Who are the Ad Wizards?

How do you break down cinematic codes? Just do it.

April 22, 2010
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A few weeks ago, while discussing Laura Mulvey’s essay, Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema, we came across this passage

… the voyeuristic-scopophilic look that is a crucial part of traditional filmic pleasure can itself be broken down. There are three different looks associated with cinema: that of the camera as it records the pro-filmic event, that of the audience as it watches the final product, and thos the characters at east other within the screen illusion.

Part of the essay’s message was that before sexism and racism can be corrected in film, film must be first broken down to its core elements. In these core elements, we can discover where and how these themes are created.  Mulvey’s claims that since the camera remains hidden to the audience, it helps to create a “gaze, a world and an object, thereby producing an illusion cut to the measure of desire.” So to combat this, the audience must be made aware of the camera. One way to do this is telling the story from the first person point-of-view.

In Nike’s new soccer spots,  Wieden+Kennedy tells the story of an unnamed young soccer player as he begins his assent into fame and soccer glory…

While this is certainly not a proper example of not objectifying women (see :51 – :57), it is good example of breaking down the cinematic code of keeping the camera hidden from the audience. From the start, the audience isn’t just a bystander to this soccer player’s story. The audience is, in effect, the soccer player.

In comparison, here’s Nike’s Tiger Woods commercial from about 3 years ago (well before the womanizing and multiple affairs were public)


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.