Sometimes a speaker, rather than moving an audience towards or away from something, uses emotion to keep them in place.

They might create a sense of stillness, calm, reflection, or even sometimes sadness.

For example, consider this classic ad. How is it designed to affect the audience emotionally, and why would the speaker (Sony) want the ad to have that effect?

(For this ad to really work, you need to set the resolution to 1080p and have good speakers or headphones.)

How is it designed to affect the audience emotionally, and why would the speaker want the ad to have that effect?

The Bravia Bouncy Balls ad is hypnotic—the slow motion, the colour, the sheer streets and bay views of San Francisco, and the music all work to hold the audience in suspension.

The effect is kind of breathtaking and heartbreaking at the same time because it's a spectacular moment—and all beautiful moments are fleeting (reflected in the melancholy song, Heartbeats, by Jose Gonzalez).

Why would the speaker want to create this effect?

Sony was selling a new TV, so why not show the TV and say how great it is?

The selling point of the Bravia was its colour resolution, and this ad was a way to make the audience stop what they were doing and stare at complex colour and motion for 2 1/2 minutes, and leave with a sense of longing for that moment again (which could be achieved with a Bravia TV).

Here's another ad that creates a still, reflective mood. How does it work and why?

How does this ad persuade the audience emotionally?

This ad might seem similar to Nike's ads earlier in this lesson because it's about sports, but the ad isn't about moving the audience towards sports.

It's about making the audience stop and appreciate the work that mothers do for their children, both in athletics and life in general.

The beautifully-shot footage of mothers doing the hard work of waking up early, getting their children ready, ferrying them to events, giving them support and encouragement, coupled with the steadily building music creates a reflective but uplifting mood, which is then released in a combination of joy and melancholy as the athletes complete their events, creating an final feeling of gratitude and appreciation.

Why would the speaker do this?

In this instance, the speaker, P&G, is a massive multinational conglomerate with many household brands that sell primarily to mothers, so this ad celebrates the labours of motherhood (and parenting in general) and obliquely encourages the consumption of P&G's related goods. 

Other P&G ads could sell specific products or lines, but this ad, associated with the London Olympics, wanted to make a bigger, more emotional and cultural impact.

How do we achieve this stillness and reflection in writing and speech?

Consider this snippet from a speech by an American judge named Learned Hand in the immediate aftermath of World War II. How would you describe the emotional impact and how is it created?

As we renew our mutual fealty, it is fitting that we should pause, and seek to take account of the meaning of our cost and suffering.

Was not the issue this: whether mankind should be divided between those who command and those who serve; between those who use others at their will and those who must submit; whether the measure of a man’s power to shape his own destiny should be the force at his disposal?

Our nation was founded upon an answer to those questions, and we have fought this war to make good that answer.

For ourselves and for the present, we are safe; our immediate peril is past. But for how long are we safe, and how far have we removed our peril?

If our nation could not itself exist half slave and half free, are we sure that it can exist in a world half slave and half free? Is the same conflict less irrepressible when worldwide than it was eighty years ago when it was only nationwide?

Right knows no boundaries, and justice no frontiers; the brotherhood of man is not a domestic institution.

How would you describe the emotional impact and how is it created?

This speech doesn't try to create big emotions, but it's not a plain, logical argument, either.

It definitely creates some kind of emotional effect, even if only subtly.

Part of the reflective effect simply comes from asking questions, but that's not the whole explanation: there is a musical, rhythmic aspect to this snippet. 

Look closely, and you might notice that Judge Hand makes regular use of balanced pairs of phrases, what's sometimes called parallel construction:

  • those and those
  • how long, how far
  • our nation, our world
  • no boundaries, no frontiers

This continual tick-tock of question pairs creates a hypnotic rhythm that builds the reflective mood.

On the subject of questions, here's a snippet of a speech from Jack Valenti, who was a big deal in the film industry back in the day, about his time working as a presidential assistant.

How does this create a reflective mood? And why would Valenti do that?

I learned that in the White House there is one enduring standard by which every assistant to the president, every presidential adviser, every presidential consultant, must inevitably be measured.

Not whether you went to Harvard or Yale, or whether you scored sixteen hundred on your SATs, or whether you are endlessly charming and charismatically enabled, or whether you made millions in what we sardonically call "the private sector." These are all attractive credentials, which one may wear modestly or otherwise.

But when the decision crunch is on in the Oval Office they are all merely tracings on dry leaves in the wind. What does count, the ultimate and only gauge, is whether you have “good Judgment.”

I learned that no presidential decision is ever made where the president had all the information he needed to make the decision. There is never enough facts.

Very quickly, the decision corridor grows dark, the mapping indistinct, the exit inaccessible. What is not useful are precedents or learned disquisitions by op-ed page pundits, some of whom would be better suited to raising pigeons.

Finally, the decision is made on judgment alone. Sometimes the judgment is good. Sometimes it is not.

It is well to remember, as Oscar Wilde once said, that from time to time nothing that is worth knowing can be taught. Judgment is something that springs from some little elf who inhabits an area between your belly and your brain, and who, from time to time, tugs at your nerve edges, and says, "No, not that way, the other way."

How does this speech persuade the audience emotionally?

Again, this speech is not going for big emotions; it's reflective.

Part of the effect, as with Learned Hand's speech, is created through rhythm and repetition:

  • every, every, every
  • whether, or whether, or whether

But the real power in this speech comes from imagery:

  • attractive credentials
  • tracings on dry leaves in the wind
  • decision corridor grows dark
  • mapping indistinct
  • exits inaccessible
  • raising pigeons
  • some little elf between your belly and your brain
  • tugs at your nerve edges

The imagery creates a portrait of the challenges that a president faces when making good decisions.

Like all good narrative and poetry, it allows us to live a fraction of the experience (and in this instance, reflect on how difficult it must be to do the job).

You have a try. Using this image as inspiration, imagine a speaker is trying to create a feeling of stillness in the audience—whether to contemplate, appreciate, reflect, or mourn.

What could they say or do?


Using this image as inspiration, how might a speaker create a feeling of stillness in the audience? (For example, to contemplate, appreciate, reflect, or mourn.)