The Old Spice Man: Commercials as Rhetoric

Since we talked about Monroe’s Motivated Sequence on Wednesday I’ve been thinking about how commercials serve as prime examples of rhetoric in our modern lives. Almost every commercial that comes on T.V. follows the pattern established by Monroe. First comes the attention getter, second the need is established, then a solution is presented to satisfy the need, the audience is prompted to visualize the need in action and then the audience is called to action. With all this in mind I was curious to see how Monroe’s Sequence could be applied to the recently popular “Old Spice Man” commercials. I am definitely able to identify the attention getter: the whole commercial, with its absurd scene changes and dry humor is really an attention getter in and of itself. In terms of establishing a need, this too is presented when the “Old Spice Man” asks “Does your man look like me? No. Can he smell like me? Yes.” As for the solution, I think that element is also clearly presented. The solution is that you/your man should buy old spice.

It’s the other two element’s of Monroe’s Motivated Sequence that I’m not sure are present. Is it arguable that both visualization and call to action are included in this commercial (and others like it)? The other question that came to me while thinking about commercials as rhetoric was whether or not it matters that these elements typically show up blended and/or out of order. How does this affect our classification of commercials as rhetoric or the impact commercials have in a rhetorical situation. What do y’all think?


Lauren Waters


2 comments so far

  1. jakubowskic on

    Lauren, I personally find these commercials extremely funny myself. I think you mentioned a lot of great points in regards to Monroe’s motivated sequence. After seeing this commercial for the first time on TV a few months ago, I was instantly drawn to it and I think it resonates really well with the general public. It does appeal to the audience because women want their men smelling well and men want to smell well for their women!

    You are correct in saying that the need is established and provided with a solution to satisfy that need. However the latter parts of Monroe’s motivated sequence aren’t necessarily satisfied by this commercial. Visualization tells the audience what will happen if the need is not satisfied and the solution doesn’t take place. This isn’t visualized in this commercial at all. Perhaps to satisfy this part of the sequence, another man (that doesn’t smell like Old Spice) could be in the background and clearly not as happy and attractive as the man with Old Spice. Just a thought. Then action, or what the audience can personally do to solve the problem- well I am pretty sure they just need to buy Old Spice to solve it. So perhaps this need is being met by the commercial.

    As far as considering whether these elements can be mixed, I’m slightly leaning both ways. The reason for this sequence is organize a persuasive “speech” and to ensure that the audience is able to satisfy the need presented to them. Therefore mixing it up and switching it around doesn’t seem to be favorable, however in reality it may actually work. It can actually get your audience more focused because it presents things out of order, which typically is a tactic used to draw your attention to something. Overall though I think this commercial is a great example of Monroe’s motivated sequence and really is persuasive!

    – Catherine Jakubowski

  2. akdaniels919 on

    While I agree that visualization is not present explicitly in the commercial, I think it is there implicitly. The entire point of the commercial is to tell people to use Old Spice to make them more like the Old Spice Man — thus, the audience is thinking that if they don’t use Old Spice, they won’t have those qualities and will just be their normal, boring selves. The commercial uses humor and completely makes fun of the entire concept, but I think within that it is implying that not using Old Spice would keep you from being as great as the Old Spice man. There is no point in the commercial that directly says that, but I think that it is embedded within if the audience is paying attention. And I agree that the action is to buy Old Spice — again, I think that that point is implicit in the ad even if it is not stated directly. The fact that these components are not explicit may keep the commercial from perfectly fitting Monroe’s Motivated l Sequence, but within a 30 second commercial, I think it effectively uses the intention of the sequence.

    I think that despite using the sequence out of order, the commercials can still be effective rhetoric. While the sequence does have a specific order, I believe that the order is only important as a concept, and in practice, the order does not need to be followed exactly. The intention of the sequence is to be persuasive, and if commercials use all the elements in an effective manner, I do not think that it affects the impact of the commercial. In fact, by breaking from the classic order, I think it can be more effective in many ways because it changes up what the audience is expecting. Just as the Old Spice commercial makes fun of itself to alter expectations, using a different order changes the expectations so each point that is made has a bigger impact. In order to be a classic example of Monroe’s Motivated Sequence the order needs to be followed, but that is certainly not necessary to be effective. The fact that this commercial is talked about so often is proof that by changing things up, advertisements are much better remembered and more effective!

    -Amanda Daniels

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