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Sticking it to Obamacare:

The visual rhetoric of Affordable Care Act advertising in social media


In fall 2013, many Internet users were startled by video ads set in doctors exam
rooms that used suspenseful audio as well as body penetration imagery to discourage
participation in insurance exchanges mandated by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). One
spot featured a young woman expecting a pelvic exam by a physician. Instead, a man
with a grotesque Uncle Sam mask and costume emerges threateningly with speculum in
hand. On-screen verbiage cautioned young people against signing up for Obamacare
as the ACA was coined even though they would likely incur fines.
The present study examines visual rhetoric surrounding this groundbreaking and
sweeping federal legislation to establish universal healthcare in the United States. It
examines the most popular anti- and pro-Obamacare video ads according to Twitter
activity during September 2013 in anticipation of the ACAs open enrollment October 1.
The two negative ads were produced by the Tea Party-backed PAC Generation
Opportunity. The two positive ads were produced by the states of Minnesota and
Oregon. These ads are considered from several perspectives, including their promotional
strategies, the nature of issues and advocacy advertising in social media, and the roles
that visual shock value and humor play in persuasion. Next, SCT is explained, along with
its method of fantasy theme analysis (FTA), which is then applied to the ads to explore
their rhetorical force. The analysis points to the potential consequences of powerful and
well-funded individuals and groups skillfully manipulating social media with visual
rhetoric that benefits their causes and beliefs. Conclusions suggest that, to be successful,
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Obamacare ads should use rhetorical techniques that are deliberately provocative and
humorous and likely to appeal to youthful audiences.
It is important to note that this study is in the interpretist and humanistic tradition
of scholarship and we do not claim generalizability of findings. Our goal is to increase
our understanding of the meaning of these persuasive visual messages and consider the
cultural and social appeals embedded in them. Interpretive theory has the capacity to
challenge the guiding assumptions of the culture, to raise fundamental questions
regarding contemporary social life, to foster reconsideration of that which is taken for
granted, and thereby to generate fresh alternatives for social action (Gergen, 1982,
109). While we also believe there are great opportunities to examine these phenomena
using social scientific approaches, rhetorical analysis offers valuable insight. Shabbir &
Thwaites (2007), for example, called for qualitative studies that probe more deeply into
the underlying latent meanings conveyed by individual advertisements (p. 83.)
The following research questions guide this study:
o How do the ads function rhetorically to create meaning?
o What role does humor play?
o Which ads result in social sharing?
o What worldviews or rhetorical visions emerge from these ads and what are
the implications for democratic discussion?
Literature Review
Anti- and Pro-Obamacare promotion
A crucial element in the potential success of the ACA is participation of relatively
young, healthy people in insurance exchanges. The younger demographic groups who
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need less healthcare and thus incur much lower costs than older demographic groups
contribute to the pool of insured people, thus reducing overall costs. This approach is
typical of almost all types of insurance (Linkins, 2013).
Conservative factions such as Generation Opportunity are seeking to persuade
young people to opt out of Obamacare and pay the fines associated with refusal to sign
up. Generation Opportunity has financial ties to wealthy businessmen Charles and David
Koch (Moody, 2013; Shear, 2013). The organization is deploying ads and participating
in on-campus events such as sports venues and festivals. Similarly, Americans for
Prosperity, another conservative Koch-linked interest group, is conducting an experiential
campaign aimed at college students that includes booths, brand ambassadors, and
giveaways (Moody, 2013).
The Obama administration planned a multi-million dollar promotional blitz of its
own beginning in late 2013 and leading up to the March 2014 enrollment deadline.
Individual states also deployed campaigns encouraging participation. POLITICO
reported that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services had reserved at least
$12 million in airtime starting at the October 1 open enrollment date. Airtime was
purchased in Texas, Florida, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Georgia, Missouri, Ohio, Indiana,
North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Louisiana and Michigan. All states but one,
Missouri, are led by Republican governors and many of these governors are promoting an
anti-Obamacare agenda (Burns & Cheney, 2013). This $12 million in airtime
supplements the $41 million PR contract awarded earlier in 2013 to the firm Weber
Shandwick to encourage participation (Burns & Cheney, 2013).
