Friday, November 6, 2009

By Mandy Smith

Ethics and Visual Persuasion

Visual impact in advertising is used to stir feelings and persuade human emotions and actions. Visual messages can have many influences viewers in on my any different levels. Visual images are truly pervasive in persuasive communications. They grab viewer’s attention effectively enough to affect their emotions. Great examples of how visual persuasion affects people’s emotions through ethics would be Prolife movement, and the fight to put a heavier warning signs on cigarette cartons.

The Prolife movement is focused around resisting abortion. They believe that fetuses and embryos are people and think that charges should be pressed if a woman commits an abortion. This movement uses a type of activism called “the truth display” where protesters display pictures of aborted fetuses in a general area hoping to ignite feelings of grief, anger, and sympathy.  Some of the members of the group believe that this is the most effective way of explaining their position, through visual imagery. Visual images like pictures of aborted fetuses can almost create emotional plea instantly. It is such a controversial topic and people feel strongly about their sides. This is a campaign that can create emotional guilt, depression and can have an impact on people’s future actions.

            The TRUTH which is an anti tobacco campaign is set up to remind people of the dangers of smoking. They once created a body bag display during the Real Salt Lake’s home game on September 20. The body bags were to visually exhibit the deadly results of using tobacco ( After the body bags were placed next to the display that read something like, “nearly 440,000 people die every year in the U.S. from tobacco-related causes equivalent to 50 people every hour of every day.” Being able to see death in a quantitative manner and in such a grotesque manner would be an effective way of getting a point across. It would be like saying “do I need to draw a picture?” 

            Also illustrated on the cigarette packets of American smokers soon will be labels displaying gruesome colored photos showing a mouth conquered by cancer, black lungs, and rotten gangrene feet. “It’s the only one that smokers remember more than anything else. Even after nine years,” says David Hammond (as quoted in Mashori). Research shows that using visual images are more effective in these kinds of cases. Hammond also stresses that “pictures are more likely to catch people’s attention and told hold people’s attention over time,” (as quoted in Mashori) If a smoker has to look at a picture of what smoking can cause while they are smoking they are more aware of it. If you can see the consequences you are better off not experiencing them.

            People use visuals because they work. They use them to reach out to their viewers to get a reaction, create emotion, and try to make a difference while also having the potential to be more effective than other modes of communication. 


"The TRUTH Anti-Tobacco Campaign to Feature Body Bag Display at Saturday's Real Salt Lake Game - OurSports Central - Independent and Minor League Sports News." Minor League Sports News on OurSports Central. Web. 18 Oct. 2009. <>.


Mishori, Ranit. "A Heavier Warning: Cigarette Boxes Will Soon Display Evidence of Ill Effects -" - nation, world, technology and Washington area news and headlines. Web. 18 Oct. 2009. <>.



Scheidler, Ann. "Strong Reactions Pro and Con Mark Sixth Annual Truth Tour." Web.

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