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Mr Dale’s MEST1 Section A Exemplar for 2013 ‘Embrace Life’ viral ad.

May 20, 2014


Media Institutions – How does the institution take an original and positive approach to road safety advertising?

Unlike previous and more traditional road safety adverts, Sussex Safer Roads Partnership have chosen to avoid shock tactics that emphasis the violence and brutality of road deaths with a positive narrative structure that suggests that simply wearing a seatbelt can protect the driver and family life. This is embodied in the slogan of the campaign, ‘Embrace Life,’ which has no explicit connection with road safety as such and suggests a positive ideological philosophy to life in general. In conjunction with this idea, the institution engages the audience with an idealised image of family life that is still preserved at the resolution and the narrative begins and ends in life-affirming equilibrium with the threat of tragic disequilibrium averted by the actions of the wife and daughter in forming a human seatbelt.

The institution creates a scenario where family values and the preservation of the nuclear family are the key ideological factors, reflected in the innocent and inclusive play acting of the whole family, which provides the opportunity to express the narrative with the more theatrical tradition of physical theatre to represent the dangers of not wearing a seatbelt. This rather idyllic picture of family life under threat is further communicated by the use of slow motion to capture the emotional reactions of the parents and child and the stirring effect of the non-diegetic classical music.


Media Forms – How does mise-en-scène contribute to the impact of the film?

 The mise-en-scene of this advert is rather unusual and unexpected for the genre, as it does not represent a dangerous, typical road but the safer, protective setting of the everyday family home, which creates positive memories and associations for members of the target audience, rather than seeking to create a tragic road crash scenario. Indeed, the entire mise-en-scene is used to depict an ordinary, well-furnished, middle-class home environment where the family can play-act road safety rather than experience a tragic, life-changing narrative resolution. This is embodied in the use of the table and glitter as key iconographic props to represent the shattering glass of a violent road crash, which are dramatically hurled across the room at the imagined moment of impact, only for the glitter to take on the positive connotations of celebration as the life of the father is preserved by his human seatbelt.

The parents are dressed in casual but stylish clothing, suggesting aspirational middle-class values and reflecting the warmth and security of a happy, relaxed home, but the naked feet of the father also suggests vulnerability at the lack of basic protection as he becomes involved in an imaginary accident. It is at this moment that the dress code for the daughter becomes more significant. Initially, her playful wearing of fairy wings seems typical of a gender stereotype and the denotes the innocent fantasy of a young child’s pleasure in fairtytales and dressing up, but, as she takes action to protect her father, this has connotations with the guardian angel/fairy godmother stereotype in an inversion of the traditional family roles.


Media Representations – How is family represented in the film?

 In many ways, the family in the advert are depicted as a stereotypical, aspirational, white, middle-class characters. The family lives in a typical, modern, well-furnished suburban home and they parents are played by young actors who depict fashionable, relaxed, confident and reasonably affluent characters, with the father as the centre of the activity and implied threat, in accordance with patriarchal values. In many ways, this is a rather clichéd depiction of the dominant ideology of the ideal nuclear family. The characters are portrayed by anonymous character actors who convey a sense of authentic, ordinary, everyday family life and, while they are attractive, neither parent is depicted as glamorous or extraordinary in any way, reflecting the nature and composition of the intended target audience.

The parents are depicted as caring and gentle, and obviously value the family time playing with their young daughter, who, in turn, is respectful and appreciative of her parents. The close emotional bonds between the characters are established by the shared family play time and the happy smiling faces and knowing looks between all three characters, with the mother and daughter perhaps rather indulging the father showing off his play-acting skills, which parallel his driving skills as the head of the household. This emotional closeness is emphasised by the use of close-ups to capture the facial expressions of concern and body language in response to the impending accident, with the scared helplessness of the father contrasted with the expressions of horror the determination on the faces of his wife and daughter. There is some inversion in the traditional family roles as the wife and daughter take affirmative action to protect the father, with close-ups on the significant linking of their hands as they form a human seatbelt and he is able to fall back, quite literally, into the loving arms of his smiling, relieved family as tragedy is averted.


 Media Audiences – Why does the film appeal to such a wide audience?

 The film appeals to a wide audience on several levels. Firstly, the very nature of the viral advert platform means that audiences can share it on social media sites, primarily Twitter and Facebook, so that they can pass on their comments and discuss opinions in social interactions, as well as taking pleasure in a shared sense of discovery as they can promote a film that is not available in the mainstream media of TV advertising and does not follow the usual genre conventions of shocking content and negative resolution.

The film is also very playful and innovative in the techniques used to convey the road safety message and will not alienate an overly sensitive younger or older audience, and has a sense of inclusivity reflected by the central role played by the daughter in regaining equilibrium and protecting her father. This appeal to a family audience is reinforced by the emotional aspects of the content, with fears and feelings that can be shared by any member of the target audience, linked to personal experiences of safety issues that affect and resonate with everyone viewing the film.

The film employs a very simple, easily understood visual metaphor to represent the threat to family happiness and the universal message is conveyed in a brief running time without any distracting dialogue or ambiguity, with the emotive music playing an immediately engaging and key narrative role, affirming the importance of the nuclear family as a close, loving unit in which each member plays an essential role. It is a simple, emotive idea that will engage the empathy of most of the target audience in an immediate and accessible manner.



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