The scene opens with a close up of two flattened cigarette butts littered on a street. The background is out of focus, but it appears to be a city setting, as there are cars parallel parked along the road, street lamps, and brick buildings worn with cracks. The trashy cigarettes are contrasted by green trees and a bright blue sky in the background, to emphasize their filth.
A new shot depicts another cigarette butt with a plastic tip falling to the ground, spewing ashes as it makes its impact. One can assume it is being discarded after its user is finished with it. The background is out of focus, perhaps with the purpose of directing the viewer’s attention to the falling cigarette where it will now remain misplaced on the cement.
The camera cuts to show ripples being created in a body of water as a cigarette butt floats along the current. The water appears to be dark, possibly contaminated by pollution.
The scene changes to a beach setting populated with various beach dwelling birds. The camera is positioned in the sand, focused on the abundance of birds on the beach under a clear, blue sky. The beautiful ocean waves are featured in the background. A small orange object is in the forefront of the shot, but entirely out of focus to the viewer. At this point, it can be assumed that the object is a cigarette butt.
The camera rack focuses and zooms to change emphasis from the natural setting previously depicted to the unnatural cigarette butt disturbing nature’s aesthetic. The birds and ocean are now out of focus and become the background to the littered cigarette. The decision to create a visual contrast between nature and the littered cigarette is effective in sending an undeniable message that littered cigarette butts pollute the world’s beauty.
Then, a female hand with well-manicured, lavender nails is shown dropping a cigarette butt in slow motion. Her hand is parallel to the ground, indicating that she is discarding her trash from an above waist level height. The use of slow motion highlights the fact that she made an active choice to carelessly discard her cigarette on the ground. Her youthful nail color and tight skin indicate that she is a fairly young woman. One may question why she cares so little about her health and environment, yet clearly goes to the effort to maintain well groomed nails.
The camera cuts to a falling cigarette, presumably the same cigarette dropped by the lavender fingernailed female in the previous shot. The cigarette is centimeters away from the ground, clearly about to make impact.
A close up shot of the cigarette dramatically crashing to the ground and bouncing several times, continuously ejecting ashes with each bounce, is shown. The cigarette begins to briefly roll before coming to a stop, perhaps to convey the message that it now will remain on the ground indefinitely.
The cigarette now begins to roll in the opposite direction and the ashes that have detached from the butt reattach, as if the previous action is being shown in reverse. The viewer is not expecting this and questions why this unnatural movement is occuring.
The cigarette is now shown flying back into the fingers of the manicured hand that had originally dropped it. This validates the viewer’s inference that the same sequence that was just shown is now being played in reverse. It can now be assumed that the message will be related to not littering cigarette butts, as the shot implies that this action must be undone.
The camera reveals that the woman is in a residential city setting, perhaps near her apartment. It is a pleasant environment, indicated by a decorative fountain, patio furniture, and lovely foliage. She is casually dressed in a tank top and jeans, revealing that she is enjoying a leisurely day. She begins to walk over to a cigarette receptacle, with her hand outstretched. The receptacle is attractive and clean, demonstrating that the residential community, in which she most likely lives, takes pride in maintaining their facilities. She is clearly heading over to the receptacle to dispose of the cigarette that had previously been shown to be disposed of improperly.
The camera shows a close up of her hand discarding the cigarette into the appropriate opening of the receiptable. The simplicity of the action is apparent.
The scene shifts to a bustling street scene outside of what appears to be a sports stadium. Cars are zooming by, depicting an ordinary day. The camera pans to focus on a large sign posted on what may be a telephone pole or street lamp. In bold black font the sign reads “DON’T LITTER.” Below this command, there is a silhouette of a hand dropping a lit, smoking cigarette. Over this graphic is the universal “do not” symbol of a red circle with a diagonal slash going through it. At the bottom of the sign, there are two logos reading “Clean City Commission” and “I Will Keep Virginia Beautiful.” It can be assumed that these two organizations are co-sponsors of a campaign to eliminate the littering of cigarette butts. One might question why this particularly busy location was selected, as opposed to a more tranquil setting, when emphasis is clearly meant to be on the poster. The viewer’s eye cannot help but be distracted, potentially missing the words on the poster entirely due to the brevity of the shot.
