Some have drawn question of data security in regards to Facebook’s new device, “Portal,” and some have even connected the timing of its release with bad press they’ve received about leaks of member’s data; but Facebook doesn’t want you to think about that this holiday season (Smith). Their new ads want their viewers focused on family and connectivity as they invite themselves into our homes, even amidst heavy scrutiny for their mishandling of customer’s data, in addition to allowing its use to further divisive partisan politics. This shows that the overall goal Facebook’s marketing department had was to use the emotions depicted in ads for a newly launched product to further its sales, and detract from their misdeeds.
The product Facebook has recently launched is called “Portal”. What the technology promises is a device in the home to connect people through video calling. Portal sports a system that moves the device slightly to face the person using it as they move through the house, and a camera system that dynamically focuses on the speaker while it maintains its “eyesight” on them (Silver). Also key to the device’s social functionality is it’s superb microphone, which can parse data from conversations and has the potential to be used for targeted ads, according to their product vice president, Rafa Camargo (Moore, C.). What is Facebook to do to evade these concerns? Turn to using Pathos as sleight of hand to push their product. While embroiled in controversy for their actions in 2016, instead of launching their product in May as they had planned, the company held out, and launched Portal in October (Smith).
“Just four days after Facebook announced Portal, the company announced in a blog post that 30 million Facebook accounts were hacked by unnamed attackers. On Friday, Facebook users began receiving notifications from the company detailing the types of information (phone numbers, birth dates, etc) the hackers took.” (Smith).
This information is the sort one would expect would end a company, while Facebook instead gears up a marketing campaign across both traditional television and streaming services such as Hulu, where the ad was observed by the author.
Upon its open, the premise of the commercial is explained: “We sent a mystery device to loved ones separated by distance.” which is overlaid on scenes of the “unknown” device’s package being opened. Text reading “These are their reactions.” follows. The ad then blasts the viewer with families, sporting clips of peoples of different ages and backgrounds interacting with each other in all the ways one can; sharing private moments, conversing about life plans, cooking, playing innocently, and expressing love. Throughout the ad the technology that Portal offers is showcased, and even explained by multiple of the members of the families depicted, in plain terms. The commercial is grounded on presenting the connectivity of the product they offer with their marketing department grounded by a laser focus on presenting that feeling of connection, and making it accessible to everyone. The families depicted are very diverse, with subtitles at times taking over to explain conversations in a multitude of languages, including American Sign Language.
With this broad diversity, the Portal marketing team are clearly targeting their ad towards Americans of diverse backgrounds, but, able to afford their product. Thus, the ad is targeting the American middle class aggressively. This is because the device, which is for recreation and retailing at a price of $200.00 would be above the amount a family with less income could afford to spend (Silver). To further increase their odds at good sales, Facebook is releasing the device around the holiday season.
To better appeal to consumers the advertisement is ambiguous as to even the events or time of year, so as not to exclude anyone, or moreover any one market. Their final tagline is “If you can’t be there, feel there.” which evokes emotions of togetherness and family, and more so when backed by the litany of families the ad displays. This approach is made to evoke the viewer’s feelings, also referred to classically as pathos, or an argument from pity. The main rhetorical device used by the ad is pathos. The ad analysed for this paper is not the only one facebook made that use this rhetorical device, however, as the other advertisements fielded include similar taglines. Similar to their taglines is the emotional appeal the ads for Portal use, the desire to be connected to loved ones. Furthermore, the ad also commits the fallacy of using a “guilt trip”, as they are “Eliciting feelings of guilt to get others to do or not do something” by way of using the ad viewer’s feelings about their family or loved ones, and thus feelings they may have about losing touch with them as reasoning to purchase their product, or forget past scandals (Moore, B.N., 189).
One is left to wonder, will the money spent on their advertisements pay off in the end, and will every American home soon be bedazzled with a Portal, as if a scene from Science Fiction? The odds are slim. This is due to the now-unwary American public. Much like devices made by other companies such as Snapchat’s glasses, or the Google glass; the Facebook Portal, being another object designed to bring a video chatting camera into our lives, will likely fail. The emotional appeal made in the Portal ad is too poor to overcome the distrust the public have of having Facebook’s interests and attitude towards privacy and data so intricately intertwined with their own.
In a society ruled by passions in many forms, the passion given between members of a family that love each other is one that is rare to find, but can be expressed in many different ways through different mediums. Video chatting is only one of those medium of exchange for love, and one that’s incredibly new, at that. However, it’s not the only one, and while the power love has is great, it can also be used as a tool against the public by promoting the purchase of a product that may be used in ways they don’t fully understand or agree with, as has been shown to have been the case in the past through Facebook’s mishandling of their member’s data.