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AT&T “Don’t text while driving” Essay

This deadly Combination is brought to a heart wrenching point in the YouTube video called “Don’t text while driving” is also a campaign started by AT&T in 2010 “It can wait”. Everyday people are killed in car accidents. Motor vehicles are responsible for the lives of many innocent drivers and passengers on the road. A common reason responsible for these accidents involve texting while driving. Texting and driving projects horrific accidents whose consequences can be fatal and life changing. AT&T supports drivers to not text and drive on the road through their “Don’t text while driving” advertisements. In one of the short stories, a young man suffers from brain damage as a consequence to the text message “Where r” he was sending while operating a motor vehicle. Another one of AT&T’s short stories personifies a sister of a texting and driving victim.

AT&T’s video sets a sympathetic mood, uses trustworthy spokespersons and uses style in textual information to appeal to the audience while convincing viewers to not text and drive. AT&T’s “Don’t text while driving” video establishes a relatable mood highlighted by the setting of the stories. Opening this powerful video is Missouri State Officer Grant Hendrix, he was the first responder on the scene of Mariah West’s fatal accident. He describes her physical disfigurement from her car violently colliding with a freeway barrier. Getting choked up Officer Hendrix then says, “it’s funny the first thing I noticed about her was her shoes lying in the roadway in a large pool blood I noticed her shoes and I thought this is a young girl, that’s the first thing I thought when I saw this girl and at that point is why I noticed her cap and gown was still in her car and that she was going to graduate the next day this was just a really horrific seen all because of a senseless text message” (0:54)

Seeing a veteran officer get emotional, even admitting he sees these sorts of things often makes a powerful statement. Near the end of the video he making a poignant statement saying, “She paid the ultimate price for her life I’ve had to do this more than once she was not the only victim that I have dealt with and it never gets any easier and it won’t get any easier was it worth it losing your life over that text message”(7:18) In the “Yeah” story with the sister of a victim, the setting is in the comfort of a home. Audiences can relate to the setting because almost everyone has or strives to have a place to call home. Ashley, the sister of a texting a driving victim, can no longer be at comfort in her own home without her sister. Knowing she sent the text message that caused the death of her sister is something she finds difficult overlook.

In contrast, the “Where r” commercial ends with a young man in a rehabilitation center. He sits in the middle of the clinic holding a sign of the text that changed his life. Surrounding him is a wheel chair, exercise balls, and building blocks meant for children. The setting portrays his new life learning how to function in order to have a normal life again. In both cases, the setting appeals to pathos but in contrasting ways. The audience can relate to both situations by having a place to call home and what the consequences of texting a driving would be if one’s life was changed forever. The relaxed familiarity of a home can quickly change the mood of an audience after a traumatic experience. Additionally, a rehabilitation clinic is not an ideal place for a person to want to spend the rest of his or her life. Pathos is seen in these advertisements by connecting to the audience’s emotions. The setting evokes feelings of sympathy with the audience to create a relatable mood.

Not only does the setting persuade audiences to not text and drive, the speakers presented in the commercials are credible and trustworthy. AT&T has respectfully not hired actors to speak about the hazards of texting and driving in their commercials. Instead they use real people who have personal knowledge and experience of the effects of texting a driving. AT&T effectively uses ethos by getting the audience to identify with the spokesperson. They are normal citizens whose lives were completely changed because of a text message. The sister in the “Yeah” story Ashley, tells of her sister saying how funny she was and how her sister was always texting her. One could tell they had a strong relationship before it was destroyed by the fatal car accident. Likewise, by just listening to the man with brain damage talk, the audience sympathizes with him. As he struggles to put on a shirt, we see the physical effects the accident has taken on him. This video also strongly appeals to pathos because it makes the audience pity the speakers. An emotional connection is made by the audience and the speakers in these advertisements.

With that said, AT&T addresses the problem of texting and driving through ethos and pathos presented by the commercial’s speakers. Along with identifying with the speakers, AT&T’s “Don’t text while driving” video portrays a unique style to convince the audience to not text and drive. For example, after the speaker tells his or her story, a blank white screen appears with the individual text message in bold, black letters. The bland screen with opposite colors proposes a straightforward persuasion technique that forces the audience to focus on the screen and the message being presented. These simple approaches appeal to pathos because each holds a strong message that stimulates the audiences’ emotions. At the end of the video, AT&T provides source information from Virginia Tech Institute dated from the year 2009. “Studies show that you are 23 times more likely to be involved in an accident when texting and driving”. (8:21)

All of the textual information presented in the advertisement depicts pathos. AT&T constructs a reasonable argument of not texting and driving through the style demonstrated throughout the video. Indeed, texting and driving is a rising problem in society. Many lives are taken or even changed forever because of this selfless act. More people need to be informed of the consequences of texting and driving, and AT&T did just that. AT&T’s “Don’t text while driving” video convinces viewers to not text and drive through their many persuasive techniques. The commercials not only stimulate the audiences’ perspective, they effectively use visual stimuli to present and desist drivers from texting and driving. In light of the speakers’ credibility, ethos is present in the video as well. The settings, moods, speakers, and style all contribute to the persuasion of an audience in this video. AT&T not only sells cell phones, the company took it upon themselves to present a problem caused by cell phones.

AT&T has the ability to engage an audience while promoting a cause and advertising their cell phone company in their “Don’t text while driving” video. On a personal note I have found myself guilty of doing this from time to time, I am ashamed to admit it but it’s true. I don’t believe anyone should be texting while driving, but how do I argue against something I am guilty of myself? Do I use the old adage “do as I say, not as I do”? That seems very hypocritical, but after watching this video I have to say stop and think before picking up that phone while driving. It moved me the most seeing the sister Ashley wrought with guilt over her sister’s death. This was the most powerful for me, having lost someone I too felt guilty over losing it stamped AT&T’s message right in my heart. Lisa Walsh


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