A new shot now shows the hands of a man holding a small, metal cigarette receptacle, as he grinds the butt of his cigarette into it to extinguish it. He is an average married man, as indicated by his wedding band. The device is pocket-sized and clearly a portable way to safely dispose of a lit cigarette. The viewer can gather that the lid of the receptacle can easily slide open and closed to conveniently and neatly discard cigarettes when no public receptacles are available. The logo on the receptacle says, “Thank You For Not Littering,” which implies that he received this item as part of a local anti-cigarette littering campaign.
We are now placed inside a well-maintained and newer model vehicle, beside a man. He is casually dressed and placing what appears to be a travel cup in the cup holder on the console in his car. In bold red, all capital letters the text printed on the cup reads, “STOP LITTERING.” Directly underneath it in bold white, all capital letters, additional text reads, “KEEP AMERICA BEAUTIFUL.” It can be inferred that he received this cup as a promotional gift, quite possibly related to the same campaign as the portable cigarette receptacle featured in the previous segment.
The angle shifts to a slightly more overhead view to clarify that what was previously thought to be a travel cup is actually a portable ashtray, designed to conveniently fit in the cup holder of a car. The man’s hand is grinding a cigarette into the ashtray to demonstrate its use. The ashes that disperse from the cigarette are neatly contained within the confines of the device. The viewer may now have the epiphany that ashtrays have now become antiquated with modern vehicles. Additionally, it has now been established that there are many simple alternatives to littering cigarette butts.
Quickly, the scene changes to a city street filled with an abundance of people, varying in ages. There are families present with young children in strollers. People are both standing and seated along the curb of the street in a parade-like fashion. Green, white, and blue balloons are decorating the area. The sky is a bright blue and the sun is shining, depicting a pleasant day. In the forefront of this scene is a dark green cigarette receptacle. Showing this receptacle in this atmosphere emphasizes its accessibility throughout various settings.
The camera cuts to a new outdoor setting, possibly near the woods. The background is blurred, but reveals autumn trees. The focal point of the shot is a large white sign, almost identical to the sign that was shown outside of the sports arena. The same bold black and red message and graphic is displayed, however it is written in Spanish. The viewer can interpret that this campaign is attempting to reach a diverse audience. Furthermore, it can be gathered that everyone must do their part in order for this campaign to be effective.
Once again, the camera cuts to a new setting. Yet another receptacle for cigarette butts is shown. The purpose of the receptacle is evident through the markings on it that show a graphic of a lit cigarette as well as labelling that reads “smoking outpost.” We see the top half of the receptacle in use by a man, as he begins to place his lit cigarette in the appropriate slot. One can assume it will safely extinguish as it drops inside the receptacle.
The proper procedure to follow while using the receptacle is revealed by the man, as he snubs out the lit embers in the designated area of the opening. He then inserts the entire cigarette butt into the slot, as presumed obvious in the previous second.
A white screen appears with a red message encouraging viewers to “Keep America Beautiful.” Beneath this statement is the logo “Cigarette Litter Prevention Program” in a red, white, and blue font. The choice of these patriotic colors was most likely a conscious attempt to have viewers associate this campaign with pride for their country and working together for a common cause.
The image transitions and eliminates the “Keep America Beautiful” phrase, while enlarging and raising the “Cigarette Litter Prevention Program” logo. In blue font, text reading “www.preventcigaretteliter.org” is displayed. In red font, the words “Thank you for not littering” are spelled out. The simplicity of this statement effectively conveys the message that not littering cigarette butts is not a difficult task, but can make a world of difference.
While the overall message of the video is quite apparent, the pacing of the second half is nonsensical. The first fifteen seconds of the video, which depicts examples of littered cigarette butts, is appropriately paced to allow the viewer to grasp the intention of the commercial. However, the second half, arguably of even greater importance, rapidly transitions from clip to clip, making it far more difficult to process the message—disposing of cigarette butts properly is not burdensome. Furthermore, eight seconds, almost one third of the ad, is devoted to presenting the logo of the organization. Lengthening the duration of the clips in the latter half would have been a much wiser use of this time, as it would have provided the viewer with the much needed time to visually process the information.
This is beautiful work, Strawberry. I have two questions (maybe three, we’ll see).
1. What do you think about the speed of the second half of the message? It’s one thing to analyze the visual a frame or two at a time, but does your impression of the “ad” change when you watch it at full speed?
2. On a broader note, how effective do you judge this announcement to be?
3. That second question is my reminder that you’re analyzing both the Visual and the Rhetoric.
4. Are there choices the director should have made to make the work more persuasive?