Advertisement Analysis: Rabies Means Death

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“Rabies Means Death” is the title of a Public Information Film created and aired in 1982 on British networks. The last case of rabies in Britain was nearly a century ago, in 1922, and the government desperate to keep it this way, created this advertisement in order to increase awareness about rabies. In this PIF, a calm scene in an airport is interrupted by fleeting clips of a young black boy writing in agony while disturbing music plays in the background. A poster saying “Smuggling pets could bring rabies into Britain” is shown for a brief period. Then a sign stating “Nothing to declare” is shown briefly and a woman carrying a purse is shown. An attendant stops the woman, checks her purse and discovers that she’s trying to smuggle her cat…show more content…
Considering the last case of rabies in Britain was in 1922, a vast majority of the people watching this advertisement would have never observed the effects of rabies first-hand and would be largely unaware of the effects of rabies. This goal of this advertisement is to increase awareness of the disease. It does this rather effectively by instilling a sense of fear in the viewers by repeating “death”, showing pictures of skulls – a universal sign for death, and by showing graphic clips of someone with rabies, accompanied with chilling music. Someone unfamiliar with rabies such as a large amount of British citizens at the time, would be deathly terrified by this advertisement and greatly worried by the effects of rabies. This advertisement mainly relies on eliciting a sense of fear in the audience, and this is effective against a British population which would not know much about rabies. However, a foreigner who is likely to come from a country in which rabies is present, would most likely know a great deal more about rabies than the average British citizen at that time. Therefore, the methods implemented by the directors of the advertisement would probably have less of an effect on a foreigner, as they likely would already be familiar with the effects of rabies. For example, the directors of the advertisement try to use the rabies-afflicted boy to show how horrible a…show more content…
Hidden meanings are found throughout this advertisement, yet are interpreted differently by different groups of people. One of the examples is the attendant apprehending the woman. A British person would likely interpret the attendant capturing the woman trying to smuggle in the cat as a sign of how effective the government’s security measures are. They would feel more secure seeing the woman’s plans were thwarted by the competent attendant, believing this would happen in real life. As explained previously, foreigners however, would interpret this scene as a warning against the consequences of smuggling pets into the country. In addition to this, the hidden meaning behind the casting of the young black boy to play the role of the rabies-afflicted child would be interpreted differently by British and foreign viewers. The directors of this advertisement selected a black child to represent the outside world, suggesting that black people are outsiders – that they don’t belong in Britain. For British people, this sends a subconscious message that black people are strangers and different from other British people, and also making them afraid of black people – as they could be foreigners bringing in diseases from other countries. This creates a subconscious fear of outsiders in British

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