The Rhetoric behind a PSA Ad

On February 2, 2015, a public service announcement (PSA) was aired during the Super Bowl commercials. The PSA was created by No More, a coalition of leading advocacy groups, service providers, the U.S. Department of Justice and major corporations. Since its launch in 2013, the coalition has worked to bring visibility, resources and amplify the key messages of local, state and national non-profit working to end domestic violence and sexual assault.  No More was able to secure the ad spot because the National Football League, “whose reputation has been influenced by high-profile domestic abuse cases involving its players, donated the lucrative ad spot for the cause” (Deutsch 2015). This was a significant accomplishment for No More because they were able to spread awareness to the roughly 114.4 million viewers per minute, of the Super Bowl that has become one of the most watched events in American TV history (Riccobono 2015). This public service announcement most certainly served to bring awareness on the issues regarding domestic violence, but it also served as an image repair strategy for the NFL that has been forced to address the allegations of domestic violence against their players. The objective of this paper is simply to analyze the effects of a domestic violence PSA during one of America’s most popular events, the Super Bowl.

The PSA itself created awareness in a persuasive manner through the use of informal reasoning, also known as an enthymeme. Enthymemes are described as an argument in which one premise is not explicitly stated. It is an unstated assumption that must be true for the premise to lead to the conclusion. The persuasive appeal behind enthymemes is the engagement of the audience. In this case, it is the viewers who are the ones who are engaged from the start to make the connection of what is occurring in the video. The PSA presents a real 911 call, in which a woman who is being abused by her spouse calls 911 as a cry for help. During her call, she creates the illusion she pretends that she is making an order for a pizza delivery in order to avoid raising any suspicions by her abusive partner. Throughout the PSA, the video captures pieces of the home that are disheveled after the situation has occurred. Not much information has been given, but from what we are given visually and orally one is able to conclude that there is an emergency in a domestic violence case. The general idea of connecting a pizza call and a 911 call is the first way in which we are presented an enthymeme. Interpreting the message from the conversation between the two people creates the first conclusion. We then create our second conclusion by using the visuals to be able to interpret what type of emergency has occurred. We are able to understand that there is a female calling who is in danger, and with the message at the end of the video that reads “When it’s hard to talk, it’s up to us to listen. Help end domestic violence and sexual assault, pledge to say no more,” we are given a confirmation that it was a domestic violence case. This technique of engaging the audience allows viewers to participate in their own persuasion and reach come to a conclusion themselves by the cues given throughout the video.

Overall, I believe the public service announcement created by the No More foundation and the NFL was able to effectively use rhetorical devices to raise awareness and bring about conversations about situations of domestic violence and sexual assault occurring around the world. As stated before, the anti-domestic violence campaign serves as a social historical movement that follows Griffin’s definition. People were dissatisfied with the amount of domestic violence, they acted upon it by creating awareness and different foundations, and there was some type of success that came from it. I also found that the use of enthymemes was particularly intriguing. It allowed a bit of mystery for the audience to continue watching in order to reach the conclusion, which ultimately allows one to be placed in their own persuasion. Many times we do not see enthymemes through a visual representation, which is why I found this video to be successful in its rhetorical technique.

Click the link below to read an article by USA Today which features the text of the real 911 call that this ad is based off of:

USA TODAY: Real 911 Call





Works Cited

Deutsch, Lindsay. “That domestic violence PSA came from a real 911 call posted on Reddit.” USA Today, 1 Feb 2015. Web. 1 May 2015.

Riccobono, Anthony. “Super Bowl Ratings: How Many People Watched The New England Patriots, Seattle Seahawks Game?” International Business Times, 2 Feb 2015. Web. 1 May 2015.


Alexandra Peralta

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