Anti-Obamacare groups also invested significant capital in video advertising. The
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two Uncle Sam ads in this study were part of an initial $750,000 campaign by
Generation Opportunity, with the goal to convince young adults to remain uninsured
when the new health care law takes effect (Pickert, 2013). At this writing in March 2014,
Obamacare opponents have run more than 30,000 television attack ads with spending by
PACs accounting for 75%. Most ads have been run by Americans for Prosperity
(Hispanic Business, 2014).
Negative advertising via video spots has generated rich scholarship. While
scholars have long debated the effects of attack political advertising, most research
suggests the public is more influenced by attack ads, they pay more attention to them,
recall them more accurately and remember them for a longer time (Garramone, 1985;
Kaid and Boydston, 1987; Phau and Kensky, 1990).
Issues advertising, young adults, and social media
Issues or advocacy advertising is established in American politics as various
social actors and interest groups seek to promote their agendas. Issues advertising refers
to efforts to influence public policy as opposed to supporting a particular candidate or
party (Bergen & Risner, 2012; Sethi, 1977). During the Clinton effort at healthcare
reform in the mid-1990s, the Harry and Louise negative ad campaign was considered
effective in derailing Clintons efforts (West, D, Heith, D. & Goodwin, C., 1996). After
the U.S. Supreme Courts Citizens United decision in 2008 to allow unlimited funding
for candidates and causes, a torrent of dollars poured into media of all kinds (Bergen &
Risner, 2012). The most successful efforts have followed marketers strategies to
integrate messages in multiple media and to encourage social sharing (Keller & Fay,
2012). Push advertising such as television commercials, online banner ads, and mobile
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spots are less and less effective as consumers find them intrusive and untrustworthy
(Mahoney, 2013). Instead, marketers increasingly draw on individuals propensity to
share interesting, scary, or amusing material with others via social networks or email.
Peoples propensity for multi-screen viewing means that an ads reach can be vastly
increased by relatively low cost. According to a recent Nielsen survey, 46% of
smartphone owners and 43% of tablet owners use their devices as a second screen while
watching television (Neilsen, 2013).
With the explosion of social media in the past decade, the way people
communicate has radically shifted. In a recent survey, 60% of Americans reported using
social media (Ranie et al., 2012). Distant closeness (Van House, 2006), intimate visual
co-presence (Ito, 2005) and findings regarding mobile blogs (Van House et al. 2005)
together indicate an emerging way humans communicateby sharing virtual content.
Sharing media has shifted from being merely a novel triviality to a primary online
activity (Oeldorf-Hirsch & Sundar, 2010). Sites like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube,
Pinterest and Tumblr are redefining how the media work by empowering users to share
content and build community (Smith, 2009). These social networking sites include
features like walls, blogs, bulletins, and profiles that are very attractive to young adult
users (Urista, Dong, & Day, 2009). Twitter was created to be a tool for sharing status
updates publicly, but now is rich with shared photos, videos, news stories and links.
This new medium has created a generation of young adults whose identities are
defined by the content they share online and the connections they share content with
(Dye, 2007). Many users share their thoughts and feelings on social networking sites;
they can be used to communicate with the public, or a more narrowly focused collection
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of family and friends (Cross, 2002). Social media platforms by their very definition
provide individual users a way to express themselves online (boyd & Ellison, 2007).
In social networking, users are motivated to participate for information sharing
and seeking, emotional development and maintenance, community and civic
involvement, offline support, and entertainment (Baltaretu & Balaban, 2010; Ellison,
Steinfeld, & Lampe, 2006; Joinson, 2008; Kim et al., 2011; Lin et al., 2010; Stern &
Taylor, 2007). Research indicates that people are motivated to share for different reasons
on different platforms. In Baek et al. (2011), survey research found that information
sharing was the dominant motivation on Facebook. Other motivations for sharing
included entertainment and passing time. Twitter and Facebook bear a number of
similarities, especially in terms of the emphasis on the status update. Therefore it isnt
surprising that Holton et al. (2013) found similar motivations in survey research of
Twitter use. However, unlike Facebook users, Twitter users are motivated to post links
because of information seeking. Holton et al. (2013) reasons that this may be due to the
format of Twitter, which invites conversation and feedback from followersand the user
may not know all his or her followers. And Twitter, in part because of the limitation of
