Since its conception, the media has been hugely influential in the development of the society. The media can be used to drive public opinion, report on current news and advance some social values. The media is at best a complex genre which may be broken down into a large number of sub-genres e.g. news stories, opinion columns, advertisements and horoscopes to name but a few. One of the key facets of the media is the advertising sub-genres.
Croteau and Hoynes suggest that the heavy emphasis of advertisements in media is due to the fact that advertisers are the dominant sources of revenue for most modern media. The influence that advertisements have on the people is colossal as can be inferred from the rise in sales for corporations that engage in large-scale advertisement. Most advertisements are therefore keen to include messages that are beneficial to the advertisers.
Texts represented in advertisement can signify a myriad of meanings apart from the very obvious message that the advertisement image purports to sell. An image can denote varying directions and be made to evoke deeper sentiments from the viewer and from simple image, one can build up an entire story. All this is in an attempt by the creator of the advert to persuade the consumer to think, feel or act in a predetermined manner.
This paper shall set out to deconstruct and discuss a particular advert so as to show how it relates to a wider set of issues. This shall be in an attempt to articulate that advertisers normally embedded a lot of ideas and sentiments into an advert so as to manipulate the intended consumer into acting in some manner that is desirable manner.
Advertising is defined by Lester as “any form of non-personal presentation and promotion of ideas, good and services by an identified sponsor”.
In this particular scenario, the advertisement is of a software application called “The Box” that allows users to make video calls over the internet. The primary objective of the advert in this case is to promote the sale of the product being advertised.
The product is sold online in a website and therefore the advertisement will exist within the context of a website. The text analyzed consists of a rectangular bold lined frame which is surrounded by a faint shade of gray. Within the frame, there is an illustration of a box and an oval.
The box contains significant landmarks such as the tower of Eiffel, the Statue of Liberty and the Big Ben clock tower. This is connected by gradually increasing size rings to an oval containing the image of a mother and two children looking on to a computer screen on the top left is written a short message “Let them see who they’ve been missing”.
Lind and Brzuzy suggests that owing to the adverse effect that advertisements can have as they influence the opinions of people and sway peoples attitudes, being media literate is of importance.
Media literacy includes being able to actively deconstruct what is seen in the media and particularly pertaining to advertisements. The deconstruction process involves a breaking down of the complete whole into various components so as to enable a deep analysis and criticism of the text or image contained.
n the advertisement context, this shall enable one to understand the two levels of meaning i.e. the denotative meaning which is the obvious message that the advertisement contains and the connotative meaning which has to do with the symbols and the association of this symbols with some experience of knowledge shared by the targeted audience.
The first step in the deconstruction process is to recognize that owing to the fact that the media message, web advertisement in this case, was constructed, there has to be someone responsible for its construction. Hence answering the question “who created the message?” or “whose message is this?” is the first stage in deconstruction.
In this scenario, I am the creator of the message and the message is meant to advertise a software application for making video calls over the internet. Having identified the creator of the advertisement, one can then positively identify the goal behind the creation. The goal for this advert is to elicit people to purchase and use the online video calls software product.
The second phase in the deconstruction process involves identification of the target audience. This phase can be expansive since one has to look at various attributes of the target audience. This will include their age, ethnicity, profession, etc. In the Box advert, the targeted audience is people who have long distance relations.
The age group mostly covers young children and young couples. In the image presented in the advert, we see a young mother and two little children hinting that the ad might be targeting young families who have one of their relations at a long distance. The picture portrayed depicts an entirely white family which might infer that the ad might be targeting people of Caucasian ethnicity.
The next step involves looking at the text of the message. This calls for a simple review of the words and images portrayed in the advert so as to confer the most obvious suggestions made. In this advert, there is a box containing various landmark features, an oval encircling a mother and her two children who are all staring at a computer screen and the words “let them see who they’ve been missing”.
From the message contained in the advert, the following subtext can be inferred:- The box contains landmark features from London (the clock), Paris (Eiffel tower) and America (the Statue of Liberty).
