Wildly Inappropriate Examples of Persuasion Techniques in Advertising

These ads are outdated and horribly inappropriate – but they used solid persuasion techniques that still work.

I was enjoying a little amusement over at boredpanda.com reading “23 Vintage Ads That Would Be Banned Today” when I noticed something. Yes, these ads are wildly inappropriate, bigoted, politically incorrect, morally wrong and highly offensive. Some don’t even make sense. But they are doing one thing correctly. They are using recognizable, tried and true persuasion techniques to make the sale. Check it out:

persuasion techniques

Tell A Story

There’s nothing like a little murder to make your point. Pitney-Bowes went all out when telling a story to sell their postage meter in this ad. And it truly is impressive! In just a few short paragraphs, we’ve got characters who change through conflict. There’s effective dialogue that moves the story forward. There’s a clear plot to follow with a beginning, a middle, and an end. The story portrays plenty of emotion. You can feel Mr. Jones’s frustration in the story. He’s contemplating murder! And who could blame him, having to deal with Miss Morissey’s ineptitude with complex machinery and reluctance to try new things?

I’m not sure who to root for in this story. Who’s the champion we can get behind? Is it Mr. Jones, for expanding his office girl’s horizons through buying her new equipment? Clearly, she’d still be using crayons and playing tiddly winks without him around to improve her world. Or do we rally behind Miss Morissey, who experiences personal growth through adapting to change and even learns to use the meter to her advantage? Maybe Pitney-Bowes is the real hero here for drawing us into their world with such a compelling story and discontinuing ads like these.

Emotional Appeals

The woman who survives Mr. Jones from the Pitney-Bowes ad better hope she’s not married to this guy! People like to think they are logical when it comes to making purchases, but it’s been shown emotion rules our wallets more than we’d care to admit. Advertisers know this and head straight for the jugular when trying to strike an emotional chord.

Unfortunately, that statement seems almost too literal for this ill-advised Chase & Sanborn Coffee ad. They want the shopper to fear she’ll make the wrong purchase if they buy some other brand. The ad offers a sense of relief and security knowing you’ll be safe from an abusive husband if you buy their coffee. Too bad Chase & Sanborn’s audience is too busy over in the frozen section buying bags of peas to nurse their black eyes to even see this ad.

Celebrity endorsements

Celebrity Endorsements

Classy:  Using a well-known figure beloved by children worldwide to sell coffin nails. But, celebrity endorsements work, and the jolly fat man in the red suit is one of the most highly recognized celebrities in the world.

bandwagon persuasion techniques


The bandwagon persuasion technique works because it convinces consumers that if other people are buying your product, it must be good. Though I’m not sure what a doctor’s schedule has to do with smoking, Camel’s ad men (because let’s face it – women belong in the kitchen) were showing off their advertising chops again when they created this bandwagon ad. It’s persuasive because if doctors smoke Camels, clearly, everyone should. The research is credible because it the surveys were done by three leading organizations asking questions to thousands of doctors from every branch of medicine. And if you can’t trust a podiatrist to recommend a good smoke, who can you trust?

value persuasion techniques

State your unique value proposition

Ah, the old “blow them in the face” value proposition! Tipalet may have started it, but since then, it’s been loved and used by … exactly nobody over the decades.

Your value proposition is a unique, succinct, clear statement defining why buyers should choose your product or service over all the competition. It generally refers to the most valuable benefit customers receive when they buy from you. It makes your brand more attractive and more appealing than any other. While it’s not the same thing as a tagline, your company or product may become known from its value proposition in the same way.

Benefit = Value Proposition = sale. Great, well-known value propositions include:

Milk chocolate melts in your mouth, not in your hands. (M&M’s)
Send better email.  (MailChimp)
Rides in minutes.  (Lyft)

And, of course, that old favorite: Blow in her face and she’ll follow you anywhere.

2017-08-04T15:22:14-04:00By |

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A professional copywriter on a mission to rid the internet of mind-numbingly dull, churned content.

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