only 140 characters, encourages succinct straightforward opinion and people are more
liable to share opinions on Twitter than on other platforms (Lasorsa, Lewis & Holton,
2012). Unlike other social media sites, Twitter is an ongoing conversation about media
events (Shamma, Kennedy and Churchill, 2009).
Humor in visual rhetoric
Humor has long been a tool for advertisers seeking to gain attention and liking
from audiences (Gulas, & Weinberger, 2006; van Barren, Holland, & van Knippenberg,
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2011). Advertising practitioners tend to think that young audiences find humorous
approaches more appealing (Madden & Weinberger, 1984). Strick et al (2011) found that
associating a product with humor leads to greater likelihood of choosing the product and
more favorable brand evaluations. Disturbingly, Shabbir & Thwaites (2007) found that
humor was used as a masking device for deceptive advertising claims, particularly visual
masking. Grazioli (2004) suggests humor in deceptive advertising can have a priming
effect, changing how a consumer may process advertising claims.
Audiences, young adults in particular, tend to seek out information and news in
ways that are entertaining or humorous (Feldman, 2007). Young adults also use the
Internet to seek out satire, irony, comedy and parodyall elements related to humor
(Calavita, 2004). Holton and Lewis (2011) conducted a content analysis of tweets by the
500 journalists with the most followers on Twitter and found that humor served a
connective function on social media. People often use humor in social media to
communicate belonging. A study of forwarded emails (Duffy, Page & Young, 2012)
suggests that individuals receive gratifications from receiving and sending humorous
images and jokes with online contacts.
Theorists posit that humor emerges from combinations of three factors:
incongruity, arousal, and superiority (Gulas & Weinberger, 2007) and the mechanism all
three have in common is what Gulas and Weinberger call the challenge to the normal
order (p. 191). As they put it, The object of the humor is the butt of the joke (p. 41).
Humor often carries the weight of values and morals. Kramer (2011) suggests the notion
of humor ideologies that guide speakers in their production and consumption of
humor (138). She argues that people believe certain types of humor and jokes carry
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moral weight (161) and confer credibility. Gruner (1997) argues that all humorous
situations must have winners and losers and analysis needs to show who wins or loses.
Drawing from Waszak (2013), this hierarchy between the person creating or delivering
the joke (the agent) and the butt of the joke (the object) works as a form of othering by
establishing a boundary between those that find pleasure in the joke (the audience) and
those that are subject to the adversities of the joke. Santa Ana (2012) concludes that off-
color humor creates a social boundary between those in on the jokes and those of the
butt of the joke, arguing that no one of them, in this moment of satisfaction, can ever be
one of us (40).
Visual imagery is a frequent conduit for dark humor, able to frame a message that
in words may be less acceptable and powerful. Common cultural allusions are often used
to encourage audience understanding and participation in meaning construction. Smyth
documents how pre-existing joke forms were used in commentary after the explosion of
the space shuttle Challenger on liftoff (1986). Another common element of humor is
script incompatibility (Kuipers, 2005), or what Oring called appropriate incongruity
(1987). Such humor juxtaposes socially determined dichotomies such as real and unreal,
taboo and non-taboo, innocent and devious (Kuipers, 2005). The humor derives from the
friction generated by an inappropriate pairing, and many jokes use the lingo and jingles
of television commercials or popular culture. To find the humor in a mashup of two
incongruous domains, the audience must have familiarity with the domains being
juxtaposed, as well as with any shared interpretations and cultural touchstones invoked in
the jokes content.
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Humorous images and other visual persuasion often employ symbols commonly
familiar within a culture that do not need an explanation; they communicate heuristically.
This visual appropriation is a rhetorical action of taking over the meaning of something
that is already known by way of visual reference. Thus, beyond the inherent influence of
the audiovisual, the cultural rhetoric of images is a powerful tool: viewers have little
difficulty interpreting these nonverbal displays. Also, dress, facial displays, clothing,
gesture, camera framing, and other aspects of image content and form help shape the
basis of inferences.
Theoretical Approach and Methodology
In examining the rhetoric of the anti- and pro-Obamacare advertising, we are
guided by humor theory (Gulas, 2007, Gruner, 2004), visual rhetoric (Foss, 2005), and
Symbolic Convergence Theory (SCT) with its associated method of Fantasy Theme
Analysis (FTA). Developed by Ernest Bormann (Bormann, Cragan & Shields, 2003) and
extended by many others, SCT is a general theory of communication and is related to
