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I am a 20 year old Junior from Silver Spring Md.

Semiotics:ALWAYS Judge an AD by its Cover

Hello everybody! I am back again with the second assignment for my Media criticism course at Towson University. This time we will take a deeper look at a popular print ad that has been displayed in numerous reputable magazines around the world. I will also introduce an approach of media criticism that will uncover the numerous interpretations that can be derived from an ad. Furthermore, this blog will show yet another reason why the skill of becoming media literate is so vitally imperative.

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This image is an advertisement for Intimately Beckham: His and Hers fragrances. The ad features famous soccer player David Beckham and his wife Posh Beckham who are passionately embraced in an undeniable display of intimacy.

 

To the untrained eye, there may not be very much to see here. However, through a process known as semiotic analysis I will dissect this advertisement in tremendous detail.  We will then be able to understand why such an enormous variety of interpretations can be derived from such a “simple ad.”

 

Semiotics is defined as “a general philosophical theory of signs and symbols that deals especially with their function in both artificially constructed and natural languages and comprises semantics, and pragmatics.”

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In other words, it is the study of how social production of meaning is constructed through a system of signs. Signs are embedded in all texts as a way to interpret the meaning of a text. They can be related to anything that is intended to communicate certain messages or ideas.

 

Examples of these signs, or signifiers, in a print ad couldinclude: hair color, hairstyle, eye color, facial structure, body type, age, gender, race, facial expression, body language, makeup, clothes, setting, relationship implied, spatiality, occupations, background, lighting, design, color, and many more.

 

Ferdinand de Saussure, considered by many one of the founders of semiotics, suggested that “our understanding and perception of reality is contrived and affected by the signs that we use in everyday social contexts.” This is implying that signs are not illustrating and reflecting what we already believe; however, they are in fact molding our perceptions of reality.

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Now that you all have a general understanding of semiotics, I will apply these concepts while analyzing the print ad for Intimately Beckham fragrances that we took a look at earlier.

 

I will first start off by identifying different signs (signifiers) and interpreting their meanings.

 

As we have already discussed, the text I have chosen is a print advertisement for David Beckham’s fragrance line Intimately Beckham. The photograph was shot inside what appears to be a luxurious penthouse or hotel suite. The ad features just two people: a man and a woman. The two are embraced in a very intimate way with extremely seductive facial expressions. The spatiality and body language of the pair would imply that they are in a sexual relationship.

 

The woman in the photograph is thin, blonde, and white. This is because it is the image the media has engraved into the brains of society that represents beauty.  

 

She is dressed in a provocatively cut, long flowing light pink dress. The light color of her clothes, hair, and complexion represent women being characterized as innocent. This directly contrasts the dark attire of the male who is meant to be seen as powerful. She is also leaning on the man, which furthermore depicts the traditional view of male hierarchy in the household.

 

Through this advertisement it appears that the marketing professionals at Intimately Beckham are suggesting that their product is a symbol of beauty, power, and wealth. They want the people seeing the advertisements to think that in order to be in a relationship with “beautiful” people like the ones seen in the photo; they need to purchase this brand specifically.

 

How the audience interprets each and every different advertisement depends largely on its syntagmatic and paradigmatic structure. A paradigm can be defined as “anything which can be used as a substitute for the present signifiers; it relates to the choice and selection of particular signs.” However, syntagmatic analysis relates to the sequence that the signs are presented; the combination of signs.

 Each advertisement holds its own set of paradigms. In the case we are discussing; the medium is that of advertising in magazines, the genre of magazine is a teenager/young adult magazine and the theme is that of fashion and beauty. Any change of paradigm within this context would without a doubt change the meanings created in one way or another. Likewise, the signified meanings will differ when changes are made to signs within the same syntagmatic sequence.

As I reflected on earlier, there is a whole lot more to the interpretation and meaning of advertisements than many people in the world may have thought. Who would have known that something as minor as changing the facial expression of a model would change the entire signified meaning of an ad?

Advertisements contain so many signs and messages, both apparent and concealed, making their analysis extremely complex and, often, surprising to those that are new to the field (I certainly felt this way at first).

