The Rhetoric of Sales: Infomercials in the Composition Classroom

For my final paper, I plan on engaging in a two-fold research project. The end result will produce a product that can hopefully be used in the composition classroom in order to educate students on various rhetorical strategies and how they are used in a medium outside of composition. I plan to look at and study the use of rhetoric within televised infomercials and sales pitches. These include, but are not limited to, late night television sponsors and shopping channels such as QVC or HSN. After analyzing these programs and making note of their rhetorical strategies, I will use these programs to develop a plan on how to use infomercials to teach composition students rhetorical structures and strategies, effectively placing infomercials within the composition classroom. I will look at their use of the rhetorical triangle, and how that can be transferred into the successful writing class.

I will begin this paper by doing extensive research on infomercials and any studies previously done on them. This will involve collecting examples of specific genres of infomercials such as exercise/weight loss, food products, health/nutrition, and tools. I will also look into previous research done on the rhetorical strategies of televised infomercials. My final step will include assembling the information I have found on the rhetorical strategies of infomercials and organizing it in a way that can allow it to be applied to the composition classroom in order to teach rhetorical strategies.

2 comments for “The Rhetoric of Sales: Infomercials in the Composition Classroom

  1. Alex Janney
    April 24, 2010 at 1:43 pm

    I like how you’re planning to use this in your own classroom; I think the students would find it interesting and gain a better understanding of what rhetoric is through something like this. As far as HSN and QVC, are you planning to watch the same type of shows as you are for the infomercials? I think it would be interesting to see how the timing of infomercials and particular programs correlates with the audience these companies are trying to persuade. A lot of infomercials are on very late at night, as you pointed out, which makes me wonder who is their projected audience?

    I think that programs like these rely on so many different components to be successful. The people in their commercials, for example a lot of weight loss companies seem to be incorporating what I would consider D-List celebrities; the intonation of the person’s voice, the Oxyclean commercials stick out to me here; the visuals, like those lovely “before” and “after” pictures in weight loss or exercise equipment commercials. It’s interesting what they do on networks to try and sell something to the consumer who can’t physically touch or see the item.

    It will be fun to hear what you find and to get some greater insight into these infomercials and shopping networks. I keep thinking of my grandma, who is an avid television shopping person; she’s bought everything from jewelry to cleaning items off of t.v. She’s evidence that all of those rhetorical strategies really do work:)

  2. May 3, 2010 at 12:36 pm

    Jeff, Sounds interesting. What would students gain from informercials as opposed to anything else you might analyze? Why are they good for your goals? And do you have any sense of what kind of exrcises or other classroom use you hope to create? And those are good suggestions from Alex.

    Also, what kind of analysis will you do, and what secondary sources might you use?

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