Pathos in advertising: St. Judes and ASPCA

Erin Sockolof Opinions Editor

Erin Sockolof, Opinions Editor

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) commercials are something we all know of. They show sad, abused and scared animals in dirty cages. They play melancholy music and ask for donations. St. Judes Children’s Hospital’s commercials use the same method, just in a very different way. They show recovering kids and their families as their stories play out. Oftentimes a family member will speak on how much of an impact the donations have made on their lives. They show the aftermath of the donations instead of the beforehand like the ASPCA does. This method of persuasion is called Pathos. Pathos is all around us.  Just like math or science, we see pathos in our everyday life, so it’s important to know what it is and how to use it. 

Ethos, Logos and Pathos are literary techniques that every English Language Arts class will discuss at some point in time. All three of them are great methods of advertising commonly used in persuasive literature. What we see with these two organizations is no different. 

The ASPCA appeals to the viewers’ sense of compassion for suffering animals. They tell us we need to help them or else these animals will continue to suffer. But what about St.Judes?

St. Judes shows us the progress they have made and the people who have been helped as a result of donations. Then once the commercial makes us happy, they ask for our continued support. They show us exactly how our money will help people in need. This method of advertising is toying with our emotions in the most effective way possible. 

I usually get mad at the ASPCA commercial for making me upset. There is nothing I hate more than animal abuse. So why don’t I support their way of advertising? Because it puts the blame on the viewer. They direct this blame at us in order to evoke change. I don’t like being made to feel guilty for something that is not my fault. The way the ASPCA goes about getting our support is brutal. It makes us feel guilty and I’m not a fan of that.

They direct this blame at us in order to evoke change.”

So I support St. Judes Children’s Hospital. They show us how they are already making a positive impact on these people’s lives. They tell us that we can too for a small price. They tell us that we are part of the solution, not the problem. 

Pathos is a very powerful tool, so use it wisely. Because even if you think you are doing the right thing, you may be turning people away from your cause.