Lack of clean drinking water, hunger, and even starvation are serious and real problems in many nations of the world. In the past fifty years, there have been many attempts to alleviate these ongoing problems, and the outcomes have been mixed. There has been some amount of relief provided, but the distribution hasn’t always been equal, with the governments of some countries not allowing hunger relief to be provided within their borders. However, the efforts of many continue; advertisements such as those created by the Feed the Children organization continue to help alert the public in many countries to the problems of lack of water, hunger, and starvation. These advertisements utilize pathos, logos, and ethos to appeal to a wide audience of potential donors who can make a difference with their dollars. By encompassing all three of these rhetorical elements, the Feed the Children advertisements are able to effectively capture the audience’s attention and relay the severity of the problem.
Most people are sensitive to children who are suffering. Pathos, or emotion, is effectively used by the Feed the Children advertisements. Many of the Feed the Children advertisements feature, as would be expected, children. The children shown in the advertisements are obviously in distress. The children are thin and malnourished-looking; they have dirty skin and clothing. They sometimes have bugs on their bodies or in their food. They are often crying or at least shown with tears streaming down their faces. All races of children are shown, and rarely are adults seen in the advertisements. When the children are seen with food, it is often a porridge-type mixture that does not look very appealing, but the children seem glad to have it.
Any time needy children are observed suffering, it causes a great deal of discomfort for those witnessing this suffering. Starving children is an extremely sensitive subject for these advertisements to focus on. The sensitive nature of this subject matter makes empathetic audience members an easy target for organizations to clearly introduce the problems of lack of clean drinking water, hunger, and starvation of the world’s children.
The audience for the Feed the Children advertisements are those who have empathy for the water and food shortages and who also have the means to donate to the cause to actually provide clean drinking water and food for the children who are hungry or starving. Because the mission of Feed the Children is to decrease hunger in those who need food, the funds donated to this Christian-based group, in part at least, go to purchasing, transporting, and distributing food to those in need, especially children located in third world nations. Aiming for people who can afford to donate any amount of money, Feed the Children aims its ads at bringing in funds for the purchase of food to feed the hungry around the world.
Alongside pathos, Feed the Children advertisements also leverage logos in the verbal and written information of their advertisements. Logos, or the logical and reasonable presentation of facts and information, helps a viewer make an informed decision about whether or not he or she would like to make a financial contribution to the cause. For example, Feed the Children states how many children can be fed with a specific dollar amount, and they cite the number of sick children as well as how many children have died or will die without food and clean drinking water. Feed the Children also offers written information to anyone who is looking to see how much of the donations they receive goes directly toward providing food and water as opposed to administrative and advertising costs. By opening up their books like this, Feed the Children, with their facts and figures, gains ethos with the audience because they appear financially transparent, which is something not all charitable organizations achieve.
In addition to opening up their books for their donors and potential donors to emphasize the credibility of the advertisement, Feed the Children utilizes celebrity spokespersons to either voice-over, narrate, or be seen in the advertisements. This adds ethos, or reliability and trust to the advertisements. For some odd reason, in Western culture anyway, people tend to trust celebrities. The celebrities hired by Feed the Children typically are famous actors who bring a great deal of confidence to their performances for the advertisements. Seeing a recognizable face, on a Feed the Children advertisement tends to allow a viewer to relate to the material in the advertisement if the viewer is a fan of or respects the celebrity spokesperson. This can backfire, however, if the viewer does not like, trust, or respect the celebrity spokesperson. For example, if Feed the Children were to use the antagonist from the latest box office hit, this choice would likely harm the advertisement’s ethos rather than build it. However, if Feed the Children were to use an actress who is a beloved mother or mother-figure in a long-running TV drama, the audience viewing the advertisement would likely feel the actress lends credibility to the message that Feed the Children is sending out to the viewing public, and consequently, it is more likely that donations would be forwarded to the company for the purchase of food for those in need around the world.
Feed the Children’s use of the rhetorical devices of pathos, logos, and ethos help solidify their advertisements as memorable ones. The advertisements are bound to be remembered, as the visual of hungry, dirty, and desperate children begging for food, uncomfortable in their own skin, and living in squalid conditions really tears at the heartstrings of many who view the advertisements. Through use of the rhetorical elements of pathos, logos, and ethos, the advertisements by Feed the Children have become ones that not only would stay with the viewer and encourage him or her to help fight hunger by donating financing to organization of Feed the Children, they also withstand the test of time as can be seen on the longevity of the advertisements. These types of advertisements keep the issue of the global shortage of clean drinking water, hunger, and even starvation in the public eye and even create possibilities for a solution to these problems.