““Advertising doesn’t sell things; all advertising does is change the way people think or feel (Jeremy Bullmore).” Evaluate this statement with reference to selected critical theories (past and present).”
It is undisputable- we live in a world consumed by advertising, with constant exposure to product and goods which we are often led to believe are necessities- to inspire, enrich, and even to better ourselves as human beings.
Throughout the relatively brief history and practice of advertising, there has been vast and varied theoretical analysis’s held against its power of persuasion- from its early origins to modern day, contemporary texts.
O’Shaughnessy & O’Shaughnessy analyse the methods of persuasion and influence advertisers use in publicity campaigns:
‘Persuasion is becoming more important in advertising. A major reason is that competition is finding it easier to erode any functional or price advantage attached to the product.’
Through study and analysis of the methods of persuasion in advertising, many theories have emerged, but none of which resonate more so than those of John Berger, acclaimed art critic and essayist, whose programme, ‘Ways of Seeing’ was broadcast by the BBC in 1972, yet his Marxist perspective still remains as significant and truthful today.
Though Berger’s theories may be bold, biased and highly opinionated, they undoubtedly hold a great element of truth and realism- with an insightful foresight of the world of art and design in modern cultures; a world of which he was so familiar:
“Publicity is the life of this culture. Without publicity, capitalism could not survive, and, at the same time, publicity is its dream.”
In the last of the series, a programme which particularly focuses on publicity and advertising, Berger looks at the glamorisation of the industry, and its necessity in marketing and sales:
“Glamour is for everybody who believes they can be glamorous, or, perhaps, more accurately, everybody who finds they cannot afford not to be glamorous,”
“Without social envy, glamour cannot exist.” (J. Berger, ‘Ways of Seeing- Advertising 1/4, www.youtube.com)
Berger’s theories are shared in ‘Psychology: The Influence of Persuasion’ (Robert B. Cialdini, 1998, p.172):
‘It is apparent that good-looking people enjoy an enormous social advantage in our culture. They are better liked, more persuasive, more frequently helped, and seen as possessing better personality traits and intellectual capacities.’
And these theories are, of course, true. Advertising is strategic and scientific, as well as creative and stylistic.
In no product (within advertising) is this theory more evident than in the enormously profit-hungry world of perfume and fragrance- whereupon iconicity and subliminal meaning is heavily utilised and demonstrated. An example of this practice is discussed in ‘The Discourse of Advertising’ (G. Cook, 2004, p.85/6):
“Another example of iconicity can be found in the ad for the perfume Elizabeth Taylor’s Passion...The bottle and the words are shaped like a heart. The heart is a symbol of passion...In the photograph the sparkle of the eyes resembles the sparkle of the diamonds.”
Throughout this essay and case study examples, theories and methods of persuasion will be analysed, with the influence to manipulate our psyche.
The first television commercial I have chosen to study is the quintessential 1980’s styling of ‘L’Air Du Temps’ (1982, www.youtube.com), by Nina Ricci, which boasts itself as “the fragrance as romantic as the dreams a woman dreams”.
The short advertisement shows a serene, elegant woman, surrounded by a flock of white doves- the symbol of peace and harmony- portraying that this is how the perfume makes you feel- beautiful, sophisticated, and, most of all abundant in the ideals of love and romance.
In ‘The Looking Glass; the Art of Persuasion- SEG 2’. (0:25, www.youtube.com), a DawnNews TV programme review methods such as these (used in advertising):
“Companies investigate the groups of people that they’re trying to sell to- trying to understand their thoughts, and hopes, and dreams.”
In ‘L’Air Du Temps’ advertisement it directly focuses on marketing itself to romantic sentimentalists- women that long for a life of natural serenity and grace, or those whom aspire to this dream.
Although it is obvious in this advertisement that the product is attempting to appeal and attract a certain audience, with this there is a balance of traditional advertising- simply telling you why the brand believe you should purchase their product, in this instance, dedicating nearly a third of the television advertisement to an image of the perfume bottle, and informing you where it can be purchased (Bullocks, L.A, U.S.A).
The 1980’s was one of the key decades in recent social history that emancipated women and their status within society. It was now becoming far more commonplace for a woman to hold the role as the main breadwinner of the household, now having equal pay to men- and a revival in fashion to match, the Bohemian and creative styles as worn in the 1960’s being traded for a far more glamorous and structured silhouette, mimicking that of a man’s body shape- with heavily structured and padded shoulders to give a sense of empowerment in the workplace. Bigger was better- shoulders, hairdos and wages. (http://www.bos.frb.org/economic/nerr/rr2005/q1/section5a.pdf, 2011). With this freedom came a new level of competition, and demands of glamour- perfume, of course, being a luxury for the glamourous. It was around this time that televised perfume adverts began using persuasive techniques to attract their audience.
