Home > george mason university > You can be played with Visual Rhetoric

You can be played with Visual Rhetoric

(Note: this is from a presentation for ENG 611,  Studies in Rhetoric, taught by Professor Widerhold at George Mason University, Fairfax, VA, and is slated to be delivered on 10/22/08).

Summary: This story I examined was The Force of Callas’ Kiss – The 1997 Apple Advertising Campaign, “Think Different” by Ronald E. Shields.  Ronald Shield, the author, explored  – Apple’s “Think Different” ad campaign from many rhetorical angles, including the grammatical error in the “Think Different” slogan, which would read as “Think Differently” if it were grammatically correct. However, it can come across in many ways: as a command, as a meta comment (Apple is commenting on its ability to think differently by thinking different instead), or as a organization so close to the bleeding edge of technology and innovation that it creates its own rules in that world and the world of using language.

The author also explored the content of the video, exploring the images chosen and the audiences that they were expected to resonate with. He drew parallels between the montage of images and the gestalt in the mind of the viewer that the Think Different ad created – versus the strategy used by Sergei Eisenstein of making images function rhetorically by deploying colliding images to create deliberate perceptual dissonance.

However, I found it difficult to derive meaning from the article without viewing the video. The original “Think Different” ad is published on Youtube, including versions in at least six languages (Japanese, Italian, German, French, Spanish, and Portuguese). Assuming that you will also benefit by watching the video, and then discussing them, let’s get started. 

To try to eliminate Visual Rhetoric, we will scan the text transcript of the TV ad. Then we will view the TV ad itself, and then a short video on the making of the “Think Different” ad.  We will rate our reaction to each viewing – so please keep track of your reaction to each one so you can determine how and which rhetoric works most or least effectively on you.




Please quickly scan this transcript of the TV ad and note your reaction, below.




Albert Einstein

Here’s to the crazy ones

Bob Dylan

The misfits. The rebels.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

The trouble makers.

Richard Branson

The round pegs into square holes. The ones who see things differently.

John Lennon and Yoko Ono

They’re not fond of rules.

Buckminster Fuller

And they have no respect for status quo.

Thomas Alva Edison

You can quote them

Muhammed Ali

Disagree with them, glorify

Ted Turner

Or vilify them

Maria Callas

About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them

Mahatma Gandhi

Because they change things

Amelia Earhart

They push the human race forward

Alfred Hitchcock

And while some might see them

Martha Graham

As the crazy ones

Jim Henson

We see genius

Frank Lloyd Wright

Because the people who are crazy enough

Pablo Picasso

To think they can change the world

Unidentified young girl

Are the ones who do

Apple Logo

“Think Different”


What was your reaction? Circle one, below and also note any questions you had.

  1. I loved it – Positive
  2. I liked it – Mildly interested
  3. Didn’t care either way – Not interested at all
  4. Disliked it – Negative
  5. Hated it – Very Negative
  6. Other:



Okay, are you ready? Now we will watch Apple’s TV ad “Think Different” video, once again record our reactions afterwards.



On YouTube




What was your reaction? Circle one, below and also note any questions you had.
I loved it – Positive
I liked it – Mildly interested
Didn’t care either way – Not interested at all
Disliked it – Negative
Hated it – Very Negative




Okay, are you ready? Let’s watch The Making of the “Think Different” ad and record our reactions


On YouTube


Note: stop at 1:56, and advance to 2:05



What was your reaction? Circle one, below and also note any questions you had.

I loved it – Positive

I liked it – Mildly interested

Didn’t care either way – Not interested at all

Disliked it – Negative

Hated it – Very Negative




Quote for this presentation:  “The projections of the dialectic system of things into the brain, into creating abstractly, into the process of thinking, yields: dialectic methods of thinking; dialectical materialism—Philosophy (45).” Eisenstein, Sergei. A Dialectic Approach to Film Form,” Film Form: Essays in Film Theory.


In classical philosophy, dialectic (Greek: διαλεκτική) is controversy: the exchange of arguments and counter-arguments respectively advocating propositions (theses) and counter-propositions (antitheses). The outcome of the exercise might not simply be the refutation of one of the relevant points of view, but a synthesis or combination of the opposing assertions, or at least a qualitative transformation in the direction of the dialogue. Wikipedia.

Discuss what you felt during the reading of the ad’s text, compared to viewing the ad itself, and then finally how you felt after watching the final video.





Discussion of quote and meaning behind it

Sergei Eisenstein felt that a dialectical collision of images forces the viewer to resolve the conflict and to drive a meaning not implicit in any of the individual frames.


This dialectical collision also acts in concert with the Gestalt psychology principles of perception: we are compelled to make meaning of what we sense (see, hear, touch, taste, feel).


If we can not make meaning, we experience a certain kind of uneasiness known as cognitive or perceptual dissonance. To eliminate this discomfort, we are compelled to process information in a way that forces meaning on it, in an attempt to understand it, that feels best to us. 


Both Eisenstein’s and Gestalt perception theory presents visual media specialists with an easy way to enter our unconscious mind.  They will create the mixed messages and we will subconsciously attempt to make sense of the confusing messages because we must understand incoming stimuli and reduce dissonance.


Another quote:  Art frequently exploits the perceptual dissonance between what is seen and what is recognised.  The degree of disparity between the form and what it suggests determines the degree of dissonance.




  1. April 15, 2009 at 10:04 am

    Not that I’m totally impressed, but this is a lot more than I expected for when I stumpled upon a link on SU telling that the info here is awesome. Thanks.

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