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Tori Thomas.

LA 101H.

Ben Henderson.

03 March 2011.

Rhetorical Analysis Essay.

“Right now, there’s an animal who needs you” Sarah McLaughlin claims in the 2006

commercial for the British Columbia (BC) SPCA. The commercial, two minutes long,

bombards the audience with pictures of abused cats and dogs in an effort to get.viewers

to donate for their noble cause of animal cruelty prevention. The commercial does

indeed use pathos and manipulate the audience into feeling one singular emotion –

despair. And that one emotion is the commercial’s goal. However, this despair doesn’t

lead to action and the animals are left hurting. The barrage of heart-breaking pictures

does make the audience feel sad and see the plight of the growing problem, animal abuse,

but it is not enough to compel them into taking action, and the distance created by the BC

SPCA and Sarah McLaughlin push the audience even farther from the commercial’s

unpleasant message.

The commercial primarily uses pathos in order to get their purpose of donations

across to the audience. However, perhaps the commercial goes too far. I remember

seeing this commercial several years ago and I nearly cried as I watched abused animal

after animal in anguish. But until this assignment, I have only seen this advertisment

once in its entirety. After my first viewing, I would change the channel as soon as I saw
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the first image. I have asked others about this commercial and they have had similar

reactions. The commercial may succeed in making the audience sympathize with the

animals, but it usually its too anguishing for a viewer to watch more than once..

There is also one singular animal scene. that the commercial wants the

audience to hone in on. Throughout the commercial, there is either Sarah McLaughlin

speaking or her song “Angel” playing. There is one moment, however, when an animal

is heard. Right after the words displaying the number of animals saved disappears from

the screen, the audience sees a dog attempting to walk after some. abuse has rendered

him immobile. As the dog attempts to walk, we hear it whimper, very softly. It is the

only animal sound heard.throughout the commercial and it helps the audience to not only

see the after effects of the abuse, but to hear it as well. The dog’s soft whimper only

further the sensory overload of the viewer.

This commercial is depressing. But isn’t animal abuse as well? The

advertisement also attempts to not only make you feel sad; it also tries to guilt you into

donating to there cause. After watching all of those animals in agony, at the very end of

the commercial, Sarah McLaughlin says “Right now, there’s an animal who needs you”

and it’s true. Not only does the commercial attempt to make you sad enough to donate, it

also tries to point a finger at you and say that if you fail to donate, this abuse will

continue and it will be your fault.

In a letter from the Vice President of Development the ASPCA, the American

chapter of the society, the Vice President states that since the Sarah McLachlan
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campaign, their revenue has doubled (Syfuy). Why now? The audience had to have

known about animal abuse, but then again, people like to distance themselves from

unpleasant thing, though only if it isn’t making the headlines.

Although the dogs may have suffered due to football star Michael Vick’s

gambling, organizations that raise money for animal abuse, like the SPCA, didn’t. In

fact, the number of animal abuse cases reported, in the United States, increases after

2003, the year the advertisement campaign was launched and only decreases from around

1900 to 1700 reported cases after the Michael Vick scandal ("Yearly Animal Abuse

Report"). The publicity of the scandal increased the revenue to combat animal abuse, but

it did not lower the cases of abuse.

Did the money donated help actually help animals? Franny Syfuy says that 25%

of the money raised through donations goes back to the audience as advertising. So, in

other words, what money is raised through the Sarah McLaughlin commercial is cycled

right back into broadcasting the pathos power message, a message most cannot bear to

watch. How many more animals could have been saved with that 25%?

The commercial uses pathos to overwhelm the audience; pictures of abused

animals and a dog’s whimper make the audience feel sad and guilty, but it is too much.

Many in the audience would rather ignore the horrible feelings that the commercial gives

them than act on them. The location, British Columbia, and Sarah McLaughlin also gives

the audience the means to distance themselves from the abuse.


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The commercial was made for the BC SPCA, which stand for British Columbia’s

Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. British Columbia is in Canada, which

gives American viewers the perfect excuse to not pick up the phone. After watching the

commercial, they are sad, but the distance between them and British Columbia in an

entirely different country could unintentionally make viewers.believe that the problem of

animal cruelty does not exist within our borders. For those among us who have no idea

what BC stands for, they don’t leave feeling distanced, but rather confused.

Another way in which the audience feels distanced is the use of this particular

spokeswoman: Sarah McLachlan. She is Canadian singer, and not as widely known in

the United States. Her song complements the commercial, but her peak of fame stateside

was in the late 1990s. She is still relatively famous, but she appeals and is still followed

only in certain groups. She is also very big into donating to charitable causes; however,

this background information is not available to every one of the commercial’s viewers. A

famous face can make a commercial, but only if the audience knows who they are.

A successful commercial can serve its purpose by conducting itself in a way that

gets the audience to feel a certain way and then follow through with the commercial’s

objective. The BC SPCA fails to do this. Their commercial uses too much pathos. It

affects the viewer, but it affects them so much that they can’t stand to watch it a second

time. If a viewer does indeed donate, only a portion of their contribution goes to abused

animals. Also, the commercials distant origins and spokeswoman gives the audience an

excuse to ignore the commercial and ultimately the problem, no matter how moving it is.

The commercial addresses a growing problem in America today, but its overabundance
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of sad imagery may repel potential donors. What’s tragic is that the makers of this

advertisement’s lives aren’t at stake. It’s the animals.


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Works Cited

"Sarah McLachlan Animal Cruelty Video." YouTube. 03 Oct. 2006. Web.

<http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9gspElv1yvc>.

Syufy, Franny. "ASPCA Response to Sarah McLachlan Commercial

Criticism." About.com. 04 Jan. 2010. Web.

<http://cats.about.com/b/2010/01/04/aspca-response-to-sarah-

mclachlan-commercial-criticism.htm>.

"Yearly Animal Abuse Report." Pet-Abuse.com. Web. <http://www.pet-

abuse.com/pages/cruelty_database/statistics/yearly_animal_abuse_

report.php?state=&year=2005&search=go>.