Berlitz “Sinking” Commercial

Until seeing this commercial, I had never heard of Berlitz adult language courses. To be honest, Rosetta Stone is the first language education company to come to my mind; however after experiencing 40 seconds of pure empathy for the poor man seen above, I can say that I will most definitely remember Berlitz.

This commercial features a young man seemingly at the first day on the job as a German Coastguard. At the start, the audience is confused by the older man speaking German, which previews the young man’s feelings towards the end of the commercial when he is confused by the person calling in on the radio. Similarly, his tone suggests that he is explaining how to use everything in the control room. We can tell that the younger man is not listening by the way he fails to make eye contact with his elder, and seems to be looking around the desk out of curiosity. Once the explanation is over, he slaps the rookie on the back, and we know that everything is up to him now. He begins to get acquainted, adjusting his seating position a few times, looking around the room a bit. His naivety allows the audience to develop a feeling of familiarity and even some fear for what is to come.

Just as he is settled in, the radio comes to life abruptly, startling the audience a bit. The rookie, however, seems slow to react. He looks around seeming quite reluctant. Then, when the person on the other side of the radio explains that “(they) are sinking,” he responds with questionable English: “What are you sinking about?” This suggests that he is not well-educated in the English language, and the effects of his stupidity could be disastrous.

Now when I first watched this, I felt horrible for him. Realistically, he could have caused a crisis for the German Coastguard! This is how the audience is supposed to feel. They experience these emotions of guilt and empathy that will thus drive them to invest in Berlitz language education to avoid devastating situations like this.

Towards the end of the commercial, the feelings that the audience experience provide them with a sense of trust in the Berlitz company when it reads, “Improve your English,” with Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 playing in the background, suggesting a greater sense of knowledge that comes with the classical music.

The makers of this commercial utilized the art of persuasion by, in a sense, guilt-tripping their audience. The use of the confusing German language, naive rookie, and dangerous situation provides an exaggerated view of what could happen when people are not educated in foreign languages.