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  • Dance in Advertising:The Silent Persuader
  • Carla Walter (bio)


As many consumers know, the "four p's" of price, product, place, and promotion are used by companies in their marketing strategies.i One of these p's, known as promotion, can be formulated when companies develop and deploy a comprehensive strategy to attract and to motivate consumers to action. Indeed, the emergence of what has come to be referred to as the integrated marketing communications plan (IMC) led to a focus on the systematic use of the promotional mix in tandem with persuasive communications.ii Advertising, of course, is one of those promotional mix elements that consumers are culturally familiar with, and companies nowadays usually have advertising objectives embedded within the IMC that tie back to a product's overall marketing strategy.

Within the advertising aspect of the promotional mix, which I will get into below, companies routinely and systematically deploy music as part of the creative aspect of radio, Internet, and television ads because it is a multifaceted and complex, yet subtle, way of getting consumers attention and motivating us to act. We all have songs we remember that whisk us away to the past and jingles we can reproduce that we associate with products. Because of these connections in our minds and the influence music has, it is used in business locations to encourage consumers to spend more money, to eat more food, or to control the amount of time spent in a particular space within commerce.

But people relate to more than music. Every society dances, and according to anthropologists the practice of dance is what is known as a "human universal."iii It takes only a moment to draw this realization into consciousness. At the same time, dance is a silent communication vehicle for individuals and societies, functioning at the level of meaning transference that has a lot do with social graces, ways of treating social groups and classes, and relating to political structures near and far.iv

Historically, as if dancing on a sine wave, one of the ways that professionals within advertising campaign management have increasingly appealed to consumers is not only through the use of music but also through dance. Producers too many to list here have extensively used dance in their television advertising over the course of the life of TV programming.v It seems though that there has recently been an explosion of dance in television, alluded to in print, on location, and Internet advertising. Adapting dance into advertising has been coupled, intentionally or unintentionally, with popular television shows that include competitive dance and athleticism, and of course movies that feature scenes with dance. As we move into a more technology-based society, dance appears more prevalently on the digitized

As such, this article examines some possible ways in which dance may attract and affect consumers through advertising. Three company's ads are referred to for this discussion: the Kia Soul, the Apple iPod, and T Mobile Cellular. I suggest that dance in ads is aesthetically pleasing and makes people feel a sense of awe. The argument is that dance used in a complex product's IMC plans affects consumer recall, attitude formation, and loyalty.

With this backdrop in mind, this article explains what dance is, gives theoretical background about dance as an anthropological and aesthetic phenomenon, and explains that dance is a way of knowing. Because of the place of dance within the human consciousness, I suggest that advertisers use dance as a silent form of persuasion. While this area of consumer behavior and advertising research is a newly emerging theoretical inquiry, the use of dance in persuasion is not. Advertising has used dance in connection with brands in many forms at least since the advent of television.vii Therefore, this article concludes by presenting an idea towards bringing this undertheorized area of persuasion out of the ephemeral and into the concrete.

From this gloss, I suggest that dancing as subject and objectviii has permeated American consciousness at this moment in time. How does one accomplish this? As an entryway into this field, for context, I give a bit of a background on dance studies and...