Fully WOVEN Artifact Example: “The Pear Kernel”
Promotional Videos as a Class Assignment
You’ve probably seen a ton of promotional videos, or “promos.” Promos are closely related to commercial ads. The goal of a promo is to cement a powerful image of a product or organization in the viewer’s mind and convince them to adopt a specific course of action. Promo videos generally feature a narrator voicing over video footage, images, or text, a description or demonstration of the product, a call to action, and end with product branding (logo, slogan, etc.).
Analyzing Promotional Videos
Contributed by Brittain Fellow, Dr. Joshua Cohen.
Rhetorical Situation and Choices
In this example, for Dr. Josh Cohen’s Fall 2020 English 1102 class, Rajev De Silva created a subtly satirical promo video for an imaginary product called the Pear Kernel, a brain implant for wireless communication through holographic projection. Rajev’s goal was to persuade consumers to buy the Pear Kernel and to entertain his classmates. He used text, background music, stock footage accompanied by voiceover, and live action to present this product as a major innovation. When introducing his product, Rajev made it appear that the text was emerging from mist, giving the Pear Kernel an otherworldly quality.
Rajev uses pathos in the form of parody and satire as his primary rhetorical appeal, especially in his repetition of images, his “record-scratch” moments, his tone, and his use of tropes. He appeals to ethos by impersonating experts in the field of holographic communication, emphasizing their identities as researchers and PhDs in order to bolster their credentials as “experts.” By arguing that there is a progression in communication technologies, moving from bulky cell phones to miniature holographic projectors that can be embedded in your skin, Rajev also uses logos to promote his fictional product.
Modes & Media
Video as a medium incorporates all of the WOVEN modes, allowing for experimentation and playfulness in creating an artifact and persuading your audience. And, because videos are born-digital artifacts, they are easily disseminated on the internet, which means they can be widely viewed and often quickly.
Elements of the Genre
Voice: Dialogue and voiceover narration are two methods to convey meaning via spoken language. Rajev includes both, appearing in the video to present information by speaking to the camera as well as including voiceover narration while other images appear on the screen. In order to present multiple points of view in a simulacrum of a conversation (as opposed to a monologue, which can sometimes seem boring or one-sided), Rajev filmed himself playing two different engineers, cutting the footage together to make it appear like they were talking to each other.
Text: Video as a medium has the advantage of allowing the creator to include text on the screen to work synergistically with spoken language. Here, Rajev includes text to promote his product, the Pear Kernel, by displaying the name, product logo, and the company’s credentials (e.g., “Years of Research” and “Academy Training,” mimicking familiar tropes of product promo videos) on the screen.
Soundtrack: Spoken language is not the only audio affordance used in videos; music, with or without lyrics, sound effects, and silence all have meanings that can help make a promo’s message more effective. To create his final video, Rajev found appropriate background music for different scenes. The product introduction is backed by an up tempo, percussive track, while the more detailed description of the Pear Kernel’s features is backed by a softer, melodic track.
Call to action: When promos advertise products, they attempt to persuade the viewer to purchase that product; when they promote a group or idea, the persuasion is for the viewer to join the group or subscribe to that idea. Rajev’s video explains the future of holographic communication, asking the viewer to accept the idea of an implanted device as the newest innovation in portable communication technology.
The aesthetics and message of a promo video should align with your organization’s identity and mission. Here, Rajev’s promo satirizes the genre by exaggerating its features. After a shot of the Pear Kernel next to a chopstick for reference, we see an almost identical shot with the Pear Kernel between two chopsticks.
During another section of the video, we see dramatic stock footage, including an ornate building, time-lapse of people working in a warehouse, lemons on a conveyor belt, and a lab scientist swiping a display of molecules, while the narrator provides only vague descriptions: “People, places, things . . . other things.” These generic descriptions undercut the lofty imagery common to promo videos. Rajev ends his video with a parody of the Apple logo—a rainbow-striped pear with a bite taken out of it. These satirical elements gently make fun of how most promo videos are overly grandiose.
The order in which the visual elements of a video appear – how the scene moves between the footage and images, how the cuts are edited together – are all part of the communication message. Flashing images or text are often jarring, while fading in or out can focus a viewer’s attention on the images or text. The types of music or sound effects paired with specific footage or images direct the audience’s attention in particular ways, depending on the intention of the creator. Editing platforms allow a video creator to incorporate visual and audio elements for a variety of effects, providing timing, screen-in-screen, greenscreen, and colorizing technologies for the creator’s experimentation as they find the most effective means of persuasion with their material.
Any film footage, images, music, and sound effects that the video designer does not produce themselves should be appropriately cited. Credits are often a way for video creators to cite the material they’ve included in their artifact.
Text for this page comes from Chapter 12 in WOVENText, 2021 edition.