The Kairos Defintion - Featured - StudioBinder

Want to make more persuasive videos? Whether you’re producing a commercial, launching a campaign, or developing content strategy, you need to know how to win over your audience. How? It all comes down to timing.

One of today’s most relevant “advanced techniques” is the concept of kairos, or acting at the opportune moment. In this post, we’ll give you a kairos definition, useful kairos examples, and a firm grasp of lofty concepts. Get ready to hone your timing to make stronger advertising videos.


1. Understanding kairos rhetoric

Grab your audience in the right way, at the right time. Kairos is all about adapting your strategy and timing your approach, often by orchestrating an opportunity to make your point.

We’ll define kairos in a moment. First, let’s look at an overview of Aristotle’s rhetorical triangle.

Consider the full triangle when creating content of any kind. You'll make more compelling TV commercials, digital content, and videos if you get these down pat.

These techniques also go by other terms: rhetorical appeals, persuasive strategies, and modes of persuasion.

Inspiring Ads and Commercials - Ethos Pathos Logos Triangle

What is kairos? It’s a persuasive technique that fits into the ethos, pathos, and logos pyramid

A compelling argument, pitch, or advertisement ideally uses elements of all three main strategies. You'll also want to involve the “hidden” strategies of kairos and telos.

Ethos is used to convince an audience by offering reliability, honesty, and credibility. In practical terms, this usually means an authority figure or celebrity endorsing a product or brand.

An ethos-filled strategy would include famous people or experts in their field. These people would persuade the audience based on authority or superior social status.

Pathos aims to convince viewers by evoking an emotional response. The response can be positive, such the joy you would feel if you bought, say, a snazzy new pair of pants. It can be a negative, as in, “Ouch, my knee, I need a pill to feel better.” And how about guilt? “Adopt this fluffy kitty before it’s put to sleep.”

A pathos-filled strategy would elicit pity, energy, or even make a viewer choke up. It appeals to compassion and feeling.

Logos appeals to logic and reason by using statistics, facts, and figures. Aristotle considered this an appeal to the rational mind.

A logos-filled strategy would contain data, charts, graphs, and an almost academic or scientific level of logic and reason.

This video breaks down the three primary rhetorical techniques.

The kairos definition hides within ethos, pathos, and logos

Now that you’ve got an overview, we’ll open the vault to explore kairos. We’ll specifically look at kairos examples in digital media, commercials, and advertising.

In Aristotle’s era, ancient Greeks used the word “chronos” to refer to chronological time (e.g., a timestamp or the march of time).

In contrast, the word “kairos” signifies the proper or optimal moment to take action. To strike while the iron is hot.

Check out the kairos rhetoric definition below.


What is kairos?

Kairos comes from the Greek for “right time,” “opportunity,” or “season.” Kairos rhetoric considers the timeliness of an argument or message, and its place in the zeitgeist. Modern Greek also defines kairos as “weather.” A kairos appeal depends a great deal on knowing which way the wind blows.

For example, a commercial starring Justin Bieber in 2010 might be more effective than a commercial starring Justin Bieber in 2019. Also, a Pampers ad starring John Legend, Chrissy Teigen, and Adam Levine might make more sense for the brand than, say, a Pampers ad starring Woody Allen.

What does kairos mean?

  • Appropriate tone, structure, and timing of an appeal
  • The consideration of time, setting, and place

Now that the kairos definition is lodged in your skull, we’ll refine practical kairos meaning in the next section.

After all, the best way to answer the question, “What is kairos?” is by sharing effective, modern kairos examples.

Understanding rhetoric appeals

Explore Persuasive Techniques

Master everything about persuasive advertising in this multi-part guide.

EVERYTHING ABOUT Rhetorical appeals


2. Videos that use kairos

Kairos rhetoric fuels the best commercials, ads, and branded video content. It’s the crucial “where and when” of your message.

Maybe you’ve got a sweet idea for a commercial that’ll sell your product or brand. A tight 30-second piece that includes a lovable celebrity (ethos), an emotional hook (pathos), and relevant facts and specs (logos).

You write it, plan the shoot, and get it in the can. Everyone on your team agrees its a dynamite commercial.

Now what? Post it on YouTube? Email it to everybody?

Air it during the Super Bowl? Would buying time during the Oscars be a better fit?

Or maybe a gut-wrenching news story captures the world’s attention, and it would give your spot or product an unwanted flavor. If so, now might not be the right time to get your commercial out there. Maybe waiting until summertime, or the Christmas season, is the right play.

You can see how critical it is to include kairos in your content strategy.

Here’s a kairos example from 2011. It’s a Macy’s ad featuring Justin Bieber. At the time, he was the hottest new pop sensation.

