“BP Fuels America. America Fuels BP” is a 127-second disguised-as-informational/promotional clip launched by BP on May 20th, 2013 on Youtube. The clip is constructed as a series of rotating short animated sketches, which are accompanied and text information with facts and slogans and relaxing though spirited music. In my opinion, the commercial is a decent attempt to establish positive emotional connection between the company and its customers (which include virtually every adult in the U.S.) by appealing to the common American values and emphasizing company’s positive impact on the economy and the environment, with the latter being particular important given the latest controversies around BP, whose costs of settling the consequences of oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico are estimated between at almost USD 10 billion (WSWS).
Three modes of persuasion of rhetoric will be analyzed in this work: pathos, ethos and logos. Pathos refers to attempt to appeal to the emotions of audience, and undoubtedly this element has been used in BP’s commercial, mostly in the very beginning. First of all, the name of the commercial is appeal to patriotic feelings of the audience – “BP Fuels America. America Fuels BP” hints on friendly productive coexistence and mutual dependence of the company and the country; if one loves one, he or she logically must love the other. Identification with the U.S. is how the clip is started: the first picture a viewer sees after the company’s logo is the U.S. flag; the first textual representation is “Each day in America” with the word ‘America’ gaining attention being green, while the other words are gray. The commercial then attempts to “hook” the viewers by leading them gradually from the impact the company has on lives of individuals (using the first person pronounce) to that on the whole economy. As the clip develops, however, purely pathetic messages barely appear, for the clip pretends to be rather informational – except that in the end patriotic appeal may be observed again when the company announces their sponsorship of 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Teams.
Ethos, in rhetoric, refers to appeal to presenter’s qualities, such as his authority or honesty. Given the situation around the company, ethos is arguably the most important component out of three mentioned above, as BP badly needs to reestablish its reputation. In fact, picturing itself as a socially responsible entity. The slogan “Safely. Reliably. Responsibly” is the bottom line of the advertisement, with further information serving as a confirmation of it. The next message reminds about 150-year history of the company’s U.S. presence, which is followed by a pretty strange, in my opinion, “and we have never been more committed to America” passage. On the one hand, one may wonder where BP’s full commitment has been before; on the other hand, this statement may symbolize positive changes in company’s approach – in that case this message is justified. The main body of the movie is a mixture of ethos and logos, as rare facts are being succeeded by picturesque interpretations of those, illustrating BP’s contribution to the society including investments in general, development of new sources of power, donations to educational institutions and number of jobs the company creates.
Finally, the term “logos” refers to the use of facts and figures to support the argument. As it was mentioned, in this commercial logos and ethos are strongly connected, as the qualities the company wants to demonstrate need to be supported with facts. Many numbers appear – length of history of BP’s operations in the US, number of employees, amount of investments in general and donations for university research, as well as series of non-numerical facts, such as investment in supercomputers, usage of safety equipment, providing enough energy to light entire country and support of Olympic and Paralympic teams. Numerical facts probably play the most important role as they increase perceived objectivity of information provided – especially powerful was the fact that BP “invested in America more than any other energy company”, whatever ‘investing in America’ means.
Overall, I find the commercial powerful as it includes each of three modes of persuasion in the proportions appropriate for the goal of the advertisement – to convince the audience that the company is a good thing for the society. Emotional appeal is necessary in such a case, but not too much – that is why pathos is used only to hook the viewers in the very beginning; for reputation building combination of ethos and logos is crucial – the former provides statements on presenter’s identity, while the latter provides factual base for it.
Perception of this commercial by audience most likely depends on the opinion about BP that has been formulated – should it be negative, all the information contained in the advertisement will be received skeptically, while positively predisposed audience will perhaps accept the information happily. At the same time, a person who has never heard neither about the company nor about the scandals related to it will definitely have the feeling that BP a great thing for the U.S., meaning that the ad reached its target.
“BP Fuels America. America Fuels BP”. YouTube.com. May 20, 2013. BPPlc. < https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1FXxJlcbS6A>
Hall, Tom. “BP asks appeals court to throw out oil spill settlement”. World Socialist Web Site. September 3, 2013. < http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2013/09/03/bp-s03.html>