This suggests that the application being advertized possess the ability to interlink the locations that are represented by the various features despite the locations being far apart geographically. The theme of reconnection is also advanced by the wordings which suggest that the family in the picture is finally afforded a chance to interact with their distant relation as a result of the application software being advertised.
Galpin suggests that when deconstructing a text, the primary objective is to draw attention to conflicting logic or to offer insight into what may not have been explicitly represented in the text. The next step therefore involves trying to discover what the advert may have implied but not explicitly stated. The message suggests that from using the Box, the family will be drawn closer. This is depicted in the image of the mother and her two little children who are all in close proximity even as they use the product.
The advertisement also suggests that the use of the products results in the happiness of users on both ends of the line. While the faces of the mother and her children cannot be clearly made out, a look at the computer screen reveals smiling faces which implies that the people are happy as a result of using the Box.
Thomas Mickey asserts that one of the core aims of advertisements is to have the consumer identify with the product. To this end, the image of the young family with the husband away for some length of time is one that most people prospective users can relate to. The advert portrays a modest lifestyle by its depiction of an average family.
The images are not glamorized or highly classy and the family in the picture is young and average looking. The family is photographed under the background of neatly stacked rows of books and files. This is a study room setting that most people in the western world can relate to. This familiarity will appeal to the prospective customers who will mostly be middleclass families.
In addition to the main objective of promoting a product, most advertisements express some values that may be held by the society or by the advertiser.
Some of the values expressed in this advert are that being happy comes as a result of being connected with loved ones. However, this advert also expresses some values that have been deeply entrenched in our society. The media has over time been accused of propagating the patriarchal theme in the society. This has mostly been done by making the male figure play a dominant role while keeping others (women) in the shadows.
This advertisement in a subtle manner plays this stereotyping role. The images presented show a mother with her two children which implies that the female figure is the one who is left at home to tend after the children as the male figure goes out to fend for the family. This stereotypical view of the female as the home maker is detrimental to the women empowerment efforts.
Key to the selling of an ideal is the use of various tools of persuasion. Persuasion in advertisement makes use of knowledge or beliefs that the consumer holds. However, consumers have an idea about how advertising tactics work to affect persuasion and therefore subtle tactics must be employed for effectiveness.
The Box advert engages the use of a homely looking family. The setting is also not lavish or glamorous thus creating an appeal to a wider class of people. The wordings of the advert are also persuasive as they incite the viewer to reconnect with the person whom they have been missing by use of this particular product. The “box” in the advert is given a warm and engaging colour which suggests that using the product can indeed bring about a warm feeling to the person.
This advert suggests that a family that is in constant communication is a united and happy family. While this may not necessarily be true, this is a positive message that is advanced by the advert. In addition to this, the advert show cases a health looking simple family thus suggesting that one does not require to be sophisticated so as to be happy.
However the Advert fails to incorporate people of various racial and ethnic identities thus propagating the theme of racism. Neglecting of the other races is negative as it may lead to animosity amongst the other races who may feel sidelined.
The final stage in the deconstruction process involves gauging the totality of the advert presented. The Box advert fails to tell a conclusive story as there are various important pieces of information left out. From the advert, one cannot tell of how much the calls will cost or if there are any negative effects that may arise as a result of the usage of the software product. One could obtain more information on the product by visiting the website which will provide a more detailed description of the product.
Because of globalization and the ever increasing influence of media outlets in our lives, we need to possess the skills necessary to process and evaluate the constant barrage of media information that is presented to us. Deconstruction of advertisements presents an important front from which to initiate this critical assessment of the media so as to enable us to recognize and therefore avoid the negative influences and/or misinformation that media may cause.
This paper set out to deconstruct an advertisement of a software product called The Box so as to critically analyze the advert and show how it relates to a wider set of issues. This paper has undertaken a detailed deconstruction of the advert and it has been observed that the advert can have far reaching messages embedded in that the lay person can detect. It is clear from the discussions presented that even a simple advertisement can have stereotypes and untruthful sentiments contained therein.
From this paper, it can be authoritatively stated that media criticism empowers an individual and helps them to shun any negative influence that the media may present. These skills are especially relevant in today’s world where newer technologies are continually widening the reach of the media therefore making us more exposed to advertisements than ever before.
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