Friday, August 31, 2012

Allstate's Mayhem Commercial

Textual Rhetorical Analysis: Allstate Insurance Company’s Television Commercial
To view commercial, please click the following link:

                Will mayhem happen to you? Allstate says it can happen to anyone. Allstate Insurance Company claims to protect people from “mayhem,” and their commercial shows bad things happening to people in a satirical fashion. In their commercials they personify the concept of mayhem. A man who calls himself “Mayhem” shows different situations in which trouble can occur and when having insurance could protect you. This commercial shows you the benefit of having car insurance. The commercial uses logical, ethical, and pathetic rhetoric, artistic means to communicate the message of the commercial.
            In Chapter 10 titled, “Rhetorical Analysis: Understanding How Texts Persuade Readers,” in the book titled What Writing Does and How it Does it, Jack Selzer explains that “Aristotelian terms like ethos, pathos, and logos, all of them associated with Invention, account for features of texts related to the trustworthiness and credibility of the rhetor (ethos), for the persuasive reasons in an argument that derive from a community's mostly deeply and fervently held values (pathos), and for the sound reasons that emerge from intellectual reasoning (logos).”
            The Ethos is the ethical artistic means of rhetoric. It is the rhetor’s ability to make the audience to trust them. In this commercial, the man says that he is a teenage girl, but they don’t actually use a teenage girl in the commercial. It could be argued that Allstate Insurance casted a grown man in the commercial who is claiming to be a teenage girl because their audience will be more likely to seriously listen to the message being communicated. However, they may have used this man because he has been casted as “Mayhem” in all of their other commercials, or simply because it adds humor to give him different props depending on which character he is playing (i.e. a teenage girl, a dog, a raccoon).
            Allstate also uses Logos, the logical artistic means of rhetoric to communicate their message in this commercial. They take a man claiming to be a teenage girl and in the very first scene show him driving away from the mall. There are so many logical details to this initial scene. The man is driving through a mall parking lot, wearing pink sunglasses, and driving a pink truck. It is logical that the audience of this commercial would picture the stereotypical teenage girl in such a way and in such a setting.
            They also use logic in assuming that the audience would think a teenage girl would most likely be talking or texting on her cell phone while driving. It is has become a common stereotype that teenage girls are always on their cell phones and use texting abbreviations when speaking, such as BFF and OMG. It is also implied that teenage girls are over dramatic, or become “emotionally compromised.” A third case of using logic is shown by Mayhem hitting another woman’s car because it makes sense that a driver, especially a teenage girl, would be distracted from driving safely by using a cell phone.
Allstate shows how easily and how often car accidents can happen, even when it is not the viewer of the commercial’s fault. It is at this point that they use the third artistic means of rhetoric: pathos. They appeal to the audience’s emotion. By showing how easily car accidents can happen and how much damage even small accidents can cause, Allstate is using fear to motivate people to buy car insurance. They show Mayhem driving the pink truck into a parked car causing the front bumper to be completely ripped off (this may or may not be an exaggerated result of a small parking lot fender bender). They state that without car insurance, or with an insurance company other than Allstate, that the victims of accidents could be responsible for paying for the damages.
            There is an emotion that is specifically not appealed to in this commercial. You’ll notice that the car accident (or “mayhem”) happens to a completely innocent person. They show someone else, such as an irresponsible teenage girl – or a man pretending to be one – causing the accident. They don’t make the audience feel like the accident would ever be their fault because that would put them in a defensive position. Or the audience would think that an accident wouldn’t happen to them because they are safe drivers.
Allstate’s audience doesn’t include teenage girls. Teenage girls don’t typically purchase car insurance. Their parents buy it for them. Allstate’s target audience for this commercial is adults and parents who own cars and who may also assume how irresponsible teenage girls can be.
            In this commercial, Allstate is showing that bad things can happen to anyone and they try to appeal to the audience how likely they are to happen. They leave the audience with the feeling that since bad things can, do, and will happen, that the audience should turn to them in order to be protected financially before the bad things happen. “So get Allstate. You can save money and be better protected from Mayhem like me.”

Selzer, Jack. “Rhetorical Analysis: Understanding How Texts Persuade Readers.” What Writing Does and How it Does it, (September 2003), pp. 279-303. Print.

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