It is important to understand that advertisements do so much more than just sell products. They play a large part in molding the social construction of reality. This is why I am so adamant in my belief that it is essential for people to interpret media critically because if we don’t, we can easily lose track of how we see ourselves and the world we live in.

 

 

 

 

 

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Suing Seinfeld

When it comes to defamation lawsuits, there would be no better unofficial capital for them than Hollywood, California. Perhaps it’s the money, or the hundreds of celebrities, or maybe just a little too much sun, but the reality is that Hollywood has been the point of origin for almost every famous defamation case of the past century. A great example of one such case would be a recent one involving a plaintiff Missy Chase Lapine, who claimed her cookbook was plagiarized by Jessica Seinfeld, wife of Jerry Seinfeld, and that Jerry Seinfeld proceeded to defame her on national television on The Tonight Show with David Letterman when he allegedly suggested Ms. Lapine’s insanity.

            As a disclaimer; the case remains undecided to this point. However, if one were to judge by nothing but the words said by Mr. Seinfeld to Mr. Letterman, then this would be an open and shut case of defamation on the part of Mr. Seinfeld. Why then, are people calling this suit ridiculous? Well, it all comes back to perception. You see, if a random person makes statements to another random person about the insanity of a third party, while that party is, in fact, not insane, then you have a clear cut case of libel. However, it is Mr. Seinfeld’s job to make jokes, or, to put it in better lines with interpreting it through law, it is Mr. Seinfeld’s job to be joking in most everything he says in public. With this key detail taken into account, it becomes very clear that this man did not actually intend for the public to take his assertions of Ms. Lapine’s insanity as a legitimate warning of the dangers she might hypothetically pose, but rather, they were to laugh at the joke he made pertaining, in this case, to his legal adversary’s “insanity.”

            This entire debate comes down, ultimately, to Mr. Seinfeld’s first amendment rights as an American citizen. While he might be a comedian with a great deal of public spotlight, he is a comedian nonetheless, and that should be the first thing taken into account when reviewing his public statements. Include with that the fact that every American has the right to make jesting comments about whosoever they may please, to whichever audience they so choose, and the reality of this situation becomes painfully clear to a judge and jury: Mr. Seinfeld did claim Ms. Lapine to be insane, however he did so as a man who tells jokes for a living telling a joke, not as a man who diagnoses people’s sanity diagnosing an individuals sanity. Because of this, Ms. Lapine’s allegations of defamation should be dismissed. 

BP:We’re Sorry

When it comes to negatively viewed companies, no one in the world can say their image has taken a beating as hard over the past few years as BP Oil, the company responsible for the infamous 2010 Gulf of Mexico Deepwater Horizon Oil spill. As far as public image goes, their CEO would have to kick a puppy on camera to make them any more hated. Actually, it might have to be a few puppies, because according to many 2010 surveys, BP Oil was the most hated corporation in the world. And for it being only a year and a half after Lehman Brothers crashed and Wall Street executives were staying rich while many Americans lost everything, that’s really saying something. One need only examine this article: http://www.mnn.com/green-tech/computers/blogs/dirty-facts-about-the-bp-oil-catastrophe to get the picture.

            To combat this as a public relations firm, I would tell BP I need three things; money, time, and more money. What would I do with them? Well it’s a pretty simple idea in general, and it would be far more complicated on the large scale, but theoretically, it could work.  I would start by pumping money into clean up efforts and charities. More than the government told them to, or a sensible man would require, but truly charitable work to show BP’s acknowledgment of their wrongdoing and sincere repentance. Next, I would look into developing green energy initiatives, like solar, wind, geothermal, and biofuel based energies, and making them an integral part of BP’s Gulf operations.  This would employ thousands of people in the region, many of whom BP destroyed the livelihood of in the first place. The public relations campaign would simply be an en masse distribution of commercials, internet clips, and print advertisements explaining BP’s ultimate goal and their current status and rate of progress throughout the region.

