Is everybody except for me smart, middle-class and impeccably turned out every minute of the day? Or is this a myth suggested by television advertisements to sell more of their products? In this, I propose to examine how important and effective advertising is, and what effect it has on our society. To do this, I will look at why advertising started, at some individual, long-running, successful adverts, and at shorter adverts, and at how these adverts achieve their purpose.
One of the main reasons that television advertisements were introduced was to make I. T. V. pay for itself. I. T. V. stands for International Television, and people in Britain wanted this extra channel, so that they could have more choice in the programmes that they watched, like the Americans had. Before I. T. V. , the only British television channels were B. B. C. 1 (British Broadcasting Corporation 1) and B. B. C. 2. These were paid for by television licences, which was a certain amount of money paid each year to the government by every household that owned a television. To cover the costs of I. T. V. , there needed to be either an additional licence, or other means of funding, which would have made television less accessible to poorer people.
Instead of an additional licence, I. T. V. introduced television advertisements, which meant that companies would pay I. T. V. some money to show a short video clip, advertising their product. This was good because it increased consumer choice in buying products. An advantage of television advertising is that messages are sent to millions of people instantaneously. There was the disadvantage, though, that the wrong messages could be sent out, such as persuading people that eating unhealthily will make you beautiful, or brainwashing people into voting for a certain political party.
This meant that the government needed overall control to stop this happening. Also, initially there was a big debate on whether or not to have television advertising, as some people feared a lower of standards or feared that unsavoury items would be advertised. There was also a fear that programmes would end up being swamped by advertisements. To combat these problems, I. T. C. was set up, which is an independent body that regulates the length and regularity of advertisement breaks. It also prevents companies lying in their advertisements.
Much of that same debate is raging today, about unregulated Internet content. About 40 years ago, when television advertising started, television advertisements were very simple, with an emphasis on showing the product, and perhaps a simple jingle, which would stick in people’s minds more. Today, the emphasis has changed, and most adverts try to grab your attention first, and introduce the product later. For example, recently there was a television advertisement showing a lion prowling in a cage with a baby in. This shocks us, and gets our attention.
Only right at the end of this advert does it reveal what the product is by asking if you would let your baby be put in life-threatening danger needlessly, and it compares putting your baby in a cage with a lion and not immunising your baby against Meningitis. Also, there are a lot more advertisements just to raise awareness of a product now, without giving much information at all about the product, for example the Orange advertisements (for mobile phones) does not show any pictures of phones, just “the future’s bright, the future’s orange” slogan, and a orange square.
This arouses our interest by making us wonder what the advertisement is about, and what it means. There are many different types and styles of adverts on television. In this section, I propose to examine some of them to see how successfully they achieve their aim. One very successful advertisement was for Levi Jeans. A company called Levi Strauss, which was based in San Francisco, makes Levi jeans. Levi Strauss manufactured denim jeans. In the late 1970’s, sales were dropping, and so Levi Strauss employed an advertising agency called “Bartle, Bootle and Hegorty” to promote their latest style of jeans- Levi 501 Slim fit.
Thus ran a successful advertising campaign, which increased sales by 2000% in the 16 years that it was run, between 1981 and 1997. This advertisement was aimed at about the 14 to 25 age range, and mainly at girls. The advert begins with a normal scene of a good-looking man (played by Nick Hayman, a male model) walking into a laundrette. The camera then cuts to the view from a small person, who is looking at this man’s waist. This view shows us the slim fit of the jeans. The man then proceeds to walk into the laundrettes, and puts some stones into a washing machine.
This could be to emphasise the hardwearing qualities of the jeans, and to show that they are “stonewashed” in colour. We are not sure what is going on, though, the first time we watch this, or what product it is advertising, so it keeps our attention as we keep watching to find out. The man then slowly unbuttons the jeans. This again is showing off the jeans, and the fact that they have buttons instead of a zip. He then, with two women staring at him, takes off his jeans, and puts them in the washing machine. This is unexpected and out of the normal.
It draws our attention and surprises us. A sexy man sitting there with just his boxer shorts on appeals to lots of young females, which is just what the advertisement is trying to do. Along with the music, Marvin Grey’s “I heard it through the grapevine”, it was, as one teenager described it, “a hormonal, sexy, pubescent dream”. The teenage girls wanted the jeans because Nick Hayman had worn them in the advert. This made them a “must-have item” overnight. In this advert, the man comes across as very cool and confident.
All the women give him admiring glances and all the men envy him. The young teenage men want to be like this, confident and lusted after, so they buy the jeans to try and be like him. This advert is set in a laundrette, showing that the jeans are easy to wash; they don’t have to be hand-washed or dry-cleaned. This advert was very successful, as it brought out the good points of its product, and made people want to buy it. Another technique used when advertising a product can be using a famous person.
In the adverts for Walkers crisps, Gary Lineker, an ex-footballer, is used. Gary Lineker is instantly recognisable, and very popular. He played for England on numerous occasions but never got booked. Gary Lineker was born in Leicester, and first played for Leicester City FC, while Walkers crisps are based in Leicester, and sponsor Leicester City so there are strong links between them. Gary has appeared in the Walkers crisps adverts as a nun, a baby, a punk rocker, a devil and a muscleman, and in every advert he steals the crisps from a small child.
Everybody watching the adverts knows that Gary Lineker is very reliable and well-behaved, and would never really steal a child’s crisps, but the idea is that anybody will turn to criminal activity to get some Walkers crisps, as they are so tasty. This advert was successful, as people were shocked by Gary stealing the crisps from a child, and so paid attention, and the message that Walkers crisps are too good to resist was got over clearly. A technique that has been used in lots of recent adverts is called autosuggestion. This is when the advert encourages the viewer to use insight and form an impression.
The advert then surprises the viewer by showing the impression to be wrong. For example, the currant Kenco coffee advert shows an attractive woman and a handsome man sitting at different tables in a coffee bar, but they keep looking at each other. We automatically think that this advert is going to turn out to be a typical scene where the man and the woman meet and fall in love, and that at this point they fancy each other. The man then walks over to the woman, and says, “Lets be honest, we both know why we’re here”. We still think that they fancy each other at this point, and that that is his opening gambit, to get talking to her.
It is a double entendre, and could either mean that they are both there to drink coffee, or to get together with each other. When the woman replies, “Yeah, lets go and pull some girls,” we are shocked as it is not what we were expecting, and it means that people will be talking about the advert. It has almost nothing to do with Kenco coffee, but because it appears on our screen at the end, we will associate it with the advert, and with lesbianism and coffee bars. As it is quite a controversial advert, people will talk about it, and they will think of Kenco coffee then, too.
But not all adverts go into so much detail, or run for that long. Many are simply direct, hard-hitting types, which last between 10 and 20 seconds. These “punchy” adverts are usually in between shorter programmes, or in the daytime. This kind of advert usually runs in between programmes that are very popular with their target audience. For example, the adverts that run in between soaps are aimed at middle-aged housewives, who are the people that watch soaps most, while the adverts that run in between a football match are aimed at men.