The Eloquence of What’s Unsaid

The Eloquence of What’s Unsaid


This ad, like each ad in this consistent campaign across video, print, and outdoor, illustrates the eloquence of what’s unsaid.  Communication is rich though the words are few.  The ad persuades by beautifully employing the art of conversation and the art of stimulating the desired inference.

Advertising is a conversation. Even though the audience’s role is an internal reaction, the rules of conversation apply.

First, a good conversationalist should have something to say that the audience wants to hear. Advertisers often violate this rule because their approach, understandably, is to begin by thinking about what message they want to send rather than about what the audience wants to receive. Hundreds of thousands of YouTube viewings demonstrate the audience wants to receive these breathtaking images.

Second, a good conversationalist leaves everything out that the audience can and will provide on their own. If the speaker says too much, the audience is insulted, feeling that the speaker underestimates their ability to comprehend. If the speaker says too little, the message is unintelligible. Get the balance right, and the speaker creates a bond with audience members who sense the speaker understands them. This ad says only what the audience could not provide on their own, “Shot on iPhone 6.”

In inference, the audience tells themselves the message of the ad; the source is unimpeachable. Stimulating inference is easy, in fact, unavoidable. On the basis of the ad, the audience will conclude that the brand is interesting or boring, fun or laborious, and so on. The art is in stimulating the desired inference. To prompt the desired conclusion, the advertiser should think of the ad as a behavior rather than as a literal message. The audience pays little attention to what is actually said, knowing that the brand will say whatever it thinks will sell. But the audience pays close attention to how the message is delivered because that is the behavior of the brand. For the audience, the brand is what it does.  The brand’s action reveals its soul.

What does this ad, as the behavior of iPhone 6, communicate? What inferences is the audience likely to draw?   The audience will tell themselves that the camera on iPhone 6 is capable of taking extraordinary videos. But that is just the start. Implicit communication is not precise; it is expansive. The audience is likely to also tell themselves that the iPhone 6 is stylish and cool because the ad itself, the behavior of the brand, is stylish and cool. Furthermore, by association, the audience will infer that those who purchase an iPhone 6 are stylish and cool.

The art of conversation, the art of stimulating the desired inference brought together in the art of persuasion.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.