            While this campaign would take a while to sink in around the gulf region, it would conform to all PRSA guidelines for proper ethics, and for people to see this coming from a corporation that is all too well known for its deceit and negativity, will cause at least some positive affect in terms of public image. BP would simply have to stay the course throughout the entire process, sticking to the PRSA’s first point in ethical practice, to protect and advance the free flow off accurate information, through their campaign. Eventually, if BP, or any other person/company of ill-repute, stuck to this concept and these principles, they would ultimately win over the public favor once more, thus rendering their PR campaign an overwhelming success 

Farm Love

For my multimedia ad campaign post, I’ve found what can only be described as a real gem. And that gem is FarmersOnly.com ,a dating site devoted completely to, you guessed it, farmer-to-farmer social connections and dating. FarmersOnly(FO) is a U.S. and Canada based farmer dating website, and I happened to come upon its advertisements for the first time on Maryland’s eastern shore, in the Easton Star-Democrat, a local newspaper. 

            FO, quite frankly, is brilliant. It appeals to a virtually untapped market in most forms of modern advertising media, and offers them a service that, to my knowledge, is of interest in one way, shape, or form to everyone on this planet. However this is only half the brilliance, the latter part comes in their total advertisement package.  While they make use of the internet, the typically least farmer-friendly place in the world, to market their product, they built trust amongst their target clientele through ways considered more traditional and better accepted to many people in more rural, farm based areas. Medium such as the local newspaper, and commercials on the evening news solidify what appears initially to be a very shaky concept amongst the target audience. In addition to the timing and placement of the advertisements, the advertisements themselves are quite appealing as well. Ranging from their informative tv spots, to simple internet banners, to half page spreads in rural newspapers, the ads all focus around a simple and easy to interpret message. They all, in some way shape or form, show a lonely female farmer walking through a harvested cornfield, and a lonely male farmer baling hay. These two simple features highlight one simple message for the service: if you’re a farmer, and you’re lonely, we can help. All these ads are followed with the tell all tagline of “because city folks just don’t get it” and this nails the coffin shut on their advertisements, saying that even if you’re among the rare sector of farmers who has tried online dating, we realize that you’re probably not looking for a hedge-fund manager or taxi driver, but someone to plow the fields with.

            In terms of reaching and sticking with their target demographic and psychographic, FO hit the sweet spot. Perfect timing, proper content, and pure brilliant ingenuity all came together to form a perfect business for these entrepreneurs. Simply put, while kids in the urban regions of a cable company’s area of general provision might get a laugh at what they think to be a late night commercial about a farmers dating site at four thirty in the morning, quite some distance away, there’s a strategically targeted farmer who is actually just waking up for work and watching the morning weather forecasts, while checking the local morning news paper, and both of those are telling him to get to a computer and sign up to find a girl to eat breakfast with in the morning. He signs up and finds a girl, the people at FO make a killing, and the kids from the city suddenly stop laughing at what they think is stupidity and start admiring what they realize to be a great idea.

 

Fallen Angels

A book that has greatly affected me over the course of my life is Walter Dean Myer’s Fallen Angels Simply put, this book was a major influence over my thought process and morality ever since I read it.

My fascination with the work began with my introduction to it in seventh grade by my school librarian. My middle school had put in place an initiative to get more kids reading in the school, specifically targeting students who preferred the sports field to the classroom. Fitting the bill perfectly, my school librarian, who is coincidentally now an acquaintance of mine, decided that she would try to find some books that I might like. Trolling for hints, she quickly discovered that I didn’t read mostly due to the fact that the stories we covered in class were quite droll, and largely unappealing. Knowing that I had a particular preoccupation with physicality in sports like football, lacrosse, and others, she gave me books about those topics. And they were boring. Then she gave me books about the men who played them. And they were, mostly, boring. During the final week of school before Christmas break however, she pulled me aside and informed me that rather than try a book about kids, sports, and the athletes they grew up to be, she was going to give a book about kids who loved the same things I do, but instead of growing up in a mostly privileged community and getting to go to college; they got drafted into the Vietnam War.

