Media Practice: Concepts

Didactic Videos on the Web:

Education has found a wealth of new tools in television, but while the graphic and narrative resources of the medium are great it has never matched unmediated classrooms for passionate discussion. With Youtube, we find television's educational flaws somewhat mitigated, as the two public health care videos demonstrate. With colloquial language and humor, the narrator who communicates with the viewer on informal terms, earning their trust. This nonchalance allows both videos to rudely dismiss the opposition and dress their own arguments as perfectly obvious.
Taken separately, the videos do little more than confirm the opinions of viewers who already agree with their arguments. The cartoons, while crafty, white wash complex issues, and their smarmy tones overshadow their logical arguments with name calling. In this way, they share a lot with t.v. ads that rely on sappy emotionalism to attract viewers, though the youtube videos certainly contain more factual argument than t.v. ads which must purchase expensive network time, limiting their content. But if we take these videos together, we see how the medium shines, offering the kind of back-and-forth discussion that we can not get from a t.v. Together, their arguments demonstrate the real complexity of health care and inspire serious thinking in the viewer, something that previous media has been less able to do.
Like the health care videos, 'Stuff' employs colloquial tones and crafty cartoons to convey a comprehensive, well informed, and approachable message, though it also simplifys the issues while denying any counter-argument. The production itself is a near flawless example of educational television, using the internet to expand it's audience. Any grade schooler or entertainment addict would enjoy it, and walk away knowing something about their world. Unlike t.v. ads, her facts are backed up with history and analysis, and there is no music or actors to dramatize her argument, thus avoiding intense emotional appeal.

'Illness' by AHIP:

AHIP stands for American Health Insurance Plans. They are the authors of the brilliantly subversive commercial 'Illness'. AHIP has been at the helm of public relations for this country's health insurers for some time. Their head, Karen Ignagni, is something of a spokeswoman for the industry, appearing on talk shows to represent her customer; to tell their side of the story, but without making them appear self interested. This is a delicate message to get across.
The audience for 'Illness' includes all Americans, but especially those eyeing their pitchforks. As the health care controversy saturates our media, many Americans are looking for a bad guy, and the AHIP wants those Americans to know, or believe, that insurance companies are on their side. So they create a sympathetic story, admitting to the faults in the system and the need for change, but at the last moment asking that this change not come at the cost of bipartisanism. This way the ad serves two functions, portraying the companies as warm hearted while delicately undermining the left-wing's plan for a public option.
As advocacy 'Illness' is simply fantastic. AHIP serves their clients' image on the surface while pushing their political agenda below the surface, which is where ads work best anyway. It makes emotional appeals to a broad audience of Americans, getting them on the insurance companies side without revealing their terms, keeping the facts and AHIP's real intentions of the table.
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