Look at this dog below. This dog could be thinking anything in this picture. Maybe he annihilated a pillow with his sharp fangs, and is now in timeout. Maybe there is a delicious squirrel off screen testing his fortitude. The fact is we don’t know. However, through communication mediation, we are often manipulated into believing two things that this dog is thinking: 1) he is very, very sad and 2) he needs a new owner desperately.
Are you still unsure what I am talking about? Maybe this lyric will help you: “in the arms of the angel…” I am of course referring to the now infamous ASPCA commercial with singer Sarah Mclachlan encouraging people to adopt pets from animal pounds that are guilty of animal cruelty. Although animal cruelty is a very serious issue, there is still manipulation on the side of the ASPCA to make us feel very emotional about these dogs and cats through Mclachlan’s very slow, somber tune.
Like Klosterman noted with regards to laugh tracks in “Ha ha, he said. Ha Ha,” the ASPCA commercial suggests that putting images of dogs and cats along with the message of saving dogs and cats from animal cruelty together is not enough; that we need more reinforcement that this is a bad thing through depressing music (5).
Although it may not be ethical, it is certainly effective. While advertisements and PSA’s can get across a message through other means, it is often the music that sets the tone of the message and encourages people to act. This study published by the American Psychological Association shows that having background music playing in stores increases impulse buying.
However, there are ways to dampen the effect of the music. If you are seeking immunity from this heart-string tugger, simply change the tune. This revamped commercial with more upbeat music from YouTube user ThePustilio should help.