The advertisement uses a number of techniques to convey to the viewer why they should contribute £2 a month to Cancer Research UK. The music in the background makes the viewer feel mournful, empathetic, and sad. There are lots of other effects like the voiceover, which is slow and meaningful, together with powerful visual images.
The advert starts with a ‘high angle over shoulder shot’ at a boy who looks to be about seven years old and his mother. The director has chosen the location of the advert to be in the hallway whilst the child gets ready for school. This is a vital part of a mother’s role to prepare her child for the day ahead. This makes the boy so vulnerable because he couldn’t cope with a loss of his mother. This is why it is so important that the viewer contributes a sum of money smaller than the cost of their daily coffee in a café. This is a technique used in many adverts where the viewer is made to feel guilty for not participating in the event.
Eva Cassidy who is a singer became famous posthumously, writes the music in the background. She has a distinctive soft and delicate voice that is instantly recognizable. It is a well-known fact that she tragically died of cancer at the age of thirty-three. Her voice used as the musical backdrop in this advert, is particularly poignant and apt. The lyrics to the music “You’ll remember me when the west wind moves upon the fields of barley” can also have a reminiscent and nostalgic affect upon the viewer.
The hallway portrays family life with shoes on the floor and coats hung up. However the lack of colour in the hallway creates a stark sterile atmosphere that is bereft of the busyness of everyday life. The camera then pans across to the right, the cancer research logo appears on the screen, the camera now gives an over shoulder view with the mother’s back to the camera. The mother leans forward and whispers softly into the boy’s ear “Don’t forget your hanky” and slowly disappears into the mirror.
At this point the voiceover says, “We don’t have a magic mirror, but at Cancer Research UK, we’re helping more and more people survive cancer everyday”. The voice is emotional, saying that there is no magic mirror, nothing will bring someone back, but the organisation is developing the cures for cancer. “We’re helping more and more people survive cancer everyday”. It sounds catchy, and suits the context. It also instills hope into that scene of loss and despair. It encourages the viewer to believe that their financial contribution could avoid such tragedy in the future. This is another technique, which demonstrates what the viewer is ‘buying’ with their small contribution; hope.
The camera angle now changes to a close up of the boy. He looks in the mirror to where his mother was standing, and touches it. His facial expressions demonstrate that he’s trying to hold back his tears. Perhaps he is trying to make himself look like ‘a big boy’, who doesn’t really need his mum anymore.
There is a parallel to be made here between this scene and another well known to children. In “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” there is a moving episode where Harry sees his dead parents in the mirror. He reaches out to them but then they are gone. The film preceded this Cancer advert but clever advertisers recognize the power of association. They know that children watching this appeal will be reminded of their favorite film and will instantly bond with the advert. It might even encourage them to draw their parent’s attention to it. Association of the product with a well-known media star or event is a well-used technique.
The advert now diverts to a family who has been treated by the Cancer organisation. The mother in this scene is brushing her hair; it’s quite a normal thing to do, the family doesn’t look affected by cancer at all. The children are talking the background of the ‘three shot’ camera angle. The phone number appears on the screen, whilst the voiceover says “Please call 0800 316 4000 and give £2 a month to Cancer Research UK”. At this point the advert is telling the viewer to contribute a small donation and magnify the result. The colours in the background are warm and pleasant, associated with life and security. The mother says to one of her children “come here” and hugs her child with strength and love. The hug becomes a kiss and a hug again; this is showing to the viewer the strength of their relationship. This also implies openness and a need to communicate to children about cancer. It blows away previously held myths that cancer is infectious or has a stigma attached to it.
Text is printed across the screen “£2 a month will help us cure cancer faster” these are a few short words which will help the viewer to develop an understanding for the uses of the small contribution. Most adverts tend to leave the advert with a key point, or name so that the viewers will remember the product advertised when they next go shopping. The Cancer Research UK’s advert finishes with the mother and daughter hugging. The background has a mirror that reflects the light, and warm colours to show the life and future the family has together. The advertisement here is stressing the effectiveness of the product, that is, Cancer Research UK would make good use of your contribution.
In my opinion, the advertisement is successful because it shows two scenes that are both similar and contrasting. Both portray family life with a mother and child. However the fundamental difference is life and death. In one scene the mother dies of cancer. In the other the mother survives. The inference is that the person who can really make the difference is the viewer. A modest donation of £2 a month is a small price to pay to alleviate the viewer’s guilt, to buy hope and find an effective cure for cancer. The advert empowers the viewer to act in a positive way and this is an appealing message. It also implies that as one in three of us will develop cancer at some point in our lives, and therefore it would be a good and wise investment.
This is a beautifully crafted advert that stimulates the senses of sight, sound, and touch. As such, it makes a lasting impression especially as a potential giver can contribute to a happy ending.
By Alex Barber 10RA