Macy’s uses kairos rhetoric in a 2011 Black Friday commercial

It sums up the “Bieber Fever” that was sweeping the world in 2011.

Less than seven years later, Bieber appeared in a T-Mobile commercial that aired during the 2017 Super Bowl. Police officers used that commercial to stem drinking and driving — with great success. A department in Minnesota threatened to show the commercial to anyone caught driving under the influence. The result? No drunk driving arrests on the night of the Super Bowl.

No longer the fresh new pop sensation that he was in 2011, Bieber, by 2017,  had evolved into an unwitting crime deterrent. That “new star” smell had faded, and the kairos meaning of an ad with Bieber in 2017 differed from that in 2011.

For comparison, here’s the 2017 commercial. We won’t get upset if you can’t make it all the way through.

The kairos definition is all about timing

Another strong(-smelling) kairos example comes from Pampers.

In 2019, cultural norms were shifting. Dads changing diapers? No longer a bizarre sight.

Pampers captured this trend by featuring famous “new dads” John Legend and Adam Levine in a Super Bowl commercial. Levine’s band Maroon 5 even performed at that year’s Super Bowl Halftime Show.

Here’s the kairos example from Pampers. Notice that “mom” makes an appearance at the end by Legend’s real-life wife, Chrissy Teigen:

What is kairos? It’s dads changing diapers

This commercial illustrates the kairos rhetoric definition on three levels:

  1. It originally aired on one of the biggest commercial days of the year, Super Bowl Sunday. Well played, Pampers.
  2. It features the lead singer of the band that performed at that year’s Super Bowl Halftime Show. Precision-timed casting.
  3. It captures a cultural zeitgeist by showing dads changing diapers while mom is away. A nod to larger trends.

Also, this commercial hints that “dads changing diapers” isn’t a one-time fluke in the world of this story. Teigen asks at the end, “Must we do this every time?” Looks like dads change diapers a lot in these families.

To define kairos, we can also define summer.

In the next kairos example, Bacardi seizes the moment to launch a campaign that encourages consumers to, well, seize the moment.

The brand’s summer 2017 “break free” campaign featured a take on the popular Boomerang social media app. Viewers could vicariously break free from the time loop of everyday life to party for the summer.

Seize summertime, and seize Bacardi, with this kairos example

Learn and incorporate ethos, pathos, and logos to sharpen your video advertising sword. Then understand kairos so you can strike at the right time.

Lee Clow, chairman of TBWA\Media Arts Lab, says, “That’s always the goal — to do stuff that becomes part of the cultural conversation.”

You’ll wind up with more compelling content.

What does kairos mean? Knowing when to act.


3. Using kairos rhetoric to divert

Communicating unwelcome news or a product’s “fine print” can benefit from kairos rhetoric as well. Positive images and music, happy vibes, good times — they can all create a diversion while an ad slips in deep, dark truths.

Think of the conditions and legal terms of a contest you might hear announced in an ad on the radio. These are usually spoken by a different voice actor altogether, at a rushed pace, just before the ad ends.

Nothing to see here. Move along.

And how about prescription drug commercials?

In this kairos example, notice the misdirection. Pleasant music, an uplifting story, and a loving couple dominate. By the time we get to the warnings and side effects — including “death” — the distracted viewer ignores it. We’re already dancing.

Misdirection and diversions come into plan in certain kairos examples

By brushing unpleasant details under the rug, the makers of this video define kairos — wait for the right time to convey the information.

If you want to grab attention, the time it right. If you want to do the opposite, make sure to draw attention away before dropping the info you want to downplay.

Prescription drug commercials can be easy to parody. And just like real-deal commercials, truly great ones are a rarity.

Check out this hilarious prescription drug commercial from Saturday Night Live. It stars Amy Poehler, Kristen Wiig, and Tina Fey.

Kairos rhetoric patiently waits to mention any negative effects

Everything plugs along smoothly. Nothing unusual. After a while, though, the side effects rear their savage heads.

When you reveal material you hope to downplay in your own video advertisements, you can be a bit more delicate than this kairos example.

This SNL Annuale commercial does prove that good timing — the kairos definition — means a lot to comedy.

Understanding rhetoric appeals

Explore Persuasive Techniques

Master everything about persuasive advertising in this multi-part guide.

EVERYTHING ABOUT Rhetorical appeals


Master Persuasive Ads in 5 Steps

You’ve studied the rhetorical pyramid. You can recite kairos meaning verbatim. You’ve watched the kairos examples in this article.

Now up your video advertising game even further. Learn how to develop an idea that fits your brand, write a script, and shoot a commercial like a pro. Hatch your concept and make a persuasive ad right here.

Up Next: Make a Persuasive Commercial in 5 Easy Steps →
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