These adverts were produced by SanDisk in an attempt to sell their own mp3 version of the iPod, the e200. However, there are some fundamental mistakes with their ‘iDon't’ campaign.
Firstly, they do not mention the mp3 players in any of the advertisements. This is clearly a major pitfall as there is no direct indication of what the advert is promoting. This also decreases the effectiveness of using a rhetorical question. In general, rhetorical questions can motivate a person to process the message more deeply when the message is strong. However because the message is incomplete and therefore weak, there is a decrease in persuasion. Burnkrant and Howard (1984) demonstrated this in a study where students had to evaluate the quality of a strong versus a weak editorial message. The messages were introduced by a rhetorical question or a statement. They found that when the students were asked to rate their thoughts, rhetorical questions produced a more positive attitude and were the message was rated as more favourable when strong arguments were employed but a negative attitude and unfavourable message when weak arguments were used.
The second failure in this advert is their attempt to utilise the idea that people want to be unique and stand out from the crowd. However in doing so, they directly insult iPod users by depicting them as unintelligent conformists with the labels ‘iSheep’ and ‘iChimps’. In this sense, it has vivid appeal in that the message is emotionally interesting, but for the wrong reasons. Furthermore, when a person receives a threatening message the common response is to act defensively by ignoring or rejecting it (Pratkanis, 2007).
Burnkrant, R. E., & Howard, D. J. (1984). Effects of the use of introductory rhetorical questions versus statements on information processing, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 47, 1218-1230.
Pratkanis, A. R. (2007). The science of social influence: Advances and future progress. Psychology Press.