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Monday, 2 February 2015

Superbowl PSA is Effective and Genius

A PSA about domestic violence aired during the Super Bowl, and it has all the signs of being extremely effective.

In the advertisement a woman calls 911 and orders a pizza. The officer explains to her that she had called 911 and that they were not in the business of delivering pizzas. However, the woman keeps adding details to her order as if she does not understand the situation. After a while, the officer realizes what is happening: the woman is in an emergency situation and unable to talk about it. He asks her "is anyone in the room with you" and she answers "yes". At the end of the advertisement, he finally promises to send help.

There are so many great things about this PSA. For one thing, it aired during the most-watched television event of the year. Domestic violence has been an issue that has been ignored for far too long. Victims have a tendency to stay silent about their situation given all of the societal pressures we place on them to put up with violence, or worse yet, to blame themselves for their situation. As of right now, the issue has been raised in front of an audience of a hundred million people. Needless to say, this advertisement has sparked a great deal of discussion and millions of spectators around the world promise to continue the conversation long after the buzz dies down.

The advertisement is actually based on a true story, which you can read about here. An officer actually received a 911 call like this and the story has been circulating around the internet for some time now. To tell the story, the advertisement adds powerful imagery of what appears to be an ordinary house. After a while, we start noticing small details like a turned up carpet and a dent in the wall as the phone conversation becomes increasingly more ominous. Finally, the true message of the advertisement is revealed: "when it's hard to talk, it's up to us to listen". This message is central to the issue of domestic abuse. In many cases, it is incredibly difficult to remove yourself from an abusive partner. Therefore, it is our job to watch and listen closely to what the people in our lives are trying to tell us.

Finally, what makes the PSA so effective is how well it grabs your attention and manages to hold it right through to the conclusion. PSAs often rely on grotesque imagery or fear tactics to attract the viewer's attention. These ads are often ineffective because they are either hard to believe or off-putting enough to make you criticise the organisation rather than the issue the organization is raising. In contrast, this PSA presents an issue in an understated yet powerful message that no one can ignore.

As an advertising student, I admire what the NFL has been able to achieve with this PSA. Which brings me to my last point--it was a good move by the NFL to release this ad given all of the recent domestic abuse scandals that it's been a part of. Though I'm inclined not to forgive the NHL for ignoring domestic abuse for so long, I'm pleased to see that it's taken a step in the right direction. For now, the organization has done well to spread the word. However, as consumers, it's our job as to make sure that from now on, it "practices what it preaches". At all times, in any situation, we must keep a watchful eye if we ever hope to end domestic violence.

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