Who are the Ad Wizards?

Babyproof, or Home Dangerously Sweet Home, or Expecting

March 25, 2010
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So after hearing news that our Visual Rhetoric class had to re-do our Photo Journals and Pictories, I was somewhat pleased. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like doing extra work. But I also don’t like not putting my best work forward. So we hit the reset button, and I get a chance to delve a little deeper with my fears and anxiety that comes with the prospects of being a father.

With this version of my photo journal, while infinitely darker than my previous attempt, I decided to add more of what Hall called “a disturbance that leads to disequilibrium.” My hopes are to use the titles of the pictures and the captions to shift what the viewer/reader may take from the essay. Of course, this is more an exercise in “anchorage and relay” as described in Visual Culture. While the titles are relay-text, intended to complement the image and relate to the overall message of my fears of the hidden dangers in and around my house. The captions are anchor-text, in that they are being used to direct the thoughts of the viewer.

Though I am still concerned with jinxing our prospects of having a healthy and happy baby that grows up much in that same manner, I do believe this story provides more intrigue to the reader. As Hall says, stories have a “totalizing force.” They are our way to expose our most intense worries and greatest hopes. Yeah, that pretty much sums up my feelings as I prepare to become a dad.


Phun with Photos

March 11, 2010
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Our latest project in Visual Rhetoric had us create a photo journal on Flickr. Mine, entitled Expecting, is my attempt to show the excitement, anticipation and anxiety that comes from making the decision to start a family.

Coming up with a theme for my journal was a little troublesome. But once I found a topic that I thought would be easy to document using a sparse amount of words, finding the right scenes and settings came pretty naturally. Even though no word limits were given, I felt it necessary to allow the pictures to do the majority of the “speaking.” Although, after viewing the slideshow without my captions, I am not sure anyone else would know what I was trying to communicate. The majority of the pictures come across as photos from a real estate agent trying to sell the property.

Maybe it was because I was allowing the world into my home, and I wanted to keep a sense of anonymity. Perhaps it was the fear of jinxing ourselves by talking about something you shouldn’t talk about until the 3rd trimester. In any case, I chose to use be impersonal in my captions, and strictly object-based in my photography. By taking my wife and I out of the picture (pun unintended) I felt more comfortable to telling our story.

The second half of our project was to create a Pictory, or a single photo and elongated caption that tells the whole story. I chose the empty bedroom since it symbolized our sense of anxiety and anticipation. Even though it’s just one photo, I feel it tells the same story as the slideshow. Though this may be more of a result of the extended caption.

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.

Teach your children well.

January 31, 2010
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In our Visual Rhetoric class, our discussion touched upon how writing is being taught in college classrooms. We wondered if the writing in academia truly reflected the writing being done in the “real world.”

As a communication arts major at St. John’s University, I knew I wanted to be an advertising copywriter. I figured the work I did in my copywriting classes would give me the content to build my first portfolio. A portfolio for a copywriter is a book that contains samples of the writer’s best ads. Upon graduation, I sent out my portfolio to ad agencies in the New York and Philadelphia areas. More often than not, I didn’t receive any responses. The few responses I did get ran the confidence-shattering gambit, including – “not ready,” “immature,” “need more schooling,” “think of another profession.”

Looking back at my first book, I would agree with most of these assessments. But it wasn’t because of a lack of talent. My book – and as an extension, my schoolwork – didn’t properly reflect my capabilities.

Though my lessons at St. John’s gave me a good foundation and introduction into the ad world, it did not give me the proper support to meet real-world expectations. It was this deficiency that led to change my career goals. Now, I am determined to teach advertising copywriting at the college level. I want to develop a class that allows potential copywriters to walk out with an interview-ready portfolio.