2—Can you live with dirty water?
The narrative advertisement Can you live with dirty water? uses incongruity and shock to persuade viewers to take action to solve a problem. The aim is to provoke a strong (negative) emotional reaction in the responder, such as fear, anger or disgust. Public service advertisements about social issues often have high shock value. Can students think of any such advertising campaigns using shock value? They may mention road safety and anti-smoking campaigns.
Watch the World Vision advertisement Can you live with dirty water? without the soundtrack. Prime students to consider these questions while viewing:
- What are the positive and negative emotions the advertisement aims to provoke?
- What is the problem that needs a solution?
- Is there a ‘call to action’ in this advertisement — what might the advertiser want responders to think and do after watching?
After watching the advertisement, think-pair-share answers to the pre-viewing questions, then briefly share with the class. The questions will later be discussed at length.
Replay the clip with the soundtrack and discuss how this affects the viewer. What is the role or the purpose of this sort of soundtrack? The soundtrack to the advertisement is ‘Heart’s a Mess’ by Belgian-born Australian artist Gotye (Wally de Backer).
- What are the lyrics saying?
- What lines catch in your mind as you are listening?
- What effect do the softly sung, mellow lyrics and laidback music have — combined with the beautiful summer’s day — that are then transformed by filthy water?
Have students think-pair-share then individually write responses to these questions.
Class discussion and modelling using a film log sheet
The major shock tactic of this advertisement is the woman giving the baby its bottle with filthy water in it.
On the interactive whiteboard, guide the students through the build up of narrative tension leading to this climactic event, as mother, bottle, and baby are intercut with children playing. Students collaborate with the teacher to note the timing and action, using a film log sheet with a time-code column (search ‘film log sheet’ or ‘camera log sheet’ online to source or create your own; print and hand out to each student). Pause to discuss items with students at each point and introduce some simple film technique metalanguage. Use a glossary of film terms. See a log sheet example focusing on the bottle.
Lead discussion on: What is the advertisement trying to ‘sell’? What is its purpose and message? Many people in the world do not have clean water, but it’s something that we in developed nations take for granted. As it’s an advertisement for a charity, it’s trying to get us to change our thinking and our western complacency and realise that others are not as well off. That’s a start, but it might also want us to help change and improve things. This is perhaps implied but certainly not explicit. Why it is not made explicit?
Provide Rosenbaum’s classic 1993 definition of the meaning of sustainable:
‘Sustainable means using methods, systems and materials that won’t deplete resources or harm natural cycles.’
A major aim of the advertisement would be for people to go to the World Vision website, to become more informed and to financially support their work in developing countries. Go to World Vision Australia’s Water, Sanitation & Hygiene pages and have students read the text above the clip.
What is the role or purpose of this written text above the video clip? Does this provide any information about the purpose of the clip? (such as to make wealthy people take notice or become aware that not all people have access to safe drinking water). The images contrast the problems and the solutions, with further information and also a section where you can contribute things such as money for water purification tablets.
Was the message of Can you live with dirty water? delivered in an explicit coda stage of the narrative? The text screens provide an explicit coda and the persuasive written text of the advertisement. Show the text screens (36 to 51 seconds).
From the screens, we’ve worked out that there is a coda stage to this narrative. Now students go back to work out and describe the orientation stage and the complication stage of the narrative. Use a narrative worksheet with questions, which students fill in individually.
In a typical narrative the stage that comes after orientation and complication is resolution; when characters try to work out the problem. In this narrative the characters appear oblivious to the problem, so is there a resolution stage to this narrative? What is the significance of the characters being oblivious to the problem and not trying to solve it, in relation to the coda and its persuasive text? Ask students individually to explain in writing why they think the characters do not see a problem to be resolved. Students can share their responses in groups.
Vocabulary exercise — using Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions
The advertisement appeals very strongly to the emotions. As we have seen, the characters themselves are oblivious to the problem and express no emotions regarding it, but what are students’ emotional responses? Note how some emotions can relate to physical sensations — is feeling disgust a physical feeling or an emotional feeling?
Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions grades the intensity of emotions and connections between emotions like a colour wheel. Using Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions, students choose emotions they felt at the orientation stage of the advertisement, and the feelings experienced at the series of complications. Students should also choose at least three of their own words to convey their emotions more subtly, but must work out where these would fit on Plutchik’s wheel. Don’t forget the effect the soundtrack and lyrics had on students’ emotions. Have them look back to their worksheets where they answered this question to some extent. Choose emotions from the wheel to represent the effect of the soundtrack and lyrics.
On the whiteboard, tick the emotions felt by students on Plutchik’s Wheel and add the students’ own choice of words into the correct position on the wheel, guided by students. They can then see how intense or weak the words and corresponding emotions are.
The Can you live with dirty water? advertisement also makes viewers think — it engages thought processes with its coda after first strongly engaging senses and emotions. The advertisement aims to influence the viewer and change their point of view.
One of the purposes of these kinds of clips is to raise awareness of global sustainability issues and have them ‘go viral’ through social media. As points for discussion: How successful was the clip, taking into account that students also took the required action and visited its website to learn more? Was it a good advertisement? Do students think they would have gone to look at the website themselves? How could you share this clip with others? Why do people share clips via Facebook and other social media?