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Ads of the Month

August 1998 - December 1998 *

* Note the months are only approximate as ads often appear over an extended period of time

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Ebac thumbnail Ebac Maidwell thumbnail Maidwell YSL Jazz thumbnail YSL Jazz Palmolive thumbnail Palmolive Basic cigarette thumbnailBasic

Robinson's thumbnail Robinson's

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The Selection for December 1998

Ad Number 2

Cheese to die for caption from Maidwell ad

Advert for Maidwell cheese spread Whilst the name of the brand is MAIDWELL, the packaging contradicts this message.  Take the name to mean 'The Maid is Well' (as in Maid Marion is well).  You might then note that the package incorporates the upper torso image of a rather elderly and unwell maid (see the enlargement underneath).

You can find the Maid in question just underneath the WELL of MAIDWELL. Her colouring is rather cold, grey and unnatural and she is depicted as if lying on a slab. It would seem as if she is not merely unwell. She has seemingly departed this world for the next.

extract from Maidwell ad with rollover. If one is to make anything of the 'Try Me Free, Try Me First' captions, then they would seem to be invitations to necrophilia. Or else an invitation to the old and infirm to try this product before they 'pass over'.  Not surprisingly the product did not initially survive on my local supermarket shelf for very long and was discounted.  However, it has risen 'from the grave' and seems to have established itself despite the unsavoury undertones of the caption/image.  Note that the first ad for this Cheese to die for label.product actually included the tag line that forms the heading for thisMaidwell Die For ad frame, namely 'A cheese to die for'.   This was given a humorous twist with the incorporation of a couple of 'Tom and Jerry' type characters. 

It seems unlikely that a death/illness theme would work wonders for a brand of cheese. There thus seem to be two possible conclusions one can draw.   Either the brand is targeted towards the elderly and infirm or lazy and potentially aggressive parents.  Or whoever produced this ad saw the potential for incorporating a dual message into the ad and managed to 'pull the wool' over the eyes of the client company.

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The Selection for December 1998

Ad Number 1

Advert for Ebac dehumidifiers This seems a rather innocuous* ad - as most such ads are. Note however the two small inserts in the bottom left hand corner. These are enlarged below.

The caption on the ad stated 'Make light work of condensation and dampness'. Given the addition of the two inserts, neither of which are necessary to make a point about condensation and dampness, one has to query the message or messages) that the ad was intended to conveyed.

Insert from Ebac ad showing face in armpit Superficial analysis indicates that the ad shows a happy couple and the woman appears to be extremely house proud and efficient. But, upon reflection, it is clear that the insert is not simply intended to support such notions nor to foster pleasant associations in the mind of the reader.

The dampness referred to in the main caption is apparently insufficient to motivate readers to purchase Ebac dehumidifiers. Whoever produced the ad seemed to think that worries about perspiration under the armpit and BO. might.  The aim of this ad was to associate Ebac dehumidifiers with the general desire not to offend others with BO. (one of the most successful, mind destroying, concepts ever devised by advertisers).  To complement this message the second small insert indicates that 'if owners of Ebac dehumidifiers get rid of these smells they can expect to 'follow through' and indulge in more intimate activities. The secondary aim was thus to associate Ebac dehumidifiers with intimacy and sex.    One can conclude that if all works out then Ebac dehumidifiers really give you your moneys worth.

This ad was cut out from a newspaper (unlike most of those on this web site).  Glossy magazine versions of this ad might reveal additional interesting aspects.  Even if they don't then there are clearly additional elements of the ad worthy of analysis.  For example, those related to social status, gender, the use of language and body posture. Viewers are invited to consider other aspects of this ad worthy of criticism and commentary before they move on to view the next ad.

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The Selection for November, 1998

YSL Jazz adThis would seem to be an ad in which Yves Saint Laurent is simply blowing his own (jazz) trumpet. But what you will find at the centre of this ad is a different kind of horn.

Look at the close-up on the right. Horn or horny?extract from YSL ad with rollover.

Do you think this aspect of the ad was constructed to give the ad an additional bit of oomph? An extra bit of horn? Was it a joke? Or simply a coincidence of alignment? You can decide.


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The Selection for October, 1998

Here is one of many Palmolive ads that have something a little bit curious about them. AtPalmolive ad with male arm instead of expected female arm first glance this ad is merely an image of an attractive young woman lathering her leg. But , hey, hold on there! Isn't her arm rather muscular and hairy? It is more like the arm of a man - and it is.

