Spinning Science


Science is commonly used in advertisements to instill a sense of trust in potential customers. However, these vague scientific claims may result in the company facing unwanted criticism.  L’OREAL Paris was sued for falsely advertising that their product was capable of positively altering the genetic code of the consumers. Companies appeal to the consumer’s mindset by adding “scientific” claims into their advertisements. Consumers are inclined to trust in “scientific facts”, thus, playing on society’s fears of bad products, companies make scientific claims in order to make their product seem more reliable. Neutrogena, as a brand, makes the claim of being “#1 Dermatologist Recommended.” Most of their products, besides being “#1 Dermatologist Recommended,” also have their own scientific claims about quality and/or effectiveness. The ability of a company to manipulate consumers by using science in their advertisements blatantly utilizes rhetoric to target certain audiences, situations, and emotions.  Companies use targeted rhetoric in advertisements in order to manipulate potential consumers into investing in their product.



Young adults make up the majority of Neutrogena’s target audience for this advertisement. By claiming to be “maximum strength dermatologist-recommended,” Neutrogena is appealing to the consumer’s need for credibility. If a doctor that studies skin for a living recommends it, it has to be good. Neutrogena’s claims of an “uplifting blast” and “a pick-me-up” appeals to emotion by making their product sound like something you should want to use for the way you will feel after. Neutrogena directly targets the emotions that most young-adults seek in their lives. Not only will their product make you feel great, but it will also eradicate your acne. Unfortunately, this advertisement does leave some room for scrutiny. Their claim that “Neutrogena is recommended most by dermatologists” appears ambiguous and missing evidence. There is a sense of fictitiousness about this claim because of the lack of comparisons to other brands or numerical rankings by dermatologists; however, this part of the advertisement only takes up a small portion so Neutrogena likely did not think it was as important as the rest of the advertisement.




The biggest part of the advertisement, the product itself and the grapefruit next to it, make potential customers think that their product is natural and clean. The “action-shot” of the splashing water reminds me of commercials that portray actors splashing water on their face to wash it. Water, as a symbol has many meanings most importantly: renewal, life, and purification. Purification is a quality many consumers are seeking when they search for an acne treatment. Neutrogena wants the pure water to represent what a user could achieve after using their product. Renewal and life are less important but important none the less. Neutrogena attempts to say, through their use of pure water in their advertisement, that your skin will be renewed and have a rejuvenated life. Neutrogena made this the largest part of the advertisement because it says the most by saying the least. It communicates to the audience through symbolism and implied meaning unlike any of the other parts.



The second biggest part of the advertisement, the logo and accompanying slogan, ensures audiences know which company will renew and purify your skin. Putting the logo at the bottom makes it the last thing you see and therefore the thing you remember best. Neutrogena wants to make sure that when potential consumers see this add, they will walk away thinking about how Neutrogena will purify their skin. Their hope is that you will see that they are “#1 Dermatologist Recommended” and begin to associate Neutrogena with a credible skin-care company.

When selling a product, it is pivotal to build a relationship with the consumer. An effective company-consumer relationship is built on trust, credibility, and usefulness. This advertisement is effective at building a sense of credibility for Neutrogena and their Oil-Free Acne Wash because of its use of rhetoric. The advertisement gives viewers a sense of effectiveness through Neutrogena’s use of water to portray purification. Finally, after considering the advertisement for some time, a sense of trust in Neutrogena forms. The trust is established because Neutrogena makes claims about being “#1 Dermatologist Recommended” and “maximum strength dermatologist-recommended acne medication.” If Neutrogena had not built a sense of credibility, there would have been no chance of a trusting relationship. Their advertising appears to be working. They are ranked sixth best cosmetics brand by Brand Finance. We will have to see how they fare in the coming years.



The choice to use the Neutrogena advertisement was difficult but important. It did not make any explicit statements utilizing science; however, it was obvious to me that Neutrogena had targeted a specific audience and tailored their rhetoric to appeal to that audience. Using a photo essay, I was able to examine the specific pieces of the advertisement for their rhetorical purpose. The most challenging aspect of the analysis were the individual aspects of rhetoric. Separating each aspect of the advertisement into one category proved to be difficult. I was particularly surprised by the difficulty of the analysis. I felt that each aspect of the advertisement was multidimensional and could be put into multiple categories. The most rewarding part of the analysis was finishing the analysis because it was so difficult to complete. I chose my images because I felt they were the three most important elements of the entire advertisement. I hope my audience learns that they must analyze every advertisement they see because it was designed to appeal to them without analysis.