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Lauren Hammer October 16, 2012 The Rhetoric of Exploitation Texting while driving.

This issue has been smothering this generation lately, but with just cause. Teenagers feel that they are invincible and can expertly master anything in little time; multitasking included. With the new freedom of driving thrust upon them, it is frequently abused. AT&T, a major cellular provider, is raising awareness and doing so in a captivating way. Recently AT&T has been congesting several television channels, ones most commonly viewed by adolescents, with a heart-wrenching, arguably uncomfortable commercial featuring a victim of the dangers of texting while driving. The 30-second commercial features a survivor, named Wil Craig, with a severe traumatic brain injury. Although short, this commercial leaves a lasting impact and stresses responsibility behind the wheel. AT&T plays off the emotions of the audience, evoking sympathy through Wil Craigs experience while also raising a sense of pity by seemingly manipulating his life struggles. As this victim talks about his injury, AT&T primarily utilizes pathos with ethical support and limited logos to convey this message.

Easily recognizable for the topic and heavily emotional perspective, this advertisement of a young mans experience with texting while driving is heavily pathetic based. Although companies obviously aim to leave an impact on the viewers through commercials whether it be a scare tactic or tear jerker, this one redefines this approach. AT&T utilizes a duel tactic to reach the audience with this commercial, instilling a feeling of sadness for this mans condition, but also exploiting his struggles through pity.

Many features of the notorious brain injury commercial are developed and emphasized with pathetic proofs, which are further supported by ethical evidence. The first distinct usage of pathos is portrayed with visual rhetoric. Wil Craig defines himself as a sufferer of a severe traumatic brain injury in the first few seconds and it is sadly apparent. Craig seems very responsive but has impaired motor skills. His speech is disjointed, almost hard to understand at times, and he appears to struggle with his words, talking at a slower pace. It is also obvious that he experienced optical damage during the accident, for he is slightly cross-eyed. These automatic observations generate sympathy from the viewing audience, as they feel for his situation. It is an automatic response to empathize with someone who is disabled or injured, especially in this sense. Another visual aid that displays pathos is the text message. Immediately, the audience is confronted with image of a man holding a blank piece of paper with the words Where r written in a plain black text. Before Craigs story is explained or he even identifies this as the text that changed [his] life forever, it arouses a feeling of dismay from its bleak display and also because of the evidently impaired man holding it. Although this scene does create an aura of melancholy, it draws on a feeling of pity. AT&T obviously used a marketing strategy to make the audience curious of this forlorn individual. They make Craig appear more as a means of getting a message across than a human with a legitimate story. AT&T takes another swing at the audience featuring Craig in an apparent physical therapy facility. In the room, there is a mat, a wheel chair, exercise balls, and several tables that allude to this location. Obviously, therapy facilities are shied away from because they are associated with an injury of sorts, manipulating the atmosphere to emphasize Craigs condition. However, the pathos of the setting is also supported by

ethos to a degree. It adds a sense of credibility to Craigs poor state and the legitimacy of the commercial. The final visual aid that certainly astounds the audience occurs as Craig is pictured struggling to take his shirt off. Although the action is entirely irrelevant to the commercial and overall message, AT&T uses this forced action to elicit a monumental amount of pity from the viewers. Pathos is also implemented in the script of the ad. Because this is mainly a testimonial from a victim of texting while driving, one can somewhat relate and be affected by the story. As Craig tells his experience, one cannot help but feel for him, also due to the fact that his girlfriend was the one at fault and he was merely a passenger. He also talks about fighting on and raising awareness. Ethos is also incorporated because he was involved in the accident and is living proof of the repercussions of texting while driving. Inversely, this wording is obviously targeted to move the audience toward sorrow. Commercials are more often than not scripted and generally diverge from a persons own account of the event. With lines like I just want to give up so badbut I cant it is hard to believe that the producer of the commercial did not have some input. This line is probably the most influential of the entire commercial and confirms AT&Ts obvious motive to stimulate commiseration in the audience. This point is also reinforced by ethos because this commercial is based on the perils of texting while driving and it is conveniently produced by a major cellular provider. At first, it appears that AT&T is making a valiant effort to raise awareness for the growing problem that is texting while driving, and they could be. But the credibility and ethics of this company should definitely be questioned as theyre main aim continuously appears to be subjecting the audience to pity for a real victim.

The music, or lack there of, is also a pathetic proof throughout this commercial. Having no music in the commercial accentuates the seriousness of the topic and places the focus on Wil Craig and his story. This heavy focus on his words and the message can be construed in two ways. First it can be interpreted as an amplifier of the sadness and woeful nature of the commercial. The topic of texting while driving is very prevalent today so it is extremely plausible that this was the goal of the choice to omit music. But as previously acknowledged, this could be another advertisement tactic of AT&T to mistreat this man and even the topic. Although pathos and ethos are the prominent means utilized in the texting while driving commercial, logos is present. Logos, referred to as the logical appeal, focuses on the clarity of the claim and the logic of its reasons. This advertisement, although distracting and possibly demeaning, does relate to the general theme of the dangers of texting while driving. Foremost, this advertisement is mainly a testimonial, which is an appropriate choice for the topic at hand. The fact that AT&T chose to display the actual text message was an immediate logical addition to the commercial. It reinforced Wil Craigs testimonial and added to the emotional appeal. Including the message also clarified the purpose of the commercial, other than a victims story. As over-done as it was, choosing to picture Craig struggling to put on his shirt added to the logistics of the commercial, as well. It proved he has a severe injury and, because of a single mistake, he suffers everyday. At the same time, this was a bit unnecessary and divergent from the topic, detracting from the logos and the overall organization of the ad.

This infamous commercial on texting while driving displays essential rhetorical proofs with heavy emphasis on pathos supported by ethos and also basic logos. Texting while driving is a hazardous phenomenon which people rarely contemplate the repercussions of such actions. It is questionable how successfully AT&T appealed to the audience and if they truly got the message across, but the story of Wil Craig is overwhelmingly moving and an effective communicator of this dangerous action almost to a fault. Although it can be viewed as exploitative, the commercial successfully induces feelings of sympathy and pity for this victim from the audience.