symbolic interactionism. The theory posits that social reality is created through
communication and applies a dramatistic metaphor to understanding phenomena. SCT-
based rhetorical criticism offers understanding of how individuals and groups arrive at
shared perspectives and worldviews or rhetorical visions in the parlance of SCT.
Convergence involves not only intellectual co-orientation in which people come to have
the same logical and rational negotiated meaning of symbols (Bormann, 1983, 102); it
also involves sharing similar feelings and embracing the same values. SCT has been
used in both social scientific and humanistic research (Cragan & Shields, 1992).
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Another theoretical assumption is that dramatized moments and symbolic
meanings can and do become part of wider discourses and disseminate or chain to
larger publics and, as Bormann says, provides people with a social reality filled with
heroes, villains, emotions, and attitudes (Bormann, 1981, 18.) Symbolic realities can be
created in all types of discourse and can be deployed to accomplish instrumental
objectives such as political and social action.
FTA is a method of rhetorical criticism that guides the researcher in discovering
the social realities of group members. It applies certain technical terms such as fantasy
theme, a creative or imaginative interpretation of events which fulfills a psychological
or rhetorical need (Bormann, 1983, 107). A fantasy theme is not something imaginary,
but rather a way of interpreting events. The critic examines communication artifacts to
find patterns of fantasy themes that can be sorted into broader categories of fantasy types.
They will feature similar themes or storylines that may create a sense of community,
shared beliefs, and purpose. This may lead or contribute to a rhetorical vision that
constitutes social realities. While Symbolic Interactionism, SCT and FTA preceded the
Internet by many years, scholars have noted how digital communication has been an
accelerant for sharing, consensus building, and polarization (Duffy, Page, & Young,
2011).
Artifact Selection
Using Topsy Pro, a social media data analysis program that can analyze historic
and current Twitter activity, we identified the top two pro-Obamacare ads and top two
anti-Obamacare ads running in September 2013. Topsy collects all 400 million tweets
each day and uses keywords in tweets to score sentiment toward specific issues. That
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sentiment score is then aggregated by specific hashtags or @ connections. It also
measures retweets, tweet views or impressions, how many people retweet after each
individual post or momentum, and how quickly retweets occur or acceleration. It
unpacks the link to its original state in order to map inferences to the link and determine
the relative influence of a given link, video, or webpage. We used Topsy in order to
measure the degree of popularity of Obamacare ads and to determine the degree of
chaining that occurred.
The top two negative ads are Opt Out-The Exam-Creepy Uncle Sam and Opt
Out-The Glove-Creepy Uncle Sam, both by Generation Opportunity; the top two
supportive ads are Live Long in Oregon by Cover Oregon and Paul Goes
Waterskiing by MNsure. We argue that these issue ads appropriated references to
folklore, patriotic symbols, popular movies and music, and commercial advertising to
craft messages that resonate with young audiences. They rely on a bricolage of visual
rhetoric through the combined performance of human actors, stagecraft, and digital
manipulation. Three ads heavily rely on visual cues and sound effects; only the Oregon
ad equally combines words with images and sound.
Findings and Discussion
Creepy Uncle Sam Ads
The two anti-Obamacare ads depict dramas of a young woman having a pelvic
exam and a young man having a proctology exam. Their narratives suggest the rhetorical
vision, Obamacare will turn healthcare into a horror show. Four pillars of this vision
are the fantasy types: 1) Obamacare means omnipresent government surveillance and
control over individual free will; 2) Young men and women who choose Obamacare
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are stupid, willing victims, and worthy of contempt; 3) Obamacare will humiliate and
emasculate young men, and terrorize and molest young women; and 4) The U.S. is
government a bully, a monster, and a torturer.
These ads employ humor, fear appeals, shock value, and allusions to popular
culture in their depictions of the doctor visit or rather, playing doctor dramas.
Camera framing and angles communicate power and powerless positioning,
emphasizing the doctors looking down grimly or sneeringly as their patients make
distrustful or fearful facial expressions and adopt protective body postures. The ads are
quite critical of the characters in their dramas.
These anti-Obamacare ads have all three elements of humor: incongruity (creepy
Uncle Sam as doctor in an exam room), arousal (a naive subject thats confronted with
sexual violation), and superiority (any individual choosing Obamacare would be the butt
of the joke.) The medical personnel are characterized as brusque and the young patients
are portrayed as clueless and worthy of ridicule for choosing Obamacare (Figures 1 and
2):