Adverts, such as the one above, have full intention to manipulate how you feel- the flow of the music, the elegant style of the model. The iconicity subconsciously links the product to something more, something extraordinary- seemingly a promise that you can experience this too, simply by owning the product:
“The consumer buys not just the product, per se, but a product under a description. How a product comes across in that description determines how it is envisaged and how attractive a buy it is likely to be. Persuasion appeals can provide a new perspective on a brand, and create a whole new aura for it.” (O’ Shaughnessy & O’ Shaughnessy, 2004)
The second advertisement for analysis is a contemporary choice, and perhaps one of the most famed fragrance commercials in recent years- notably one of the most expensive adverts ever made, in which actress Nicole Kidman performed in the leading role, earning US$12 million for the three-minute commercial.
The director chosen to create the advert was distinguished filmmaker, (an increasingly popular choice in advertising- as each commercial gets more sophisticated and memorable, the challenge to progress mounts) Baz Luhrmann, channelling the style of his 2001 film, ‘Moulin Rouge!’, in which Kidman played the leading role also (‘Chanel No. 5 the film, www.youtube.com).
The advert follows “The World’s Most Famous Actress”- fleeing from her limousine after suffering a “nervous breakdown”, to experience, if only for a brief time, a world she has never known- with freedom and tranquillity, fuelled by a new romance and the promise of a different way of life.
Entitled ‘Chanel No. 5- The Film’, is by no means an understatement. In perhaps this, one of the most subliminal perfume advertisements of the past decade, the idea of this advertisement in fact being a film seems far more realistic, if it weren’t for the occasional product placement in the way of the iconic ‘Chanel’ logo appearing ever-so occasionally over its three-minute duration.
It is only at the very last moment that we discover that this piece of artistry, is, in fact, an advertisement for “the world’s most legendary fragrance” (with an estimated sale of one bottle bought every 55 seconds, ‘Kidman reprises Moulin Rouge role for Chanel’, www.theguardian.co.uk, 2004), fading out to the tagline:
“Her kiss...her smile...her perfume...”
Despite being so extravagant in production and design, the advertising element, on the surface, appears so minimal- it evokes a deeper, emotional reaction on a subconscious level where “subliminal persuasion is about getting people to change their minds, to change their beliefs...” (Subliminal Persuasion: Influence & Marketing secrets they don’t want you to know, D. Lakhani, p.2, 2008).
In conclusion to the theory “Advertising doesn’t sell things; all advertising does is change the way people think or feel” (Jeremy Bullmore), I am inclined, in part, to agree- more and more through the years of advertising this becomes evident- directly attacking our innermost thoughts, feelings, desires, though this is certainly dependant on the viewer- some more inclined to the “indulgence” of emotions than others. “In the grips of an emotion, a person not only feels differently, but tends to think differently. Advertising that resonates emotionally stands more chance of inducing a change in beliefs and values/motives/wants/desires than one based on logic alone.” (Persuasion in Advertising, J. O’ Shaughnessy & N. J O’ Shaughnessy, 2004, p.27) However, this cannot be said for all advertisements, some being far more directional in purpose. The ones that use this emotional device, however, appear to be the success stories- of course, no bad thing for the creative advertising agencies.
Advertising is unquestionably powerful and persuasive- encouraging and demonstrating the ideals of glamour, sophistication and quality. Whilst in many situations and circumstances their techniques and portrayals have been successful, it is the audience alone who translate this- each viewer, listener or reader responsible for the affect that advertising plays upon them. Of course, advertising promotes to sell products, though, contrary to Jeremy Bullmore’s statement, it is our own responsibility and emotional receptiveness alone that it is decided how they make us think or feel.
· ‘Chanel No. 5, The Film’ (dir. Baz Luhrmann, 2004, www.youtube.com)
· ‘L’Air Du Temps Perfume Commercial 1982’ (1982, www.youtube.com)
· ‘Miss Dior Cherie Commercial’ (dir. Sofia Coppola, 2008, www.youtube.com)
· O’Shaughnessy, J, & O’Shaughnessy, N.J (2004), ‘Persuasion in Advertising’. Taylor & Francis e-library, www.amazon.co.uk
· Robert B. Cialdini, 1998. ‘Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion’. Revised Edition. Collins.
· Guy Cook, 2001, ‘The Discourse of Advertising’ (Interface). 2. Edition. Routledge.
· Lakhani, D. (2008), ‘Subliminal Advertising: Influence & Marketing secrets they don’twant you to know’, Jon Wiley & Sons, Inc. Hoboken, New Jersey.
· ‘The Looking Glass- Advertising; ‘The Art of Persuasion- SEG 2’ (DawnNews TV, n.d, www.youtube.com)
· ‘John Berger’s ‘Ways of Seeing’: Advertising’ (1972, BBC, www.youtube.com)
· ‘Women’s Rise: A Work in Progress’ (www.bos.frb.org/economic/nerr/rr2055/g1/section5a/pdf., 2011)
· ‘Nicole Kidman reprises Moulin Rouge role for Chanel’ (www.guardian.co.uk/media/oct/15/advertising.uknews, 2004)