Think. Discuss. Act.

Review: The Pitch

Rank, H. (1982). The Pitch. Park Forest, IL: The Counter Propaganda Press.

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(Download The Pitch overview as a PDF)

This book is extremely helpful for training people to recognize and analyze different techniques of persuasion in advertising. Defining propaganda as “organized persuasion,” the author offers counter-propaganda against any professional persuader (hence, the principles in the book relate to multiple forms of propaganda-religious, political, or any “cause”). The basic premise of the book: all people are benefit seekers; advertisers are benefit promisers.

Rank defends his point, stating, “Advertising may not be the most important aspect of modern propaganda…” and yet “advertising analysis is the best starting point for a better understanding of ALL persuasion. Ads are often the best composition of our age, skillful combinations of purposeful words and images.” (p. 13)

The author adamantly subscribes that in his book, “Advertising is NOT seen as a conspiracy against the consumer, but as the corporation’s way of stimulating the demand for those products which can be supplied, efficiently, at a profit to the producer.” (p. 13) Thus, the book is not intended to be slanderous diatribe against advertising, but rather a tool to raise awareness.

The five-point pattern of analysis known as The Pitch is the main thrust of the book; the following describes the most common forms of persuasion in commercial advertising:

  • “Hi!”-ATTENTION GETTING, using physical, emotional, and cognitive means.
  • “Trust me!”-CONFIDENCE BUILDING via celebrity, friend, or authority figures. These people are expert, sincere, and benevolent.
  • “You need!”-DESIRE STIMULATING, focusing on a specific human need or desire.
  • “Hurry!”-URGENCY STRESSING through commands that emphasize a time appeal or conditioning for later consumption.
  • “Buy!”-RESPONSE SEEKING, the final purpose of any ad; most effective if the response is made easy for the consumer.

The Pitch concludes with a quick reference guide to 39 categories of advertising, pointing out the most successful persuasion techniques and those most commonly used. For example, soft drink advertisements “intensify the good” about the product by

  • Repeating brand names.
  • Associating the item with human needs, such as relationships, sex, or an activity.
  • Highlighting the superiority or quantity of the product.

On the other hand, these ads “downplay the bad” effects of the product by

  • Omitting the disadvantages of drinking the product.
  • Diverting attention from health issues or other drink options.

Overall, this book provides valuable practical information and helpful insight into the world of advertising persuasion. Rank includes questions on the five-point “pitch” that can be readily used in group discussions.


  1. The basic rules of advertising are the same as people use when trying to persuade.
  2. Advertising has a strong and dominant place in American culture and easily grabs our attention.
  3. If society can admit that advertising understands individuals and groups better than we often understand ourselves, then we can learn from the techniques.
  4. Youth workers should take hints from advertising techniques and apply them to what they represent and are “selling” to the young people they work with, role model, or lead.
  5. The author wants this book to raise awareness. Is that not what youth leaders attempt to do for young people? A goal for any youth worker is to raise kids’ awareness of what is around them and what strives to control them.

Cindy Minnich & Anne Montague
© 2018 CYS

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