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Figure 2. Yes, I saw the ads and I figured, Why not?
The U.S. government, portrayed by an oversized Uncle Sam playing doctor, is
depicted as invasive and evil (Figures 3 - 6).

Figure 3. (loud female scream)


Figure 4. (fast playful music)
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Figure 6: (sound of glove snapping)

The Uncle Sam image, as a representation of the U.S. government, has long been
used politically and commercially to denote both positive and negative power attributes.
The humor attempt is constructed through initial incongruity: a buffoonish-looking
character administering a womans most intimate medical exam and an invasive
procedure on a young man. As one journalist aptly commented, it becomes an adversarial
icon used in a sinister mashup of a torture porn movie and a lesser Burger King ad
(Kees, Daily Dot). The Daily Shows Jon Stewart noted the cultural association with
Burger Kings earlier King icon (Figure 7) known for invading peoples bedrooms in
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ads--a mascot that both the ad agency and client embraced as creepy and a humor
trigger (Figure 8).

Figure 7.


Figure 8.


Other visual allusions to popular culture arise in this ad. Aimed at an age bracket
familiar with the cult classic film The Hunger Games, viewers may identify the young
man cast in The Glove ad (Figure 9) with the Hunger Games actor Josh Hutcherson
(Figure 10). Their resemblance is markedly strong. The former is forced into a violent
encounter by the government and the latter is forced into mortal combat for the
amusement of powerful citizens.
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Figure 9. Actor in ad Figure 10. Actor in
The Hunger Games

The primary fantasy type, Obamacare means omnipresent government
surveillance and control over individual free will is established in the opening frame of
both ads: Multiple old school television monitors suggest panoptical scrutiny (Figure 11).
Young viewers likely to be familiar with the Matrix movie series may identify this scene
with a similar one in The Matrix Reloaded, where the protagonist meets the Architect
(of the Matrix) face to face in a large room whose walls are covered with television
monitors (Figure 12) revealing a system enacted to control humanity, placing human
agency against determinism.
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Figure 11. Opt Out-The Glove-Creepy Uncle Sam



Figure 12. The Matrix Revisited

The ads plots also evoke the horror film genre, as Uncle Sam sneaks up on
unsuspecting victims in the examination room. It is common for the serial killer or mass
murderer to sneak up on his unsuspecting victim. Then, when least expected, the killer
makes his move. News sources across the Internet, from news blogs to traditional media,
voiced similar reactions to the Generation Opportunity ads, repeatedly labeling them the
Creepy Uncle Sam ads.
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A minimal script, strategic camera angles, and playfully suspenseful music--
evocative of the ominous Oompa Loompa score that young viewers may remember
from the film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory--contribute to the atmosphere of
impending threat. No words are spoken after the attendant leaves the room; the music
stirs expectations. The female patient, legs in stirrups, screams at the appearance of the
grotesque Uncle Sam figure opening a speculum. The male patient huddles on the table,
cringing as a leering Uncle Sam snaps his proctology exam glove. Both ads end with
screen shots, white type reversed on black backgrounds, Dont let government play
doctor and Opt Out of ObamaCare.
A logical reading of the ads messages is that one would feel violated by having
the government involved in any part of the doctor/patient relationship. However, the
manner in which this position is presented subverts any rational message. As Burger
King earlier embraced the creepy delivery of its King ad campaign as subversive
marketing that generates attention and word-of-mouth, so too is the goal with the Creepy
Uncle Sam spots. Generation Opportunity president Evan Feinberg told the Daily Caller,
We think these videos went viral because we put ourselves in the minds of our friends,
classmates, coworkers, and asked what would we find creepy? Funny? (Bedford, 2013).
In their first 24 hours they did go viral, written up in over 100 publications with most
noting the ads use of creepiness to break through the noise and get holy shit buzz.
Within the first two weeks after uploading to YouTube, the videos accumulated more
than three million hits combined. Data derived from Topsy indicated that the anti-
Obamacare ad "The Exam" garnered more than 100,000 impressions on tweets linking to
the video in less than two weeks. The related Koch brothers' ad "The Glove" displayed
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some popularity with 7,000 impressions, but not nearly the broad viewership of "The
Exam." Further evidence of the breakthrough popularity of The Exam can be measured
by a parody ad created by The Other 98%, Opt Out of Koch Propaganda, Not
Obamacare (parody). Uploaded to YouTube after the initial ads appeared, within five
days of its appearance the parody had generated more than 36,000 views. It repeated the
Koch Brothers ad, changing only the end frames to read, Healthcare for All is not
invasive. Mandatory Vaginal Probes Are. The Koch Brothers have helped elect
Governors across America who support transvaginal ultrasound bills. By contrast, the
pro-Obamacare ads received modest viewership. "Paul Goes Waterskiing" received 4,000
impressions and "Live Long in Oregon" received 3,000 impressions.
Pro-Obamacare Ads
The drama enacted by the Live Long in Oregon ad presents the overall
rhetorical vision that Obamacare represents the spirit of Oregon (Figure 13). It is set
outdoors with song, dance, and props that provide positive emotional tones and messages

