In this report I will be discussing three separate adverts and the components that made them effective or troubling.
The first advert I will de-construct is the official Christmas advert for Sainsbury’s in 2015. I chose this advert because it is a very detailed advert and there is a lot to de-construct. I will discuss structure, techniques, audience and regulation (if it apply’s to any of the three adverts)
In this advert, the advert is put together in a linear narrative sequence. The advert tells a story throughout of how Mog ruins Christmas but in the end Christmas is saved by the neighbours help. The structure is linear which makes the advert easy to understand for all audiences, and the audience for Sainsbury’s is very wide so it would have to be widely understandable. The advert is also anti-realist as it tells a fictional story rather than a real one, which would be a realist structure.
The advert conforms to Todorov’s theory, which is shown throughout the advert. At the beginning of the advert there is a state of equilibrium, where it is Christmas eve and everyone is sleeping soundly. Then there is a disturbance for a long period in the advert where Mog has a nightmare and ends up destroying the family home. The disturbance is then recognised when the fire brigade arrive and sets out the fire/smoke, and the family wake up. They are sad, but then there is a plan and the problem is solved when the neighbours turn up to help out. There is then a new equilibrium at the end of the advert when it is Christmas day and the neighbours are gathering at the house. Everything is as normal and there are no longer any problems. These components show that the advert applies to Todorov’s theory.
The advert in some ways applies to Propp’s theory, but in some ways does not. Propp’s theory was that stories usually involve seven main characters -the hero, the villain, the dispatcher (sends hero on their quest), the helper (helps hero on quest), the donor (gives hero something to help their quest), the prize/princess (object/reward sought by the hero), the princess’ father (gives task to the hero, and is protective of the prize/princess), and the false hero (appears to act heroically and is mistaken for a/the hero). In this advert, there is only one of these types of character. There is the false hero, who is Mog. Mog is the character who causes the destruction in the first place, but when the fire brigade and family return home they congratulate Mog on alerting the fire brigade of the problem. The fire brigade could be perceived as the heroes as they save the day and solve the problem, which was that the house was destroyed.
Vance Packard’s theory is that there are seven main factors an advert can have to appeal to an audience. These factors are:
- Nostalgia – refrencing to the past and the way things used to be, may sell the product or company as it shows the audience how a company may have grown.
- Bandwagon – the idea that if the audience don’t buy into the company or their product, they will be left out.
- Transfer/Fantasy – shows a person using the product and its result, for example in a perfume advert the person may use it and then the advert will show the effects of the product.
- Humour – if an advert makes the audience laugh, it is more memorable and the audience may buy into the product.
- Sense appeal – the advert may uses pictures or sound to appeal to the audience.
- Testimonial – a famous person may use a product in an advert – so surely it must be good if they’re using it? For example in recent advertisement Ellie Goulding advertises Pantene hair products.
- Reward and punishment – the advert shows someone using a product and achieving something because of it, and then someone who doesn’t use it and they don’t achieve something.
In the Christmas advert by Sainsbury’s featuring Mog, three of these factors apply. The first factor that could apply is transfer/fantasy. Sainsbury’s is not mentioned in the advert until the very end when the advert finishes. However, the lifestyle shown and the characters involved sell Sainsbury’s to the audience because it’s as though if they shop at Sainsbury’s, they could achieve the luxury standard of living shown in the advert.
Another one of these factors that could apply is sense appeal – throughout the advert, Sainsbury’s use music and sound effects to demonstrate the mood of the advert. In the beginning of the advert, the music is calm to reflect the equilibrium state of the advert. It then changes as Mog wakes up and accidentally destroys everything to a more fast and panicked sound track. Doom music plays when the tree is destroyed, and then the music slows down when the fire brigade solve the problem.
In addition to this, the advert uses humour to appeal to the audience. It includes comic relief humour throughout, for example when Mog is spinning on the fan some viewers may find this entertaining and buy into the company.
The ASA (Advertising Standards Agency) is the UK regulator for advertisement, and they set the rules for what is acceptable and unacceptable to show in an advert. There are codes in which advertisers must oblige to when creating an advert, which the ASA put in place. This is to make sure that no advert can be deemed offensive, harmful or misleading to viewers. They are also the agency that people may appeal to if they have a problem with an advert.
In this advert, there are no codes breached and the advert was allowed to stay.
Maslow’s theory suggests that in society, humans have a hierarchy of needs that they need to survive and to sustain a good well being. This is a structure that has five main categories – physiological needs (food, water, shelter, air), safety needs (from physical and emotional attack, diseases), social needs (affection, inclusion, control), esteem needs (respect from others and from self), and self-actualisation needs (encouraging talents, enjoying responsibilities, enjoying work, being a good person).
The target audience for this advert can be anybody, but the typical target audience for Sainsbury’s is family households and grown ups who need to put dinner on the table. However, the advert does not focus on the food itself but an emotional message instead, so the target audience falls into two categories of Maslow’s theory – physiological needs and social needs.
For my second advert I chose the Phones 4 U advert for Halloween in 2011. I chose this advert because I thought it was effective, and there is a lot to de-construct, especially regarding techniques and regulation. I will also be going into detail about structure and audience in addition to this.
The structure in this advert is in a linear narrative sequence, as it is in chronological order and there are no flashbacks. This is effective as it makes the advert easier to understand, and given that it is only 30 seconds it needs to be short and snappy, not complex. The advert is also anti-realist as it’s fictional and not based on true events. The advert shows a woman walking to a car and a demon girl appearing to her to show her a phone deal. There is no need for flashback, and because the advert involves supernatural factors it is clearly not based on real events or a clip of a real event.