I was hooked. I occasionally took interest in Sports Illustrated articles, but this was a whole new level of fascination. I couldn’t put it down. Thirty pages, eighty pages, one hundred eighty pages, and just like that, I was done with it the following afternoon. Why so quick a read from the uninterested jock? Well the plain and simple of it was this; Myer’s had managed, through his excellent narrative and plot structuring skills, to place me perfectly in the shoes of a fictitious character who was incredibly similar to me, while at the same time, being a world apart in terms of differences between us. The book follows Richie Perry, a black teenager who just graduated from high school in Harlem. Richie and I are quite alike; he likes sports, music, his brother, and he has a particular distaste for schoolwork. Richie and I are quite different; he grew up a black kid in Harlem in the late sixties, and suffered the repercussions of that. I grew up in the suburbs of Washington, went to private school, etc., and reaped the benefits. It is this dichotomy that makes the novel so interesting. Basically, I read it as if I hadn’t been born so fortunate, and this was what my experience of war would have been like.

And that made it certifiably terrifying. Myer’s crafted the novel perfectly, blending first person horror with the deep pondering of the events that followed. To summarize: death, drugs, and the questioning of right and wrong can make for the most psychologically torturous experience one can imagine. So terrifying, in fact, that merely reading it has burned imagined images of Vietnam into my mind.

Fallen Angels changed my ideas about life. I used to like violent video games; I don’t now. I used to be big fan of army movies for violence, and hated the talking; now it’s the opposite. Perhaps most importantly though, I have a greater respect for life and the human condition. I don’t think of Afghan or Iraqi insurgents simply as terrorists; I see them as kids my age who are just as terrified and opposed to their conflict resolution methods as the American kids my age that their fighting. The book made me love war literature, and I now dissect characters’ statements and relationships in far deeper detail, and I find that makes for a much more enjoyable literary experience across the board.

A Cross-Promotional Discovery…

Cross-Promotional Campaign: Investigation Discovery Channel

The Investigation Discovery Channel, also known as “ID,” is a subdivision of the larger Discovery Networks International.  It was launched in March 2003 and has become “America’s leading investigation network,” according to the Discovery Network’s website.  The channel is also associated with its own website InvestigationDiscovery.com and Twitter Account #IDAddict.

The Discovery Network owns several other channels including Science Channel, Discovery Fit&Health, TLC, Animal Planet, OWN, Military Channel, and Planet Green.  Therefore, the Investigation Discovery Channel has some strength in that it is part of a large, strong corporation.  However, no corporation can do without advertising, and it is very apparent that there is a strong cross-promotional campaign at work within the Discovery Network. On the corporate website, there are links to the websites for each individual channel.  On each channel’s website there is a menu running across the top with the other Discovery-owned channels so that when someone is viewing the Animal Planet website they can see that Investigation Discovery is an associated channel and can quickly visit the site with a click of their mouse.  This is true for all of the Discovery Networks’ channels.

Similarly, there are advertisements during commercial breaks on the ID channel that promote shows airing on Animal Planet, TLC, and other Discovery-owned channels.  Therefore, it seems that Discovery has a strong cross-promotional campaign in multiple areas including the internet and the channel’s advertisements between programs.

Discovery Network could enhance their cross-promotional campaign even further by running specials on other channels where interests might overlap.  For example, Discovery could run a special on Human Mental Health on the Discovery Fit & Health Channel.  This special could discuss sociopathic personalities, mental health issues that contribute to criminal activity, or drug use and advertise the Investigation Discovery Channel heavily during that special.  This could help convert avid viewers of the Fit & Health Channel to avid viewers of Investigation Discovery.  The phenomenon could also be reversed and Discovery could advertise the “Mental Health Special” on Investigation Discovery to try to  interest those viewers in the Fit&Health Channel.

Another possibility would be to have a special on Investigation Discovery about K-9’s or other animals that are involved in police-work and crime-solving.  Discovery could then advertise this series or special program on Animal Planet to encourage the animal-lovers to tune into ID to see their beloved animals helping to solve crimes. They could also show the program as a special on Animal Planet to really convince the viewers to tune into ID to see the program during its regular schedule.

