Who are the Ad Wizards?

Welcome to Anchorage

February 26, 2010
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In our class discussion about Visual Culture: A Reader, we talked about what anchorage really means. What I believe Barthes was driving to is the idea that when words and images interact, the words often gives the proper context to the image. The “proper” context is dependent on the author.

This context that author provides is the “remote control” factor that Barthes mentioned. The context is the ability of the author to see an image and notice only what the author wants you to notice.

Let’s take Stevie Wonder for example.

With one look at Stevie Wonder, we see him as a famous blind musician.

When we have Stevie Wonder in a commercial for Volkswagen, the words that are contained in the commercial point us to only notice that he is blind. His musical abilities have no bearing on the message.

Without the words, it just looks like a bunch of people punching each other. Then we end with the VW logo and slogan. Because of the final image being of the VW logo, we may then interpret what we saw previously as a game of Punch Buggy. But it would require the audience to pay close attention throughout, and we may miss the Stevie Wonder joke.

Instead, the copywriters at Deutsch LA gave us the proper anchor to understand the joke.


Be Like Mike… Just for a second

February 12, 2010

Did you see Michael Jordan in this commercial for his signature shoes? No? Try pausing it between the :53 and :54 marks. It’s just a blur, but it’s his Airness.

The message could be interpreted in a few ways…

  1. With the right shoes, you can harness the power of Michael Jordan
  2. The newest Jordans allow even a superstar like Dwyane Wade to improve his game.
  3. With these kicks you can be temporarily possessed by the greatest basketball player of all time.

Hyperbolic messages aside, why would the Jordan brand and their ad agency, Wieden+Kennedy, choose to send it subliminally? Advertisers are constantly looking for ways to engage consumers who have “seen it all” and “heard it all” before. In this day of DVRs and YouTube, Wieden+Kennedy knows they can get their audience thinking and moving with just a flash of red.

The FCC’s stance on subliminal message states, “the broadcast of subliminal material is inconsistent with a station’s obligation to serve the public interest because it is designed to be deceptive.” Also the message must be meant to be perceived on a subconscious level only. As far as the FCC is concerned, since Jordan’s unmistakable red Bulls jersey can be perceived by the naked eye, if only for a moment, this commercial doesn’t contain any subliminal messages.

Putting the you in iPod

February 4, 2010

Insert target audience here.

Everyone can recognize the wonderful job Apple has done at marketing their iPod. The oddest aspect of their effective advertising is the lack of a represented target audience.

In advertising, we’re taught that the target audience is almost as important as the product itself. It’s common practice to show a representative of the target audience. Someone who the target audience can look at and picture themselves as being. The idea is that if the target audience can imagine themselves in the ad, there’s a better chance of them purchasing the product. The downside is that the ad may dissuade potential customers outside the target audience because the product is “not for them.” But what Apple’s ad agency, TBWA/Chiat/Day, did was allow the target audience put itself in their ads. The silhouetted image is literally a blank canvass that anyone can be placed in.

In the above ad, we can assume the depicted person is female, but we cannot determine age, education level, marital status, or any other target audience standard measurements. This allows the target audience to receive the message, and not discriminate everyone else.