The 2014 TVC Thai Life Insurance commercial, “Unsung Hero,” which the top YouTube comment summarizes in the sentence, “Who’s cutting onions?! :”)” follows a nameless, everyman (in that the ad wants the viewer to see themselves in him) as he spends his days helping elderly women, a homeless mother and daughter, a dog, and a potted plant. Mostly with money or food (purchased with money).

Although the tearjerking advertisement depicts a touching, uplifting narrative, if we dig beneath the surface and analyze the symbolism, a different decoding appears. Notice how he never helps men, and instead only receives their disapproval and disbelief. This is partially a sign that the commercial aims at a target demographic OF men. By presenting a male protagonist who plays the knight in shining armor for women, children, and even a dog, it creates a “this could be you” scenario that subconsciously persuades the viewer into playing that role along with him as they watch the commercial.

To take it a step further, the entire narrative signifies a moral of appreciating life, which then symbolizes Thai Life Insurance. Thus, the commercial is a sign in which the viewer subconsciously understands the commercial narrative, the signifier, to signify Thai Life Insurance, the signified. When we look at this heartwarming story, we see how precious life is, and by association the commercial encourages us to buy life insurance to protect it. The tearjerking mood of the commercial in and of itself signifies this message, as it communicates an underlying “value of life” narrative through aesthetic decisions like soft focus, plenty of close ups, gold filter/tint, and emotional music.

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