How To Write Skeptic-Proof Ads With This 2,300 Year-Old Persuasion Secret

Written by Danavir Sarria

322 BC Euboea, Greece.

That’s the year when one of the greatest philosophers in the history, Aristotle, quietly passed away. He did so, however, while leaving behind the secret that would forever shape what would become the advertising and copywriting world.

You see, he decided to analyze something that his teacher, Plato, described as “not worthy of serious study”. That thing was rhetoric. In other words, the art of persuasion.

Aristotle went out there and studied how the best orators of his day were able to sway the masses with just their language. He then compiled all of his findings in his book, On Rhetoric.

But while the book was filled with many awesome insights, there was one main takeaway that anyone serious about copywriting and advertising needs to memorize forwards and backwards.


Because that one insight is the secret to writing ads that will even turn the most skeptical person into a true believer of your product or service.

And now, here it is. Explained for the 21st century ad man.

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The Modes Of Persuasion: Ethos, Pathos, Logos

Talking about your product’s features and benefits are great, but they are far from enough. There is a time and place to talk about those things, but there’s more to it then just that if you want to build trust and get the sale.

Aristotle discovered this when he studied master persuaders. He originally thought that logic was enough to persuade someone, but it wasn’t. To actually persuade someone, you need to hit them from all sides with Ethos, Pathos, and Logos.

Ethos is all about credibility and character. The goal is to persuade your readers that you’re a credible source of information by proving that you are a likeable authority or knowledgeable person on the subject.

Pathos is all about emotions. The goal is to persuade your readers by eliciting an emotional response. You do this by being empathetic to your audience’s values and beliefs as related to your subject.

Logos is all about logic. The goal is to persuade your reader that your claims are true by backing them up with facts, figures, and more.

How To Establish Credibility In Your Ads (Ethos)

If you want your sales message to ever see the light of day, being able to show that you are a likeable authority or knowledgeable person on the subject is critical.

Without it, most will just ignore what you say, regardless of what you do. With it, however, the opposite will happen. Just about anything you say will be seen as honest, sincere, and ultimately true.

It’s just like how you would listen and do whatever a doctor tells you to do. They are the authority when it comes to your health. Just do as they say and everything will be fine.

So how do you achieve a similar power over your audience in your ads so that they become more likely to buy your product? Here are a couple of ways.

Demonstrating That You’re A Specialist
It’s simple, a specialist will always be seen as more credible in the topic they specialize in than a pure generalist. Being a specialist implies that while generalist’s only know about the surface level things associated with your topic, you know everything there is to know. You are more knowledgeable, experienced, and dependable than most other people in that subject. And so naturally, you’ll be seen as more credible.

Being Endorsed By Other Established Authorities
This is a really popular one. Whether you use a celebrity in your ad or endorsements from other credible authorities in your market, that association will have this “rub off” effect. In other words, because those people trust in your product, so should your audience.

Having Written A Published Book On The Topic
Authors are experts. At least that’s how the general public sees it. This is also why every expert that appears on radio or TV is a best-selling author. These shows purposely only pick authors because just mentioning the fact they’ve written a book turns them from a random person into a credible expert instantly.

Having Any Awards For Your Accomplishments
Noble Peace Prizes. ADDY Awards. PHD’s. Heck, even “softer” ones like being a New York Times best-selling author versus “just” being a regular author works extremely well. If you’ve been recognized by a 3rd party institution to be credible, your audience will see you as a credible person as well.

Your Position In The Company
For the most part, people on the bottom rung in the company won’t be seen as credible as someone who is higher up. This is why people will usually rather listen to the CEO or CMO of a Fortune 500 company rather than the graphic designer on the 2nd floor. A higher position within a company will give you an edge in establishing credibility.

Appearing In The Media
Due to centuries of conditioning, people naturally believe that those who appear in the media are more credible than those who don’t. Imagine being a marketing consultant with multiple articles on Forbes Magazine. Now that’s powerful. With that said, it doesn’t matter if it’s radio, TV, or print, it all gives you a massive boost in credibility.

Presenting Both Sides Of The Argument
This is more of an “appeal to character” within the Ethos mode of persuasion. By covering all the counter-arguments first and then covering your main argument second, you show that you understand the full picture. You also give yourself a chance to later prove why your argument is superior to all other counter-arguments.

Testimonials/Case Studies
Not all endorsements need to come from other authorities. In fact, the most powerful endorsements come from people who represent the average user of your product. Naturally, if we see people like us who loved your product, then we also feel like the same could happen to us.

Tailoring Your Message To The Audience
This includes things such as understanding how your audience thinks about your subject as well as the language used such as slang terms, phrases, and vocabulary. By doing everything you can to resonate with your audience, you’ll naturally be seen as someone who both understands and cares about them.

Citing Credible Resources
Imagine giving a research paper to your college professor with all of your citation links leading to Wikipedia. You would be laughed out the room. However, by citing credible resources, even the newest companies can demonstrate credibility. By providing the opinions of other experts, you can make still make a huge case for why people should trust you.

How To Connect With Your Audience’s Emotions (Pathos)

Emotions are what people act on.

In fact, it’s only when you sway someone emotionally that they’ll buy your product. This happens to even the smartest of people because we are all wired the same.

Once we’re swayed emotionally, we then try to rationalize our decisions with logic. That’s why Logos is also another important mode of persuasion. However, of the modes of persuasion, Pathos is the strongest one of all.

With that said, here are a couple of ways to connect with your audience’s emotions:

Delivering Your Message With Passion
Being passionate about your topic also brings out the passion in others. For example, someone who is passionate about art will connect with you if they see that your ad also demonstrates passion for art.