This therefore isn't just an ad about the Palmolive and its functions. Nor is it an ad conveying some information about a particular lifestyle that viewers might like to emulate. What we have is an ad with multiple messages. Messages about the about the product, about who can be in the shower with you,who find the 'gentle touch of Palmolive' irresistible - and perhaps why. To have a full understanding of such ads one needs not only to take into account the incongruous elements in the ad but also consider the look on the model's face and reflect on the emotions that lie behind that expression. As the first part of the caption Actual size : another Palmolive arm ad says, Who can resist? Perhaps you should.

Ads such as this are attempts at manipulation. They go well beyond any reasonable attempt to associate aspects of lifestyle such as luxury or sensuality with a product.

Associations can be discerned without too much difficulty by most viewers if they pay attention to an ad. However, this type of ad is rarely, if ever, consciously appreciated by those it is designed to influence. The incongruous elements are not simply attention catching devices such as is common on ads for FCUK, Diesel, Benneton and other products. If ads such as the Palmolive ad have any commercial benefit (other than in terms of internal company politics) they must influence consumers at a preconscious or unconscious level - and consumers have no defence against such influences. This type of influence is something that most psychologists say is not possible. However, experimental data is limited and sales data from the marketing of products such as Palmolive may indicate otherwise. Even if the degree of influence is extremely weak and reliant upon repetition for impact most consumers would find it unacceptable to be exposed to such attempts at manipulation. It is probably also worth noting that as the 'message' is primarily visual this type of ad can be used on a global basis.

For more soap suds ads see Squeaky Clean. There you will find Surf, Bold and Fairy ads and packaging.

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The Selection for September, 1998.

Keep it Basic with candleHow basic can one get. The most basic - and, in some respects, the most unsophisticated, American cigarette ads are those for Basic and Newport. Each relies upon fairly basic phallic symbolism or simplistic associations to keep their customer base happy.

If one considers the meaning of the word beyond the brand name it is notable there are a number of different meanings. These, of course, are capitalized upon both in the brand name and by the connotations and allusions triggered by Basic advertising.

Try playing about with the colloquial meaning of the following three words and you will get the idea pretty quickly: equipment, tackle, tool and, of course, screw. Basic cigarette advertising often alludes to basic human procreational (and recreational) activity - using very basic equipment. The ads don't say so but the visuals give the game away pretty quickly.

In this instance, ignore the fact that one could interpret the obligatory protrusion of the cigarettes from the pack as phallic symbols. This type of pack layout is so standard it Actual size: manikin with 'erection' in candleprobably has little impact on viewers. Instead note that in the top left hand corner of the ad is a candle, adding a little balance to the ad. Note the candle flame.

If one can perceive the two dots above the flame as a pair of close set eyes it is not too difficult to perceive the central area as a cartoonist's representation of a person with long flowing hair. The white area is the face, the yellow area underneath the upper portion of the body. But, if this is intended to be a representation of a body, what is that dark shape pointing upwards?

How basic can one get?

If you are in doubt about the use of phallic shapes and simple allusions view a number of Basic ads at the same time, rather than on the odd occasion when you open a magazine you have already read and are desperate for something - anything - to look at.

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The Selection for August, 1998.

Robinson's ad: picnic area Here we once again have one of these relatively innocuous ads, seemingly reliant on what the viewer will 'read into' for its meaning. It carries the phrase 'Since that picnic in the meadows, strawberries will always taste of mischief.' However, whatever mischief has been got up to in the meadow has been seen by a voyeur. extact from Robinson ad with rollover.

Look in the rather fuzzy upper right hand corner of an original copy of the ad and you will 'see' a face looking towards the left of the screen. An illustration of this 'face', almost the natural size, appears in the right hand margin. As will be noted, especially on the computer screen, it is a rather ambiguous figure, whose outline is incomplete. Nevertheless it is still possible to 'identify' this as a face if one notes the two eyes and the nose that stand out from a darker background. The figure has a rather prominent nose and the left hand side of the face is much more obvious than the right.

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To the best of the author's knowledge none of the illustrations, in the format used on this site, are subject to copyright. If copyright has been inadvertently breached please contact the author in order to rectify the matter. All brands and logos referred to or illustrated on this site are the property of the relevant companies and copyright holders. However, commentary and other information produced by the author can be freely copied and distributed. Similarly, illustrations of ads, so long as they are accompanied by commentary or are presented in the form of parody, can also be copied and distributed but please acknowledge as the source. Translation of tobacco company ads and relevant commentary into languages other than English will be particularly welcomed.

Last Revised: 20th September, 2001


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