Monday, April 28, 2008

People in advertising

Case study I: fear advertisements

In Liu and Westmorland's study of people in fear advertisements, they found that there tended to be more averted gazes in "before" advertisements and direct gazes in "after advertisements.


Before and After

Before After
Averted Gaze 6/9 12/13 7/9 5/12
Direct Gaze 3/9 1/13 2/9 7/12
Smile Count 1/9 1/13 9/9 10/12

Liu and Westmoreland associate averted gazes to insecurity and low self-esteem; the high number of averted gazes in "before" advertisements reinforces the negativity of the situation.

Gunther Kress and Theo van Leeuwen's identification of "demand" and "offer" photographs can be also applied in the consideration of gazes in fear advertisements, where "demand" photos are those in which people have a direct gaze and "offer" photos are those involving averted gaze. The significance of the terms "demand" and "offer" are not directly applicable here; advertisers probably are not trying to directly "offer" you a problem in "before" advertisements. Instead, they give you a situation, or a peek into someone else's life, as if to say, "We are offering you a glimpse into this person's life. You don't have to be this person if you use our product." On the other hand, in "after" advertisements the person portrayed "demands" from the viewer an association with the solution, saying, "I want you to recognize the happiness I've found. You can share my happiness if you use this product."

Case Study II: energy bar advertisements

In a sense, the people depicted in energy bar advertisements are akin to the people of the "after" advertisements above. In constrast to the fear advertisements above, however, the photographs of energy bar advertisements mostly fall into the "offer" category with the participants looking away from the camera. The people in energy bar ads are presented as testimonials to the products' benefits; the advertiser says, "I offer you proof that this energy bar provides the energy and endurance you need. What can this product do for you?" The relationship between the reader and the depicted person is reinforced by text in ads like 60.09 PowerBar. The advertisement lets the reader know "What Peter Reid knows" without saying, "this is what you should know," offering the information without imposing it onto the reader. The general intimacy of these advertisements, shown by the close range of the camera, reminds the reader that the athletes depicted no different than anyone else; if they can achieve these physical feats, maybe you can too--if you use a certain product.

Case Study III: alcohol advertisements

The people shown in alcohol advertisements were noted for their establishment of the context of the images presented. Alcohol advertisements tended to depict wealthy living and sex appeal by characterizing the alcohol consumers as such. The use of "demand" and "offer" is much more potent in this context, where advertisers ask consumers to observe, desire and participate in social and psychological benefits of alcohol rather than the physical and nutritious benefits of energy bars. People in alcohol advertisements were mostly split between "demand" and "offer," both saying "Join us in enjoying this product" and "Look at how these people are enjoying this product." Overall, the use of people in advertisements was not overwhelmingly popular, as the product alone often provides a powerful enough message.

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