Relating To Your Audience’s Dominant Emotions
Everyone who sees your ad will feel a certain way about your topic. However, there is generally one single “average” emotion the majority of your audience feels. This is called the dominant emotion and when you use it in your ads, it’ll resonate with them much more strongly than trying to elicit any other emotion.

Agreeing With How Your Audience Really Feels About The Subject
People naturally like to believe they are correct. Now, if your ad can make them feel as if they were correct all along, then they will feel more aligned with both your brand and your product.

Using Visual Aids To Support Your Copy
The age-old phrase of “a picture is worth a thousand words” is true. Written words are great, but it’s much easier and more effective for a person to feel strongly about your ad if they can actually see it. In fact, there are many examples where pictures or video alone can elicit strong emotional reactions.

Tell A Story
Facts tell, but story sells. That right there is a core principle of advertising and that’s because people connect with stories. People are hardwired to pay attention to, remember, and be persuaded by stories.

How To Persuade Your Audience With Logic (Logos)

Trying to persuade someone by appealing to their logic is critical.

No one wants to feel dumb or taken advantage of when purchasing your product. If for some reason they do, all of your efforts will crumble right then and there. That’s why proof is so important.

In fact, if you ask the world’s greatest living copywriter, Gary Bencivenga, what is the thing that most sales letters are missing, it’s the huge emphasis on proof. It’s this same emphasis that allowed Gary to become the world’s greatest living copywriter.

Once you sway someone emotionally, they will rely on your logical proof to give themselves permission to actually buy.

The question is, what are some of the best ways to establish logical proof?

Here are a couple of ways.

Features & Benefits
This is the most basic and straightforward version of logos as applied to advertising. However, it’s also the most important because it’s where your whole ad is derived from. By stating the features and benefits of your product, you explain what your product includes and how those feature actually help them get the result they want.

This is the definition of Logos. Besides the fact that telling lies in an ad is illegal, providing both obvious and nonobvious facts does a lot for you. Not only will it trigger their “Logos brain”, but it also improves your Ethos. This is especially true if you use highly credible 3rd party sources.

Numbers are as Logos as it gets. In fact, some people, like engineers, purely think in numbers. Numbers, while easily cherry-picked, are trusted. A number is a number. There is no miscommunication.

Scientific Research
Many ads use scientific research successfully. While scientific research from highly credible places like Harvard do the best, it doesn’t really matter as much what institution performs these research studies. By definition, a conclusion reached from scientific research has been tested and proven to be both true and replicable.

Inductive/Deductive Reasoning
While you mostly won’t see this anywhere near the offer section of a long form ad, it is possible that you can use this during the story section. This is especially true if it’s a personal or 3rd person experience. To demonstrate that you or someone else rationally thought something allows your audience to take that as proof that your trustworthy.

If you put your product side by side with competitor products, you give yourself a chance to go feature by feature to show why your product is better. You’ll see this mostly done with comparison charts. You can also visually show differences by doing a split-screen and seeing the result each product leaves you with. This is something most cleaning products used.

Examples of Ethos, Pathos, And Logos In Action

Ethos: Papa Johns & The MLB

In this example, Papa Johns does an amazing job using Ethos to build trust and credibility with their audience.

First, like all Papa John ads, they feature the founder & CEO, John Schnatter. This gives the appearing that if the founder & CEO is willing to put his face on everything from the ads to the actual Pizza Box itself, then it must be something worth trying.

Second, they use a 3rd party endorsement, in this case the MLB, to prove that this is a credible company. If the entire association of Major League Baseball is willing to have Papa John’s Pizza as it’s official Pizza, then it’s definitely a credible brand.

Pathos: Apple’s “Think Different” Campaign

There are very, very few companies who have used Pathos as well as Apple has.

In an industry where everything was about the latest gadget or feature, Apple’s Think Different Campaign was about celebrating the rebel. In fact, there wasn’t even a single mention about their products or about technology in general.

The entire focus of the ad was to connect with people who had the same values, beliefs, and ideals that Apple had.

“The misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently…” You wouldn’t even have known it was an ad for a technology company if it was for the logo at the end. Pure Pathos in an industry that only focused on Logos and Pathos is what made this ad worked.

Logos: Gillete Fusion ProGlide With FlexBall Technology Ad

In this ad, the focus is on the unique mechanism of the Gillete Fusion ProGlide. Since, unique mechanism is just another word for the main differentiating feature of the product, that makes it fall under Logos.

In fact, almost all of Gillete ads are completely focused on Logos. They always focus on the features of the product as well as statistics and data to backup the effectiveness of their products.

The Key To Using Ethos, Pathos, And Logos To Write Skeptic-Proof Ads

Like Aristotle, I wish you only had to use one of three to persuade someone.

However, if you try to do that, you won’t get anywhere. People aren’t one dimensional, especially the portion of your audience that is most skeptical about all of your ads.

So the key to writing skeptic-proof ads is to use all 3 in one sales message.

Your goal for every ad is to include an element of Ethos, an element of Pathos, and an element of Logos so you can then manipulate them to form one single message. Using all three will form a much stronger and more persuasive ad than using just one of the three alone.

Creating an ad this will better persuade a skeptic than an ad that only uses one of three modes of persuasion.


Human’s haven’t changed as seen by how Ethos, Pathos, and Logos are still used today after 2,000 years since it was formally discovered.

It doesn’t really matter what type of sales message you are writing. It could be an email, a sales letter, an infomercial, an “image ad”, a FB ad, a native ad or anything else really. Ethos, Pathos, Logos has been proven to work.

And now that you fully understand what and how it works, now you can consciously and strategically exploit it to persuade even the most skeptical customers.

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Danavir Sarria

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