Discovery Network has done an excellent job cross-promoting its many channels on the internet and during television advertisements, but they could more easily convince their viewers to check out their other channels if they give them a sample of what the other channel has to offer. It is much more likely that a consumer would check out the ID Channel if they saw an ID program on their usual Animal Planet.  If the consumer is just browsing the website or ignoring the ads on TV, it is very possible that they might never take the plunge and explore a new channel.

http://corporate.discovery.com/brands/international/

Instagram and its Effect on the Millenial Generation: “Talkin’ Bout My Generation!!”

Instagram and its Effect on the Millenial Generation

Talkin’ ‘Bout My Generation*

Instagram is a photo-sharing social media service that allows users to take pictures, edit them, and post them to the Instagram website, Facebook, or Twitter.  It was recently purchased by Facebook for $1 billion, though users are still able to share photos on other social media services such as Foursquare, Tumblr, and Flickr.  This photo-based “app” quickly became wildly popular among social media users reaching 40 million users within 18 months.  It is now available as an app for iPhone, iPad, iPods, and Androids.

Our generation, the Millenial generation, is consistently updating “friends” about what we are doing at every moment of every day. The Instagram social media service has taken that popular pastime to a higher level.  Now, instead of just writing a message on Facebook or Twitter saying “Out to see the Cherry Blossoms!” the post would also include a picture of the cherry blossoms.  But not just any cherry blossoms! You have taken your picture of the cherry blossoms and “transformed its look and feel” (instagram.com) before posting it for the public to see.   This allows the user an extra element of creativity with their public form of communication.

Millenials are bringing social media into every aspect of daily life. We take pictures of things that happen at work and post them on Instagram or Facebook- illustrating for our “friends” all the things that are happening to us at work, school, home, and every other part of our lives. Some people are even snapping pictures and posting them while driving!  As Millenials, we are always posting pictures of ourselves when we are having fun or when things are going well, so as to present our best selves to the Instagram or Facebook audience that follows us.

Article Discussion

In the past few years several questions have been raised about the impact of social media on narcissism. In a 2009 article from USAToday, the writer uses the results of a poll of over 1,000 college students in which 57% said that social networking sites are used primarily by their peers for self promotion, narcissism, and attention-seeking.  She poses the question to several experts of whether the current generation is more narcissistic due to social networking sites. The Instagram and photo-sharing aspects of social media fit especially well into the theory that these sites are being used for self-promotion and thus promoting narcissism.  Millenials are more frequently posting their personalized Instagram photos alongside their usual status updates for even further self promotion.  This is another area where the narcissism is very apparent because Millenials are only posting pictures that present them in the best light, and Instagram allows the user to alter the image even further.  The posting of pictures on social media through Instagram and other services, is an excellent example of the narcissism that is being promoted in general by social media.  The writer of the USAToday article does a good job of addressing the possibility that the word “narcissism” is too harsh, saying that the use of social media is really “a celebration of individuality and sort of promotion of one’s own personality.” (USAToday, 2009)

In an article posted on CNN.com from 2010, the writer, Jolie O’Dell, very specifically points out the impact of photo sharing in social media when she reveals results from another study that showed “Female users with narcissistic tendencies tended to use images in their self-promotion, uploading content that “include[d] revealing, flashy and adorned photos of their physical appearance” (CNN.com, 2010). O’Dell also points out that “the survey’s results showed ‘significant positive correlations between narcissism and self-promotional content in the following areas: Main Photo, View Photos, Status Updates and Notes,’” which supports the idea that the special photo-sharing services are very tightly tied to narcissism because these uploaded photos end up in three out of those four categories. The Instagram photo that a user uploads can end up as the main photo, in the View Photos Collection, or in the user’s status updates.  O’Dell also discusses the fact that the study in question is only a preliminary study that needs further development and research. Social Networking media continues to advance every day so this will likely continue to be a field of interest for years to come.  

http://instagram.com/

http://techcrunch.com/2012/04/13/instagrams-user-count-now-at-40-million-saw-10-million-new-users-in-last-10-days/

http://www.cnn.com/2010/TECH/social.media/08/30/facebook.narcissism.mashable/index.html

http://www.usatoday.com/news/education/2009-08-24-narcissism-young_N.htm

*Chorus from the song “My Generation” by The Who, 1965