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Morganne Mallon

Rhetorical Analysis Essay
The familiar faces, the well-known names of notorious events, a dark setting and a
message backed by a horrifying subject matter. By implanting these devices, the Demand a Plan
to End Gun Violence commercial in ordinance with the Demand Action campaign successfully
draws in its audience to listen to the message of the advertisement, which encourages viewers to
support the campaign and ask of their local Congressmen to implement policy that would reduce
gun violence. While this may not be a traditional advertisement encouraging the audience to buy
a physical item, it is an advertisement nonetheless, one that is trying to sell a campaign and
politically charged idea and encourage an action in accordance with it. Through the use of dark
visuals, a somber tone, persuasive rhetorical devices, anti-gun violence ideology and the
commonplace that the audience is well aware of the recent mass shootings and realize it is time
to make a change, the Demand a Plan commercial effectively encourages audiences to follow in
suit of the celebrities they admire and support the campaign.
This advertisement is not necessarily trying to sell a product sponsored by a company but
instead advocate for a political campaign sponsored by an advocacy organization. The
organization is that of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a bipartisan coalition co-founded by New
York City mayor Michael Bloomburg and Boston mayor Thomas Menino, whose goals are to
convince Congress to pass more laws aimed at preventing gun violence. The commercial itself is
specifically an advertisement for the coalitions Demand Action campaign which rallies
supporters to petition Congress lack of action in preventing gun violence in the aftermath of the
mass shootings in Aurora, Colorado and Newtown, Connecticut in 2012. The advertisement was
first aired on December 21, 2012, only one week after the shooting in Newtown occurred. The
argument targets Americans of voting age and more specifically registered voters who would
have a stronger voice against Congress, in that they are responsible for the reelection or ousting
of Congressmen who are not supportive or accountable to the Demand Action campaign. While
neither the advertisement nor the campaign specifies what action is desired, it can be assumed
by the Mayors Against Illegal Guns policy efforts that the targeted audience is citizens in
support of the action being stricter gun regulation. The coalition is bipartisan and the co-
founders are of opposing parties, however, due to the advocacy of stricter gun regulation, the
audience targeted would mainly be citizens supporting liberal ideologies rather than more
conservative voters. In order to target this audience, the commercial utilizes popular actors and
actresses who would engage the audience, especially considering that the younger demographic
who would be more responsive to said celebrities are more likely to follow a more liberal
ideology. This commercial was aired as an ad prior to YouTube videos, another medium that is
more likely to attract a younger demographic.
The use of celebrities is the main visual element of the commercial, with each celebrity
standing front and center of each frame behind a blank background, their faces filling up the
majority of the screen in order to prevent any outside distraction. The simplicity of the
commercial is emphasized not only by the lack of props or gimmicks, but also by the fact that the
advertisement was shot entirely in black and white. Audio is similarly plain; the celebrities speak
in simple sentences, with some speakers utterly only one word. The audience is unable to remove
themselves from the words due to the lack of any background music or noise. The
straightforwardness that emotes from all areas of the commercial, in what the viewers see, hear,
and comprehend, truly prevents the audience from looking at or focusing on anything aside from
the speakers and their words. The straightforward manner in which the commercials information
is presented is utilized in order to emphasize the seriousness of the topic at hand and force
viewers to honestly listen and think critically about the point being made.
The aforementioned point of the commercial is to encourage the audience to think
critically about gun control in order to garner support for the Demand Action campaign. In order
to do this, the commercial begins with the celebrities naming off the sites of the most notorious
and deadly mass shootings in recent history, beginning with Columbine, which is the first
shooting to gain intense infamy in the media, and ending with Newtown, the most recent
deadly shooting at the time the commercial was made. Newtown is later repeated an additional
three times with the purpose of reminding the audience that this was not only one of the most
horrifying shootings but also the most recent and where the campaign believed the line needed to
be drawn. By tapping into major events in both history and the media without any explanation
aside from a few names, the commercial is hoping to disturb the audience by the fact that with
only one word, the majority of the viewers are immediately aware that the speakers are referring
to names of massacres so notorious and well known in the public eye that what were once
average cities, towns and schools have now been reduced to the violence that occurred in them.
The speakers go on to encourage the audience to ask themselves when the violence will cease
and tell their Congressmen enough by demanding a plan against similar violence in the future.
The tone of their voices begin somber and grim when describing the violence, later becoming
angered and demanding when prodding the audience to ask when the violence will end, and
finally ending the commercial with a more encouraging yet still challenging tone.
Through the simplistic visuals lacking life or color, the darkness of the subject matter and
the dismal way in which it is delivered, the commercial creates a serious and solemn tone in
order to emphasize the urgency of the subject at hand and the necessity of the audience to
demand a plan to prevent gun violence. The tone is further enhanced by the rhetorical devices of
pathos, logos and ethos. Pathos is used in both the naming of the shootings as well as the
description of why a person should join the Demand Action campaign as a mom, dad, friend,
husband, wife and American in order to appeal to the emotions that arise in a viewer when
thinking of the murders and who they effect. The descriptions of why a person should participate
in the campaign also appeal to logos by reminding the audience how future violence could affect
them as parents, friends, spouses and citizens of a country in which such mass shootings is so
common. The commercial taps into ethos by featuring familiar actors and actresses who the
audience enjoys and would most likely trust to be informing them about a campaign that is
credible and has a possibility of honestly making a difference.
The rhetorical appeals and overall tone of the commercial emphasize the necessity and
importance of a viewer obtaining and promoting this ideology. The commonplaces evoked are
the seriousness and negative emotion that the audience feels towards the mass shootings in recent
history and the agreement by the majority of the nation both that something must be done in
order to prevent future occurrences as well as that the government is responsible in some way for
whatever action this may be. This commonplace is accentuated by the insistence of the speakers
that the audience hold Congress accountable and quite literally demand from them some sort of
action. The Demand a Plan campaign created a highly successful commercial that is touching,
poignant and encouraging to its audience through its effective use of these rhetorical devices as
well as dark visuals, well known celebrities and an upsetting tone.