The following is a visual review of a one-minute long anti-texting-and-driving PSA by the Ad Council, titled “Put it Down.”  The video in question can be found here.

At the very beginning of the video, at 0:01, we see the scene of a young boy, perhaps six years old, in what appears to be a park, judging by the shovel, monkey bars, merry-go-round, and slide that are shown in the background.  The entire scene is drawn in the style of an amateur artist, with each black line segment on the white background being rather crude, but clear enough to make an obvious picture.  The boy is playing with a toy car.  Given the context of the PSA, this is an obvious case of foreshadowing.  The audience must immediately question if the young boy will be killed in a texting-while-driving-related accident, or if another character to whom we have not yet been introduced will meet an untimely demise.

Three seconds later, at 0:04, another boy of the same approximate age has joined the original, and is now seated to the right of the first boy.  He has a toy car of his own.  Both boys are smiling, and clearly enjoying themselves and the company of one another.  Again, the context of the PSA must be taken into consideration: which boy will die in an accident?  Or, to be particularly morbid, will both boys be killed?  For that matter, can anyone be certain that either boy will lose his life—what if more characters are brought into the story?

Only a second later, at 0:05, a disembodied arm appears from the left side of the screen, and motions for the first boy to come.  One assumes that it is the hand of a parent, perhaps a mother—the hand looks slightly feminine.  Each boy wears a sad expression upon his face.  At 0:06, the first boy is being dragged away as the boys happily wave goodbye, smiling to one another.  The audience may assume that the boys have formed a friendship, although there is nothing to suggest that they could not have been friends already.

By 0:12, the boys have each moved to separate sides of the screen.  The entire background is white, with a black vertical line splitting the center of the screen.  This serves to show that the boys are in separate locations, although they are in reality only a few pixels apart. They both appear to be slightly older than in the beginning of the video, perhaps around the age of twelve.  Each boy is smiling, looking slightly downwards, and each holds a phone in his hand.  Above the first boy, there is a speech bubble coming from the phone in his hand.  Inside the bubble, one sees the words “NEW TEXT MESSAGE” centered at the top.  Beneath this phrase, it says, “Hey, wanna come over and play some video games?”  It is unclear if the boy is sending or receiving the message, but the fact that each boy holds a phone is clear evidence that the two friends are having a conversation via text message.

Two seconds later, at 0:14, a similar speech bubble appears above the second boy, containing the words, “Sure, be over in a bit :)”.  Because of this, the audience can now determine that the first boy was in fact sending his text message, as it would not make contextual sense for the boy on the right to send a question and then the answer to his own question.  For three seconds, the divisive line disappears, and the boys are shown to be in the same location.  They sit on an unremarkable couch, facing the camera, presumably with a screen of some sort in front of them, although this cannot be seen by the audience.  Each boy holds a gaming controller of sorts.  After a brief sequence of the boys demonstrating some very animated facial expressions (excited ones from the left boy, and desperate ones from the right), both boys drop their controllers at 0:18 as the boy on the left throws his hands above his head with a joyous grin—a clear gesture of victory.  Conversely, the right boy is frowns and holds his right arm over his eyes, in an ashamed display of defeat.  After this, at 0:19, the boys stand, and the line appears.  Once again, the two boys appear to have aged, each looking to be around the age of 15 or 16.  It is evident that the friendship developed in the beginning of the story has lasted over the years.

At 0:22, the speech bubbles have returned, and the boys are once again separated on blank backgrounds.  The boys smile at their phones, as the left boy sends a text that asks, “Hey man, what time is practice today??”  The boy on the right responds at 0:24 with, “6:00.  See you then.”  While the text message seems brief and impersonal, the audience can assume that the boy is not angry with his friend, as both are smiling.  Rather, it can be assumed that the second boy is simply choosing to answer his friend’s question briefly.  At 0:25, the boys are shown to be in the same area once again—it appears to be a grassy field, which makes sense when considering the first boy’s earlier question.  From 0:25 to 0:28, both characters are wearing football uniforms and helmets, as the right boy throws a football to the left boy, who catches it.  Interestingly, the separating line in the middle is still present here, suggesting a more permanent divide between the boys.  Why is this?  What is to become of the two characters?

At 0:30, the boys have returned to their white backgrounds, and again seem to be older than in the previous sequence.  They each appear to be approximately 18 years of age.  The boys are both smiling at their phones, while the boy on the right asks via text message, “Wanna catch a movie with me and the guys tonight?”  At 0:32, the left boy replies with, “For sure, be there soon!”  Two seconds later, at 0:34, the boys have moved again.  The boy on the left is shown behind the wheel of a car, evidently on his way to his friend’s location.  The second boy leans against a wall, with his arms folded comfortably, awaiting the arrival of his lifelong friend.  While both are originally smiling, the boy on the right begins to frown at 0:35, slouches lower at 0:36 and by 0:38 has reached into his pocket and texted his friend, asking, “Are you coming??”  Meanwhile, the boy on the left is still in his car.

