Public Service Announcement: Anti-smoking Campaign

Various entities can produce advertisements that attempt to change the way one thinks about a particular phenomenon, activity or policy.

Generally, these are prominent in political debates around election season. I discuss a certain kind of public service announcement in another chapter, because it pertains more to a different attribute than narrative. The example I provide in this chapter focuses on narrative as a persuasive strategy. However, unlike the Friedman narrative, it is used to invoke fear in the viewer.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) produces a series of commercials/public service announcements known as “Tips From Former Smokers™” that target smokers or those considering smoking toward discouraging such activity. The narratives call attention not only to possible health consequences, but also to the indignities and pain related to treatments associated with those effects. In each commercial a former smoker shares their own narrative about the connection between the particular ailment and smoking, and then they talk about the treatment they receive for it.

One such narrative is that of Marlene, a 68-year old woman who began smoking in high school and now suffers macular degeneration related to her smoking. She talks about this background in the particular commercial. She receives medication for her condition via a shot in her eye, and she describes this experience. The announcement appears in both print and television. Both feature images of her preparing to receive a shot in the eye with an image of the needle in the background. This, of course, applies the attribute of visual dominance, but it does so in a way different from that of the law firm commercial. It focuses on fear and pain—eliciting fear in the amygdala. The amygdala wants to preserve the person, and the hippocampus will help the viewer recall memories of shots and pokes in the eye that were painful. This is all re-enforced through the visual images the viewer sees. The print ad (Figure 5.1) represents this image as she is about to receive the shot.

As with the law firm commercial, television also facilitates temporal synchronicity, intermodal redundancy, and modal filtering. We hear Marlene’s story as we see her experiencing treatment. The visual image of her receiving the shot in the eye filters the viewer’s focus to that particular experience. She encourages the viewer not to end up like her because, “it’s horrible.”

This narrative also engages mirror neurons as well as reward neurons, though in very different ways than the previous example. The commercial applies several concepts from the model as well. Again, visual dominance, prior experience, and intermodal redundancy are prominent. The viewer sees her experience with the treatment, and most people would understand the pain associated with any shot from their own experiences. Some may understand what it is like to be poked in the eye; so, the viewer is especially empathetic as we see her receive the shot. Visually and through audio narration the message is re-enforced; so, multiple modes are used to effect a response.

Marlene Advertisement. Courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 2015 Tips From Former Smokers™ campaign

Figure 5.1 Marlene Advertisement. Courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 2015 Tips From Former Smokers™ campaign.

The viewer does not want to end up like her; we do not want to mirror that experience and experience the consequence associated with that particular eye disease which may be caused by smoking. So, mirror neurons and reward neurons are engaged in a negative way.

< Prev   CONTENTS   Source   Next >