You’re being Advertised Fallacies

Sad Dog

The Sarah McLachlan Commercial

Everyone is familiar with the Sarah McLachlan SPCA commercial. This advertisement features one of McLachlan’s notoriously sad songs playing while imagery of miserable animals, specifically dogs, staring out from the screen. The goal of this ad was to encourage donations, but instead, it became uncomfortable for viewers and eventually became a meme.

The reason for the lack of reception for this commercial? The use of logical fallacy. Sarah McLachlan’s SPCA Commerical is the best example of the Appeal to Emotion fallacy. The fallacy occurs when the arguer overuses and only uses emotional reasoning. Instead of explaining the benefits of donating or showing statistics supporting the impact of donating to SPCA, McLachlan makes the audience feel sorrowful. See the commercial below:

How this Commerical Controls You

Most advertisements these days use some sort of pop culture to influence viewers. This commercial is no different! The SPCA uses Sarah McLachlan as a tool to draw in potential donors. McLachlan is a famous singer (especially for sad songs) popular with a certain group. This group includes middle-aged-older females, the populations that not only would be more likely to be home during the day to see this commercial but to have the disposable income to donate. If the original Appeal to Emotion didn’t work on the ad’s viewers, maybe seeing McLachlan’s endorsement would! Using this celebrity as a spokesperson definitely worked, considering the commercial is often referenced as the “Sarah McLachlan Commerical.”

Knowing this information, does this commercial hit differently now? It should! As a consumer in our rhetoric filled environment, it is important to recognize when rhetoric is being used to influence you, especially when it includes logical fallacies.

How the Canons are Used

Read below for a breakdown of how Plato’s rhetorical canon was used for this advertisement.
1. Invention
This work was created to encourage viewers to donate to SPCA. It was created as a heart-string pulling advertisement with the hopes of emotionally touching viewers.
2. Arrangement
This advertisement has a rather simple arrangement. The beginning of the video is a collage of text and clips of abused animals set to a Sarah McLachlan song. This montage is interrupted by a clip of McLachlan herself pleading for viewers to donate.
3. Style
The style of this work is very somber. As mentioned above, this tone was used to pull at the audience’s emotions.
4. Memory
While this text was delivered via video and not in person, there are still some memory aspects involved. Sarah McLachlan had to memorize her lines in order to recite them for the recording, and the memory of the audience was used to remember the sad animals while McLachlan was asking them for money.
5. Delivery
The delivery ofs this video is interesting. The animals, of course, are caught on candid video,