At 0:39, the driving boy looks down with a mildly interested facial expression, apparently having received his friend’s text message.  He reaches into his pocket, but then looks up in horror, as if seeing something that is not shown to the audience.  What is the matter?  Why is the boy frightened?  This question is soon answered at 0:40, as the boy’s side of the screen is suddenly filled with thick, dark, scribbly lines, and then becomes entirely black.  This is clear evidence of a car accident.  Recalling the original question at the beginning of the video, it now becomes clear that the toy car was foreshadowing the first boy’s own death due to texting while driving.

By 0:43, the remaining boy looks quite concerned, and he has taken his phone out of his pocket.  “Where are you?” asks the speech bubble above him.  At 0:45, he is standing up straight, no longer slouched against the wall.  He looks distraught, and a new speech bubble is coming from his phone.  “Are you okay?” it says.  He continues to stand, looking quite concerned.  By 0:47, the second boy’s side of the screen is also black.  This is clearly the most effective part of the video, as it shows a lifetime of friendship being destroyed in literally one second of real time, due to the careless acting of texting while driving.

The screen remains black for one second, and at 0:48, a simulated sequence is shown.  It depicts the yellow dotted lines of a road, moving towards the camera.  It is partially lit, as if by headlights.  This is a clear depiction of a first-person view from a car windshield.  In the center of the screen, the words “PUT IT DOWN.” can be seen in white letters.  At 0:51, the words are replaced by “SAVE YOUR LIFE.”  The road sequence continues for the rest of the video, as the url for replaces the command at 0:54, as well as the logos for the Ad Council, Project Yellow Light, N.O.Y.S.  The video ends at 0:59.

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4 Responses to Visual-Douglasadams525

  1. douglasadams525 says:

    Feedback was requested.

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    Liked by 1 person

  2. davidbdale says:

    Intro. 0:01
    What you say about foreshadowing is perceptive, DouglasAdams, but not quite accurate for the first viewing. Nothing on screen at the opening indicates that what’s being viewed is an anti-texting message, nor that it’s about driving. Certainly on repeated viewings, what you say is true and worth noting, but distinguish in your analysis what can be experienced by the first-time viewer from what can be known by repeat viewers.

    0:04 You’ve neglected to mention the most mysterious element of the early going here, Doug. That second boy doesn’t just “join” the first, he miraculously materializes from nowhere in a upward sweep of crude animation. Does that mean anything to the viewer, to the first boy? Is the second boy of the same order of reality as the first?

    0:05 I should acknowledge that although the ad was designed to be seen on television without a “title,” the fact that it can now be viewed on YouTube as part of a collection of Ad Council spots, complete with identifying tags to “spoil” the surprise, it can be known by viewers in advance that they are about to see an anti-texting-and-driving spot. In this way, the foreshadowing works, but against the intentions of the creators of the message. See?

    0:06. There is nothing to indicate that they weren’t already friends except the fact that one of them materialized from vapor, you mean. (Funny observation: both cars leave skid marks in the sand before they both go airborne.)

    0:12. I appreciate you analysis of the vertical line. (What does “splitting the center of the screen” mean?) That’s clever about not being able to tell who’s sending and who’s receiving the messages. Does it help to observe that neither boy is seen typing? (Is it just my weirdness wondering if a real boy is receiving imaginary texts from his imaginary friend? Is it a flaw in the presentation that I’m still considering this odd possibility that started with the materialization mentioned above?)

    0:16. Since you are alert to foreshadowing, I’m surprised you didn’t comment that sitting side by side on the couch is much the same visual we’d see if they were in the front seats of a car, one driving, one the passenger, except that in this case, they’re both, “driving.”

    0:25-0:28. Why is this, indeed? If there’s no clear explanation, should we consider the static line a flaw in the message? While we’re on the subject, what is the point of this additional narrative about football? Just another indication (yawn) that they do things together? How many of these do we need?

    0:30. New observation. Notice the moving thumb of the boy on the right as he texts. Can’t help but notice the driver is not wearing a shoulder belt. That can’t be good.

    0:39. Clear evidence to you of a car accident; I’m still wondering if he was the imaginary friend all along and has now slipped into oblivion. Just kidding mostly.

    0:43. Effective yes if the entire approach is effective. You haven’t said yet whether or why you consider the crude drawing approach to be a good or a bad rhetorical device. Can we begin to care about these two badly-drawn boys enough to feel the impact of their losses? What purpose is served by using stick figures instead of actors? Why does this spot last a full minute, compared to others with live actors that run just 30 seconds?

    0:47. Do we place blame for the needless death? Is that blame the driver’s entirely? Surely his “friend” killed him. Just kidding mostly. Why does the friend’s screen go black, if black means the death of the character? Just kidding mostly. We must wonder these things for at least a moment before rejecting our reactions as incorrect. Why do we conclude we were wrong? And does it spoil the effect that we wonder them at all?

    0:48. What you say is almost exactly right, but this is a clear depiction of the perspective of a person driving RIGHT DOWN THE MIDDLE OF THE ROAD at night. Yikes. I had this perspective as a passenger when my wife was driving our rental car in England. She couldn’t find her lane, and I spent a terrified hour straddling that center line. Think it could be significant?

    Nice work overall, DouglasAdams. Add thoroughness for your Rewrite.


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