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Public Speaking: Persuasive Speaking: Infomercials


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  • Type: Video Tutorial
  • Length: 8:05
  • Media: Video/mp4
  • Use: Watch Online & Download
  • Access Period: Unrestricted
  • Download: MP4 (iPod compatible)
  • Size: 86 MB
  • Posted: 07/01/2009

This lesson was selected from a broader, comprehensive course, Public Speaking. This course and others are available from Thinkwell, Inc. The full course can be found at The full course covers getting started, preparing a speech, presenting the speech, audience considerations, types of speeches, small group communication, and more. The course features three renowned professors: Jess K. Alberts of Arizona State University, Brenda J. Allen of the University of Colorado at Denver, and Dan West of Ohio State University.

Jess K. Alberts is a professor of communication at the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication at Arizona State University, where she was Director from 1995 until 2004. She currently serves as Director of the Conflict Transformation Project and is an associate with Project for Wellness and Work-life. Her research appears regularly in academic journals, and she recently co-authored “Human Communication in Society”. Undergraduates at Arizona State honored her classroom teaching skills with a "Last Lecture Award," and she has twice been a finalist for Professor of the Year at ASU. A nationally known speaker on interpersonal communication, Professor Alberts has given numerous presentations across the country on humor, conflict, and developing and maintaining a passionate life.

Brenda J. Allen is departmental chair and a professor of communication at the University of Colorado at Denver and Health Sciences Center, where she teaches organizational communication. She has published numerous articles and book chapters on organizational communication and diversity and she serves on the editorial boards of several communication journals. In 2004, she authored the book “Difference Matters: Communicating Social Identity”. While at the University of Colorado at Denver and Health Sciences Center, she has been recognized with the First Annual Award for Outstanding Achievement for Commitment to Diversity and she received the Francine Meritt Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Lives of Women in Communication from the Women’s Caucus of the National Communication Association. Professor Allen is frequently invited to speak at community and professional events.

Dan West is the John A. Cassese Director of Forensics at Ohio University. Previously, he was a distinguished lecturer at Rice University, where he also acted as Director of Forensics. Under his direction, the team consistently placed in the top ten at national debate tournaments. While at Rice, Prof. West won the Outstanding Faculty Associate for Brown College (1999) and the award for Outstanding Teaching in the Humanities and Social Sciences (four times). He is well known for using his engaging speaking style in a variety of settings; his annual presentation of the Rice University Alcohol Policy to the freshman class was always a hit.

