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Movie Analysis Essay Based on 'Thank You for Smoking'

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Before I dive into the actual analysis of ‘Thank You for Smoking’ the movie, I’d like to start with how this movie has changed my perception towards public relation professionals and their ability to use a model communication called persuasion as their secret weapon. ‘Thank You for Smoking’ is I think by far the best movie that explains this particular theory in a splendid way. It is well known to the people of the world – including the active smokers, that smoking is a not-so-good behavior to have. People who smoke know exactly that smoking is bad for their health but yet, they still smoke (Martin, 2019). From this movie, I got to watch and learn through the main character on how he can transmit one message and one message only even there are numbers of people and groups tries to debate him, his techniques and skills of negotiation and not to mention his eagerness to explore more about it; it’s what I like the most from this movie. His skill and technique in turning and twisting issues around, smudging the distinctions between negotiation and argument is masterful, clever and classy.

In the simplest way, persuasion means trying to influence the way someone thinks or behaves. According to persuasion theory, the communication process consists of a three-phase model (communication – attitudes – behavior), and the concept underlying persuasion is that information that’s transmitted through a message of communication is provided to influence the intended receivers’ behaviors (McLeod, 2018). Along with that, persuasion is can also be used to reducing the resistance of the targeted market. When an audience opposition to the communicator’s view is moderate it is possible to move an audience from a negative position to a neutral one (McLeod, 2018). This one particular purpose of persuasion is often executed by asking only to accept the validity of the communicator’s opinion, even if the audience doesn’t endorse it (Hogg, 20015).

This movie has done such a great job on explicitly explain how persuasion theory, which is amazingly delivered through Aaron Eckhart acting, can change people’s behavior without changing their mind. And this is where I find myself admire the art of persuasion. According to one of the four theoretical approaches of persuasion theories which is attitude-behavior approaches, one of the underlying assumptions about the link between attitudes and behavior is that of consistency (Schrader & Lawless, 2004). This means that we often or usually expect the behavior of a person to be consistent with the attitudes that they hold.

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The principle of this approaches reflects the idea that people are rational and attempt to behave rationally at all times and that a person’s behavior should be consistent with their attitudes (Schrader & Lawless, 2004). And while this principle might be very convincing, it is also clear that people do not always follow it. Sometimes, behaving in seemingly quite illogical ways; for example, drugs using and smoking cigarettes and knowing that smoking causes lung cancer and heart disease. The core of this movie messages is Nick Naylor has used this approach repeatedly every time he becomes the spokesperson for his company Big Tobacco. Even though people try to shove the fact that smoking caused cancer and other deadly diseases, Nick seems to tackle all of this statement by admitting that it is a true fact that his company might be selling the number one cause of lungs cancer, but yet his skill and technique in turning and twisting issues around, smudging the distinctions between negotiation and argument is masterful.

Correlated to the theories that are learned in strategic communication research and planning, Naylor’s technique strives to exclude the frontal attack since he is fully aware that any direct argument that point-blank support smoking will not be welcomed by his audience. Instead, he skillfully fails to deal with the issue and conversely diverts the center of attention to an individuals’ libertarian principle concerning the right to make an informed and personal decision to smoke. He is boldly admitting the real fact and speaks out the truth in a charming honesty, stating that it is indeed consuming tobacco is harmful to public health. And at the same time, he has successfully talked his way out and ensuring the public that all is well and even remind them to also count in another factor fact that also should be incorporated with this issue which is; when someone is smoking, the activity and all of the possible outcome from it is their personal choice

This movie is again well related to one of the cognitive processing models called the heuristic-systematic model (HSM). This model is a model of communication introduced by Shelly Chaiken and it’s trying to explain how human communication can not only receive the message but also be affected by it (persuade). In this movie, Naylor even tried to bargain with the one that has a big influence on smoking behavior, the face of Marlboro. He was well aware that if this man speaks to the public especially to those who actively smoke, it will affect his company. HSM also assumes that some groups of people are ‘cognitive misers’ which means that they might be unwilling to engage in highly active, conscious processing of persuasive message content unless it is really necessary (Steginga, K. 2004). Although to be honest, this particular message isn’t my favorite part of this movie, but I think it is still doing a fine job on trying to visualize on how strong an influencer opinion can be to their audience.

In conclusion, Naylor passion, character and imagery sum up his qualities that are necessary to carry out a successful communication campaign. He combines strategies that aim at concealing the truth from the audience, but are cautionary in nature. As such, the free will that Naylor creates, entice individuals to make a choice that is in favor with tobacco smoking. Consumers are assumed to be rational and as such, they make informed and satisfactory decisions. The decisions are guided by personal judgment and knowledge. The film brings an indication that individuals are fed with the communication and they are left to make evaluation of the information that is available. As a result, media on a day-to-day basis execute their role in persuading audience to buy their idea. All in all, when ethos is incorporated with pathos together with imagery the audience, especially the American people, is well attended for, hence they are persuaded. The film also employed the ELM and EPPM frameworks in order to understand the process of persuasion. The film also capture audience feeling that they understand the mass media is playing with their insecurity and vanity, however they sound so attractive. As a result, audience feels like smoking as a tribute to buy their right to choose.


  1. Hogg, M., & Vaughan, G. (2005). Introduction to Social Psychology. Social Psychology (4th edition). London: Prentice-Hall.
  2. McLeod, S. A. (2018). Attitudes and Behavior. Retrieved 29 March from
  3. ‘Rhetorical Analysis: Thank You for Smoking’. Portfolio, 10 Dec. 2009. Retrieved 29 March from
  4. Sang, Yoonmo. (2019, March 29). Persuasion Theories II. Lecture. Presentation presented at the lecturing of Strategic Communication Research and Planning in Canberra, Australia.
  5. Schrader, P.G. & Lawless, Kimberly. (2004). The Knowledge, Attitudes, & Behaviors Approach How to Evaluate Performance and Learning in Complex Environments. Performance Improvement.
  6. Steginga, K.; Occhipinti, S. (2004). 'The Application of the Heuristic-Systematic Processing Model to Treatment Decision Making about Prostate Cancer'. Med Decis Making. 24 (6): 573–583. doi:10.1177/0272989X04271044. PMID 15534339.
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