The advertisement I chose for our ‘Analysis of an Ad’ assignment is a billboard that was recently introduced as a part of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP’s) anti-idling campaign. This billboard debuted itself as a part of my daily commute on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (full disclosure: I went and looked up the advertisement online after I noticed it, as I did not want to use my cellphone to take a photograph while driving!).
The advertisement features a photograph of popular English musician Billy Idol, and displays a catchy play-on-words technique via his last name: “Billy never idles, neither should you.” There is also a sort of “badge”, that illustrates a vehicle with exhaust fumes emitting from it and a slash through it, repeatedly surrounded by the words “SHUT IT OFF”. To further drive home the point of the ad, the words “Idling is polluting, shut your engine off” are displayed below the badge.
There are two speakers in this ad; the DEP and Billy Idol. They are trying to present themselves as authoritarian, while clever. There are several indicators of this. First and foremost, I noticed that the text throughout the entire ad is capitalized and in a bold font. Most times, when receiving an e-mail or text message in entirely capitalized font, the recipient would assume that the sender is angry or feels very strongly about what they are trying to say. The color scheme of the entire ad is also very telling; specifically, the use of the color red. When I noticed the phrases written in red, my mind immediately went to “stop” or “no”. Drivers, the targeted audience, may associate the color red with traffic lights or even stop signs. Hence why the use of this color in the display is effective. The use of the word “never” in this ad also conveys the seriousness of this issue; they could’ve easily used the words “Billy does not idle, neither should you”, but that wouldn’t have been nearly as effective in expressing the importance of their message.
The ad is trying to convey to the viewer that as per the NYC DEP idling your vehicle is bad for the environment. Therefore, it’s safe to infer that the advertisement is basically intended for anybody who owns or operates a vehicle within the five boroughs. I immediately observed a few strategic uses to persuade the audience. The most noticeable technique employed, in my opinion, is the bandwagoning technique. It is illustrated point blank in the ad by almost literally saying “Billy Idol doesn’t do this because it’s bad so you shouldn’t do it either”. Additionally, I feel like the ad utilizes a testimonial appeal tactic via Billy Idol’s celebrity endorsement. By showing the audience that Mr. Idol stands behind this environmental cause, it is hoping to strengthen peoples’ belief or understanding that idling their car is bad for the environment. This raises the question for me though: how much does Billy Idol the famous musician really know about environmental dangers?
In terms of appealing to the three components of the rhetorical triangle, I am not positive that this advertisement effectively satisfies all of them. When it comes to Ethos, the identity and credibility of the speaker(s) is (are) questionable. On one hand, you have the DEP- an established and credible New York City agency, comprised of individuals well-versed on preserving the environment. On the other hand, you have celebrity Billy Idol- who is extremely successful and wealthy, but really does not have much of a background or an affiliation with preserving the environment. I feel as though credibility may come into question there.
Additionally, the advertisement relies on the assumption that the audience knows who Billy Idol is. Realistically drivers in NYC are eligible to acquire their licenses at the age of eighteen. These individuals were not even born yet when Billy Idol was at the peak of his musical career and a major influence in popular culture. This presents the following questions: do they even know who Billy Idol is or understand the wit of the catchphrase used here?
Logos appears to be absent altogether from this advertisement. Statistics, data, facts, logical reasoning etc. as to why idling is bad for the environment are nowhere to be found in this display. When it comes to Pathos, I do not believe that the advertisement packs a major punch in the emotional department either. Does the audience feel Billy Idols distaste for idling vehicles based on his facial expression in the advertisement? Perhaps it does, however I do not see this advertisement playing on people’s emotions to get them to appeal to the message that is being conveyed. If there were photographs in the background of nature decaying as a result of the pollution from car emissions, maybe some emotion would be evoked from this advertisement.
Overall, I do not feel that this advertisement is effective. It is void of any type of logical data or statistics to persuade the viewer or present a valid argument for the message it is trying to convey. It also relies on the assumption that the focus audience knows who Billy Idol is. Personally, looking at the ad it did not spark any emotions for me. I recall noticing the advertisement and thinking to myself “oh look its Billy Idol I wonder what he’s been up to these days?”, because he really is irrelevant in popular culture, and I have not seen him much in the mainstream media. I was not even focused on the message of the advertisement. I will say that it does effectively use language via the play-on-words with the endorsers last name, but that is about all I feel this ad accomplished.
For a better photograph of the advertisement, and for more information on DEP’s anti-idling campaign, you can visit: https://www1.nyc.gov/site/dep/whats-new/billy-never-idles.page?utm_source=Search&gclid=EAIaIQobChMIoeCL1vmP6AIVA4NaBR2luQBBEAAYASAAEgJkGfD_BwE