Stout beer maker Guinness appears to have successfully appealed to the masses through a heady mixture of pathos and prompts that would surely pull the heartstrings of anyone still having a pulse. With the television commercial Made of More – Basketball, Guinness made the right decision to hire the New York advertising firm BBDO in order to create what is in essence a short film concerning dedication and friendship. Viewers watch a basketball game played by a number of men who appear to be in good shape, and are quite masculine and aggressive in their play. Two elements make this commercial quite effective: all men are playing in wheelchairs making it appear they are all disabled. Secondly, the game ends and all but one man stand up and walk away. It is at this point that viewers hears an announcer who strings a number of words together that perfectly describe what has just transpired: these men are dedicated to their disabled friend. Pathos is the central devise used in Made of More – Basketball, with assistance by choice wording used as prompts.
Pathos is used to great effect throughout the Guinness commercial, and while some might suspect the advertisement has been produced strictly for male consumers, the emotion that exudes throughout the commercial would no doubt attract a good number of weepy females as well. The viewer has been manipulated, because most would watch the commercial and think that a basketball game played by a group disabled men is a wonderful thing, because it is. The commercial also has wonderful production values: the music is minimalist; the singing, low-key; and the film was shot using a soft-blue filter. The men are hard but the commercial seems relatively soft; which attracts any viewer, male or female, to pause and reflect about what is unfolding, and what this personally means. But, what happens towards the ending of the commercial seems to solidify the producer’s intent to drive the pathos to an anti-climatic conclusion.
A man and his wheel chair fall forward to the floor and viewers hear the first words from the announcer, “dedication.” This is followed by another word, “loyalty.” When all but one man stand and begin to walk away, one of the men standing slaps the man remaining in his wheelchair on his back and the word “friendship” is stated to viewers. These words are used as prompts, designed to reinforce the pathos which had been used throughout the commercial. These men are loyal and dedicated friends who have chosen to keep their friendships intact by simply playing basketball in wheelchairs. The commercial essentially closes with a sparse phrase, “the choices we make reveal the true nature of our character,” (Made of More – Basketball) which is designed to prompt the viewer into considering something that is quite subjective and yet, backed by such strong visuals and three words, resonates in most. But, in order to complete this pathos-laden effort, the men are last seen celebrating with a cold, freshly poured glass of Guinness, apparently the choice of all males having character and empathy.
Commercials such as the one explored for this exercise are actually quite cynical because they resort to pathos in hopes of manipulating consumers into buying product. Such efforts assume that by pulling on the heartstrings of viewers through visuals and verbal prompts, the product associated with the commercial will also resonate. This approach appears to be quite successful, which only leads to the notion that the viewing public remains quite gullible. Made of More – Basketball is testament to the art of pathos, displayed both visually and verbally.