Figure 13. Live Long in Oregon
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about diversity and harmony in nature. Its characters are multi-racial, of varying ages,
and both male and female. Its settings appear to be limitless, encompassing various
landscapes and climates. Its plot, as played out in the words to the song running
throughout the ad, suggests that living well in Oregon is inclusive of all workers and
life situations. Its actors all have equal agency.
The drama enacted by Minnesotas Paul Goes Waterskiing ad presents the
overall rhetorical vision that Its no joke: Even you could need Obamacare (Figure 14).

Figure 14. Paul Goes Water Skiing.
It is a simply constructed animation, also set outdoors, depicting the mythical hero Paul
Bunyan comically crashing into landhis boat piloted by trusted companion Babe, the
blue ox. With its folkloric references and nave form, the ad relies on a humorous fear
appeal. The setting suggests dangers lurking in nature for outdoorsmen in the state, with a
plot revolving around random and unexpected accidents, even in familiar territory. Its
cartoonish quality supports its playfully serious message. While these two ads ranked
most tweeted of all pro-Obamacare ads as of the date of this study, their low numbers
in social media offer little evidence of chaining.
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Conclusion
Our research questions asked: How do the ads function rhetorically to create
meaning? What role does humor pay? What ads were socially shared or chained? What
worldviews or rhetorical visions emerge from these ads?
Notably, the anti-Obama ads quickly resonated within social and traditional
media, as our Topsy research and Internet searches reveal, due to their insinuation and
shock value. Their visual narratives used cultural appropriation, incongruity, and dark
humor as agents to drive these anti-Obamacare ads to social media resonance. The take-
away message, that if you sign up for Obamacare the government will stick it to you
as suggested by the metonymic speculum and gloved fingerscreates participants of the
spectators. In terms of humor theory, this ad draws on several elements of humor:
distraction from counter-argumentation, superiority and incongruity (Gulas &
Weingarter, 2007). The Creepy Uncle Sam spots were remarkably successful in
becoming viral.
The top pro-Obamacare ads had little success in social sharing and even the most
popular of the two, Paul Bunyan, was a distant third behind Uncle Sam. The humorous
elements in Paul Bunyan relied on the incongruity of a crudely but cleverly animated
Paul, his Blue Ox (piloting the boat), and a gentler motif of superiority. The anti-
Obamacare ads, while tasteless and deceptive, chained through traditional and social
media and presented a vision of a deviant and ominous government that Americans
would naturally disdain. The pro-Obamacare ads which were mild, and mildly amusing,
downplayed the role of government while highlighting the benefits of helping others who
are experiencing misfortune. Ironically, the images that ACA opponents use to
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discourage enrollment are similar to the laws proposed by some conservativesas the
parody video notedrequiring transvaginal procedures for women who seek abortions
(Lithwick, D., 2013).
It is evident that the most successful anti-Obamacare ads use rhetorical techniques
that are deliberately provocative and humorous, and likely to appeal to youthful
audiences. They may have inspired pro-Obamacare groups to deploy new ads; for
example, a controversial series of ads featured young people doing silly and dangerous
activities. Called Brosurance, one ad features young men attempting handstands on a
beer keg (Ferner, 2013). As noted earlier, sizable resources will support pro-Obama ads
in 2014. As the debate heightens, the Super PAC funded by the billionaire Koch
brothers, Americans for Prosperity (AFP), will target legislators who supported
Obamacare. It is unclear how much will be allocated, but as of March, 2014, the AFP
has spent over $30 million (Lowery, 2014). While pro-Obamacare promotion may
ultimately be well funded and successful, the anti-Obamacare persuasive messages are
visually persuasive, yet ethically challenged, and portend negative health outcomes for
the young people they target.
With this analysis of Obamacare ads and their rhetorical strategies, we seek to
move theory of visual rhetoric forward. In particular, gaining greater understanding of
how audiovisual rhetoric works in online venues will be important steps in future
research.
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