The advert applies to Todorov’s theory about plot, as at the start of the advert there is temporary equilibrium. This is then followed by a disturbance when the demon girl appears and we and the audience and the woman think she is a threat. The woman gets into her car, which plays into the plan factor of Todorov’s theory as she thinks this will solve her problem. This is resolved (kind of) when both the woman and audience realise she is no threat and the state of equilibrium is restored.
The advert does not fully apply to Propp’s theory, as it does not feature all seven of the characters described in Propp’s theory. However it does feature one of these characters which is the villain. The villain in this advert is the demon girl – despite not being a threat, she can still be perceived as a villain as she puts the other character in distress.
In this advert, three of the seven techniques theorised by Vance Packard are used. The first technique used is humour. This is displayed when there is a scary build up followed by the scary girl showing the woman the phone deal. The audience up until this point is made to feel scared of the demon girl, but they laugh when it turns out she’s only advertising a phone deal. The audience laugh at their previous fear (which is a convention of comedy horror – a genre reflected in this advert).
The other technique used is bandwagon/reward and punishment. It’s a combination of the two as when the advert finishes, the slogan ‘Missing Our Deals Will Haunt You’ promotes the idea that if audience doesn’t buy the product they’ll regret it, and that if they’re the only one who misses the deal they will be the odd one out. Also, the slogan is clever as using the term ‘haunt’ in a Halloween themed advert is effective as it emphasises this theme.
The ASA are an agency that deal with advert regulation, and this advert was heavily complained about. There were 601 complaints to the ASA about this advert, saying that the advert was ‘offensive, irresponsible and distressing’, because of the demon girl featured. The advert was deemed to break the CAP codes 1.3, 4.1, 4.2, 4.3, and the BCAP codes 32.3, 1.2, 4.1, 4.20, 4.2, and 5.1. The BCAP and CAP codes are the regulations that state what is and isn’t allowed in advertisement, which are in place so that adverts can be as appropriate and universal as possible. It also ensures that the advert causes no harm to viewers. The outcome of this particular example was that the ASA did not uphold the Phones4U case, because the advert was broadcast after 9pm and the ASA stated that because it was broadcast after 9pm it was less likely to be seen by children and would be less distressing at this time.
The target audience for this advert is aimed at younger people who are up to date with technology. Technology is a luxury and not a survival essential, and buying into famous technology brands makes some people feel included and respected in our society so the audience for this advert would fall into the category of social, esteem and self-actualisation needs.
For my third advert I chose the 2016 advert for Volkswagen. I chose this advert as there is plenty to discuss for advertising techniques and audience. I will also discuss the structure of the advert.
The structure of this advert is also linear narrative like the other two, as it is set out in chronological order and there are no flashbacks. This is effective in this advert as it reflects the pace of the advert – calm and undisturbed. If there was a flashback or if it weren’t in a linear sequence, it would take away the chilled out vibe that the advert reflects. The advert is anti-realist as it is not footage of real events, but it is created to seem realistic and as though what happens in the advert would ordinarily happen in real life (this refers to the transfer/fantasy technique also).
The advert does not apply to either Todorov’s or Propp’s theory. The plot of the advert is basic and there is no disturbance or plan – it is purely equilibrium. This is effective because it shows the audience that if they own the car in the advert, they too can drive in a state of equilibrium and have no trouble. The advert does not apply to Propp’s theory either, as there are no villains, heroes, or any of the other characters involved in Propp’s theory. The characters that are in the advert face no threat so there is no need for a villain or even a hero.
The advert features four of the seven techniques theorised by Vance Packard – transfer/fantasy, humour, sense appeal, and reward and punishment. It uses transfer/fantasy as it shows the effects of car when the characters are driving it. They are presented as happy and cool because they own the car. It also uses humour, which is demonstrated when the father goes to fist bump the girl and she refuses. Some people may find this funny as it’s relatable to kids. Humour in an advert is effective as it makes the advert memorable and the audience is more likely to buy into the brand. In addition to this, the advert features sense appeal. The music used in the advert creates a chilled vibe and helps to present the car as a cool car to own, and that all the cool parents should go ahead and purchase it. The advert also uses the reward and punishment technique – in the beginning of the advert we see other kids getting out of cars and we see that they are unhappy, because their car is old and not as cool as the Volkswagen. We then see the Volkswagen in contrast and how happy the father and girl are because of it. The other kids are jealous of the girl and it tells the audience that if they don’t have the Volkswagen, they will also be unhappy, like the other kids.
The target audience for this advert is similar/the same as the previous advert. Cars are not an essential for survival so it doesn’t relate to the safety or physiological category of Maslow’s theory. However it does relate to the social, esteem and self-actualisation categories of Maslow’s theory because driving a new and trendy car is respected in society and a person is more likely to feel included in society driving a trendy car rather than an old one.
In my opinion, I think all 3 of the adverts I chose were successful, despite the second one having numerous complaints. This is because they were all effective and memorable adverts, that used effective techniques such as humour and empathy to capture the audience.
I think that the most effective advert was the Phones 4 U advert, because it used effective humour and it made the audience feel a variety of emotions such as fear and humour in a short time span which makes the advert more memorable. It was also effective as it was clearly used around Halloween time, given the scary theme which draws people in and therefore in my opinion makes it the most successful advert of the three.