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When my daughter was born, I would be up with her after her 2:00 AM feeding, and I'd be rocking her to sleep or burping her, and I would get kind of bored. There's not much to do at two o'clock in the morning, so I'd watch TV. Now, if you've been up in the middle of the night, you realize there are not a lot of programs on at night, so I ended up watching a lot of infomercials. And I have to admit, after a few months of sitting in front of infomercials every night, I actually picked up the phone and called and ordered something.
If you've seen an infomercial or bought something, you are not alone. Infomercials are everywhere. In fact, infomercials are one of the fastest-growing industries in the United States. Think about this for a second. In 1985 there were 2,500 infomercials per month. Wow! That's a lot of infomercials. But wait, there's more. In 1999 there were 21,000 infomercials per month. According to the Infomercial Monitoring Service, in 2000 between 230,000 and a quarter of a million half-hour infomercials aired on 150 cable networks and more than 2,000 broadcast affiliates per month. Six hundred fifty new half-hour infomercials were produced in 2000 alone. Infomercials are shown on over 90 percent of television channels.
Okay, sure, we've all seen them, but what exactly are infomercials? Infomercials are also known as long-form direct-response TV, or DRTV. An infomercial can run from two minutes in length to the typical length of 28 and a half minutes. Infomercials sell products directly to you, the viewer. Now you may wonder why we're talking about infomercials in public speaking class. Well, consider this. All infomercial varieties are designed to entertain and explain by merging selling and entertainment. Wait a minute! Wait a minute! You may not realize it, but infomercials are also an extremely effective example of persuasive speaking. Infomercials rely on many of the same tools that you'll be using to craft your own persuasive messages.
Remember, persuasive speeches are designed to influence. Persuasive speeches have many goals, including urging an audience to action. Well, infomercials assert their influence to persuade an audience to purchase a particular product. Let's take a closer look and locate these persuasive techniques we've been discussing by looking at one particular infomercial. This one is one of my favorites. It's for the fabulous Flowbee haircutting system. Well, first, infomercials present a proposition intended to urge an audience to action. Let's take a look.
At just $79.95 your Flowbee can pay for itself in just a few haircuts. Look, if a family of four spends $8.00 each every four to five weeks on haircuts, that's $32.00, which means your Flowbee could pay for itself in just two to three months.
That clip illustrates a common tool used in infomercials, appealing to an audience's financial concerns. It shows the audience how the product is valuable to them or could save them money. Infomercials do more than just appeal to audience's pocketbooks, though. They also appeal to other common motivations, like self-actualization or safety--you can't cut yourself with a Flowbee--or health or, even, appearance.
As a businessman, I always have to be well-groomed and have my hair looking good. So after watching my son-in-law cut his hair a couple of times, I decided to buy one for myself. I'm really pleased with the Flowbee. It's the same haircut every time. I used to go to a hair salon, a stylist. The cost was $30.00, I had to travel about a half hour on the freeway, and often more as not he was booked. This gave me a way to do my own hair and have it exactly the way I wanted it.
Infomercials often rely on ethos to appeal to audiences. Remember, ethos are persuasive techniques that uses the speaker's own credibility or positive image to get an audience to do or believe something. Infomercials may feature celebrities or experts, such as scientists or inventors, using appeals to ethos or authority.
Infomercials may also appeal to an audience member's need to belong or to fit in by using the studio audience. You may see enthusiastic studio audience members or audience members asking questions and appearing amazed by the answers or an initially skeptical audience that is won over and excited about learning about the value of this product.
Well, this format can also use an intimate chat setting, usually staged in a homey environment; you know, a group of friends sitting around chatting about the product in a home-like setting. Appeals to pathos are often sprinkled into the infomercial, too. Pathos is persuasive techniques appealing to emotions, so this may include discussions about how the product has changed or improved a user's life. Let's see how the Flowbee has improved this woman's life.
We have Gabrielle here with us, and she's been using her Flowbee for a couple of years. I imagine you saved a few bucks. What do you think?
Oh yes, certainly. I usually go about every three or four weeks to have my bangs trimmed.
That's at least a couple hundred dollars you've saved then.
Yeah. It usually costs me about ten dollars each time I go.
So how do you cut your hair? With the Flowbee?
I put my hair back in a rubber band, and then just take this and cut it to around three inches all the way around the front.
And you do it yourself?
Uh huh, yeah.
No appointment necessary?
Twelve o'clock Sunday night?
Yeah, that's the best thing about it. It's so easy and quick and simple to use.
I think everybody can see why Gabrielle likes her Flowbee. What if I was to take your Flowbee from you?
Oh no, Rick. Take my husband, take my kids, but don't take my Flowbee.
An infomercial's most important task is to explain the benefits of the products. The explanation often uses appeals to logos, peppered with appeals to ethos and pathos. Remember, logos are persuasive techniques using rational appeals based on facts. Often, infomercials muddle the distinction between entertainment and sales by going to commercial breaks within the infomercial. Well, remember, the goal of many persuasive speeches is to urge an audience to action, so infomercials use calls to action to achieve their goals. The one to three calls to action in an infomercial will do the following things: They will first of all be about two minutes in length each, and they'll review the product's main features; they will also discuss the benefits of the product; they might mention a guarantee and offer warrantee information; and, of course, they offer payment information. Let's take a look at one of these calls to action in the commercial within the infomercial about the Flowbee.
We're so positive you're going to love your Flowbee precision hair-cutting system that it comes with a 30-day money back guarantee. You have absolutely nothing to lose! And if you act now, you'll receive absolutely free this Flowbee multiple-style-and-technique video. A $14.95 value, yours free for ordering right now. Call the toll-free number on your screen and start saving money by getting great-looking haircuts at home. It's easy to learn, fun to use! Get your Flowbee now!
I love my Flowbee!
Still not convinced that infomercials are effective persuasive speeches? Well, consider this example. A 30-minute ad for a hand mixer costs $125,000 to produce, and it generated $55 million in sales. Not a bad return on the investment. According to a 1996 survey, 38 percent of Americans, including me, have purchased something from an infomercial at some time.
So, remember that persuasive speeches are not limited to your classroom, and certainly infomercials aren't the only familiar concepts that we could discuss. We could talk about advertising in editorials and newspapers and political addresses, which all rely on persuasive techniques similar to the ones you'll be using in your speeches. Watch the way persuasion is used in these everyday examples, and maybe, just maybe, you'll pick up on some effective tools for your own speeches. Or maybe you can just Flowbee your way to happiness and success.
Types of Speeches ! The Ethics of Persuasion [page 4 of 4]
Persuasive Speaking in Action: Infomercials
Copyright © 2001, Thinkwell Corp. All Rights Reserved. 83064/8/02
Types of Speeches ! The Ethics of Persuasion [page 1 of 4]
Persuasive Speaking in Action: Infomercials
Copyright © 2001, Thinkwell Corp. All Rights Reserved. 83064/8/02

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