buy, I would much rather buy it after watching the Christmas commercial instead of the standard commercial. The excitement shown by the wife holding a present under the Christmas tree reminds the viewer of the audience he/she feels when in the same situation. This commercial does a great job of using the identity of Christmas to influence the audience.

Companies around the U.S. have great success during Christmas and i believe that is mostly due to the advertisements. The "Holiday of Advertisements" concludes in my opinion with the Super Bowl. The one thing that is nearly as famous as the Super Bowl is the advertisements shown during the championship football game. Companies spend millions of dollars to produce the greatest performance of an advertisement to be shown during the Super Bowl. Think back on the previous Super Bowls. While you might not be able to remember who played or what the final score was, I'm sure you can remember at least one memorable commercial you saw during the game.

What are your thoughts? Do you agree that there is an undeclared holiday of advertisements between Thanksgiving and Christmas? What other ways are rhetoric used in retail sales? Lastly, is the money that companies spend during this time worth it? Feel free to leave a comment!

"Topic: U.S. Christmas Season." N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Nov. 2014.
Rhetoric in Civic Life - Catherine Helen Palczewski, Richard Ice, John Fritch


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