In this module we’ll be exploring the historical, cultural and social context of lens based media and the visual arts. To start the module i’ll be producing a presentation that deconstructs the use of post-modernism in advertising and marketing.
Deconstruction Assignment 1.1
Produce an online poster (using Prezi, Coogle or Padlet) that analyses an advertising image from the second half of the twentieth century.
For the first deconstruction assignment i’ll be looking at a company that has run over 1,500 print ads during it’s single campaign. Dubbed the longest running uninterrupted marketing campaign, Absolut is a company that knows how to reach out and capture their audience. Absolut famously attracted the eyes of the notorious Andy Warhol who fell in love with the iconic shape of the brand. Absolut Vodka has an iconic cap top to their bottle that if someone who knew the brand saw would instantly link to the company. This is a level of success that can’t easily be reached, companies such as Nike, with their iconic swoosh and McDonald’s, with their golden arches, are comparable with how they’ve branded a shape to their name. With one simple tactic Absolut created a style that they’ve not changed for over 40 years. The style is simple, focus on the shape of the bottle with a tagline underneath “Absolut _______.”
With such a simple style the brand have build a versatile campaign that has been endlessly successful. Some even point the modern meme style towards Absolut because of the link of simple text to imagery. This has allowed Absolut to continue so long despite the laws introduced around alcohol promotion. Similar to unhealthy food items, alcohol is a controversial product with highly regulated marketing communications. For traditional advertising, alcohol messages in the UK and other countries are restricted in what they can say or imply, for example, alcohol advertising is not allowed to suggest that a party can only be successful if alcohol is present. Alcohol cannot be linked to increased sexual attractiveness; advertising is not allowed to show people appearing to be under 25 and so forth (Dahl, 2018). Due to Absoluts versatile campaign they’ve bypassed these restrictions and continue to publish.
The advert from Absolut I’m going to be Deconstructing is a print released in 1989, 10 years after the campaign premiered but first I’m going to start with a story… The year, 1985, Judas Priest had not long released an album; two fans of theirs Raymond Belknap, 18 and James Vance, 20 had spent six hours drinking, smoking marijuana and listening to the metal band’s Stained Class album, after which each man took a shotgun and shot himself. Belknap died instantly, but Vance lived, sustaining serious injuries that left him disfigured; he died three years later (Grow, 2019). Within those three years Vance had survived he tried suing CBS Records. They argued in court that the pair had been driven to commit suicide by auditory signals concealed in Judas Priest’s cover of the Spooky Tooth song, “Better By You, Better Than Me.” The plaintiffs claimed that the song contained a subliminal message – “Do it” – urging listeners to take their own lives. (Shewan, 2019).
Subliminal Advertising had been banned in much of the world since 1958 but in America it was still considered a grey area with many companies, even Coca Cola, taking advantage of the obscure laws. After this story though it caused political debate which the rest of the world listened too.
I believe Absolut was listening. Released 10 years into the campaign the print is a subtle nod to the debate, while it doesn’t follow the guidelines for their adverting campaign, a possible break from the format because it doesn’t feature the bottle, they do however feature a whisky glass containing the product along with three ice-cubes. On the spotlight in a dark environment, mimicking the first print, the symbolism is off the charts. Bringing a dark subject to the main-light (quite literally) absolute have once again imaged the words they are saying. Within the ice-cubes they’ve placed a subtle message, their name “absolut vodka”. While subliminal messaging in advertising has been banned since 1958 this message is exempt as it’s a homage to subliminal messages. As the text is faintly visible it doesn’t infringe any laws as scientifically it’s a visual cue that’s processed by your conscious mind, while subliminal messages aim at you sub-conscious mind so that you don’t know you’ve processed something. This messaging combined with the monochrome styling gives the poster a legal and serious vibe creating a clever parody of the political aspects of subliminal advertising. A typical characteristic of post-modern as the viewer is tied into a parodic statement from Absolut and the audience that follows the campaign; such as magazine subscribers, where these are printed, would relate to being in on the joke.
Dahl, S. (2018). Social Media Marketing. Los Angeles: SAGE Publications Ltd, p.244.
Grow, K. (2019). Judas Priest Look Back on ‘Shocking’ Backward-Masking Trial. [online] Rolling Stone. Available at: https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-features/judas-priests-subliminal-message-trial-rob-halford-looks-back-57552/ [Accessed 12 Nov. 2019].
Shewan, D. (2019). 6 Examples of Subliminal Advertising, from Spooky to NSFW. [online] Wordstream.com. Available at: https://www.wordstream.com/blog/ws/2017/10/24/subliminal-advertising [Accessed 12 Nov. 2019].
Deconstruction Assignment 1.2
Produce a presentation that deconstructs a 5-10 minute sequence from a post-modern film.
I’ve chosen one of my favorite films from the era, Quentin Tarantino’s -Pulp Fiction.
Deconstruction Assignment 2
Carry out research for the set essay and produce a Literature Review of you resources (500 words), then write a 2000 word extended essay, correctly Harvard referenced.