Ads of the Month
This series of ads devoted to Impulse Ico continues to develop. Originally issued around May this year (see below) this ads seems to acknowledging developing sexuality (under the influence of Impulse Ico, no doubt). Read the commentary under May this year before reading the paragraph below. Then see the correspondence re this ad on the ASA page.
The original ads conveyed a number of messages regarding perceived cleanliness and sexuality. This pair of ads goes one stage further. It no longer purports to 'protect' young women from anxiety it offers them a burgeoning sexuality under the protection of Impulse Ico. Note the basic phallic shape in the centre of the second page of the ad.
The shape is obviously open to interpretation as a phallic shape but only if one is aware of such a concept. Additionally, the ad gives viewers a nudge in the direction of a sexual interpretation of the ad by incorporating a whole series of shapes that can be construed as the letters of the word sex (see the image on the right).
One should also note that the female in the 'protective ice block' is beginning to develop sexually. Symbolically she is 'breaking free'. She has also been presented on this occasion with breast nipples and pubic hair.
Typical of a number of ads depicting a Marlboro cowboy this ad sports an embedded figure. Usually the figures emphasize the theme of sex (heterosexual and/or homosexual) or the theme of death. Both themes have strong historical links with cigarette smoking and any cues embedded in the ads are presumably calculated to trigger thoughts/emotions/moods associated with the relevant themes. In this ad look for a sexually indeterminate figure, an androgynous 'Gingerbread Man/Woman'. Clue: He/she is about knee high.
The sex of the figure is somewhat indeterminate and there are at least two ways of perceiving it. As with many figure-ground illusions what which of the two possible figures is perceived depends upon the point of the image on which attention is focused. If attention is focused on the erect penis (see Fig. 1 below) then one will perceive a Gingerbread Man. If attention is focused on the (low slung) breast like shapes (see Fig. 2 below) then the penis will be overlooked and the figure will be perceived as a woman. This is an unusual figure in this respect but taking into account the nature of previous Marlboro ads it would seem as if this figure is intended to trigger thoughts of either masturbation and/or sexuality. However, note that if one focuses on certain aspects of the head one might perceive a dog (sitting up facing the viewer). However, this latter perception is likely to be quickly dispelled if one also notices that the shape of the 'forelegs' is inappropriate, unless someone has broken the dog's legs.
The Selection for April, 1999
This illustration is for a product advertised in Shine, a new monthly magazine. It has also appeared in other young women's magazines. It is the first page of a two page ad. Each page of the ad was an odd numbered page, with one page following another.
Despite the fact that the setting is an icy wasteland the imagery seems rather warm and comforting. Note, however, that the young woman in the ad is not simply naked, she is asexual. She is not wearing any clothing and seemingly is simply covered in a silvery sheen. Despite her nakedness and her breasts, there are no nipples nor any indication of hair in her genital region. This would seem to indicate that she is not to be perceived as a sexually awakened individual, she is still young and innocent. However, there are other aspects of the advert that are clearly sexual in nature. See for example the next image, a blow-up of the top left hand corner of the ad. Without any doubt this is a representation of an erect penis and testicles. Embedded at the base of the penis is a face, looking towards the young woman. There is also an indication of another face to the right of the first face. This second face has an X shaped cross superimposed upon it, the horizontal band of the X runs across the bridge of its nose.
To the left of these faces is a couple of swirls indicative of the letter s (s and x, in sequence, are, of course, pretty close to the word sex). What this combination of figures and shapes may symbolize depends upon other elements of the advert. The second figure below is from the top right hand corner of the advert. It illustrates two figures, one in front of the other. The first figure seems to possess a rather childlike face.
To make sense of this ad one has to take the perspective of a young woman viewing the ad. She is apparently attracting the attention of the aroused (male) figure (or figures)) on the top left of the ad. One outcome of a sexual liaison could be the production of a child/children, as depicted in the top right of the ad.. It is also possible to perceive the two figures in the top right as a couple, one lying behind the other. In this case also the imagery can be interpreted as depicting unwanted sexual attention.
Now, how is this young woman to deal with these problems of sexual attraction/sexual liaisons? Easy - she can just use Impulse Ico. Impulse Ico might simply seem to be just another deodorant but in fact it is also staking a claim to solve unwanted sexual attention and perhaps even indicates its use can arrest sexual development. To determine whether this assumption is correct, look at the next page of the ad.
On the second page the young woman is triumphantly raising her arms. Clearly this indicates she has no fear of BO., Impulse Ico is taking care of that. However, note the positioning of her upper arms and hands. Her right hand (top left of ad) is covering up the voyeuristic* and rampant male evident on the first page and her left hand (at the other side of the ad) is covering up the couple/child.
Ico, clearly has power that other deodorants do not. Users of Ico will not only be able to effect a change in the impression its users make upon those within sensory distance they will fend off dangers of undesired advances and unwanted pregnancy. Its miracle stuff. It's in a can and all yours for just a few pounds.
This ad is unusual in that it is a two page ad with a semi-subliminal message spread across both pages. Each of the two pages can and do function as separate ads as each offers a complete 'storyline'. Rather unusually, key attributes of the ad are in the top left hand corner, as published in Shine. This corner is normally the last part of the page a viewer is likely to see. Given that the pages are odd numbered pages these elements are tucked in to the binding. In single page versions of the ad (the second page only) the ad appears as either odd or even numbered pages. When an even page is used, the face and part of the erection obscured by the model's hand would therefore appear first.
It would appear that the single page ad would possess meaning only for those who had already noted the figures from previous viewing of the first page of the original ad. However, note also that the 'lettering' is still apparent on both sides of the hand as it 'obscures' the phallic/penis shape. The 'letters' can thus still be interpreted in a number of ways in conjunction with the imagery. The message associated with SX, a hand and an erect penis is assuredly a muted version of the clear sexual message present in the double page ad. In this instance the sex is 'safe' as the connotations are with masturbation and foreplay, not intercourse nor its possible outcomes.
The Selection for March, 1999
For many years it has been contended that distilling companies have had a preference for incorporating 'subliminal' imagery into the artwork of their ads. So far no whistleblower has come forward to confirm this type of activity but plenty of individual examples abound. Here is one for Jack Daniel's Whisky.
It will undoubtedly be contended that no such monkey business occurs in Jack Daniel's Whisky. But, if that is the case then what you will perceive in the ad on the left and the actual size extract on the right is merely an illustration of the effectiveness of the imagination in extracting meaning from innocuous visual stimuli. Whatever! I am sure that if you use your imagination responsibly that you will have little difficulty in identify two faces glaring at each other in the glass.
If these cartoon type images were intentional then they surely give the lie to the statement at the bottom of recent spirits ads. Analysis of a number of other Jack Daniel's ads lead the author to conclude that the embedded figures were intentional.
Note that the ad contains a request by your friends at Jack Daniel's to drink responsibly. One should note that the ad doesn't say what you should be responsible for. On the basis of the embedded imagery it seems reasonable to assume that it is OK to be fearful and responsible for encouraging cat fights and arguments - and, perhaps, all the other abusive forms of behaviour provided that increases alcohol consumption. Profits, so it would seem to come before social concern.
The Selection for February, 1999
The overt message is straightforward, consuming Delight helps one loose weight. Covertly, the ad carries sexual connotations as pulling out ones trousers in such a manner clearly would uncover secret delights. Considered on its own merits this would not be considered an appropriate interpretation of this ad but for further insights into the slippery meanings associated with margarine ads see the Delight and Flora pages.
Those viewers with a fertile imagination might have noted that this ad appeared in February. Santa obviously came a little late on this occasion.
The Selection for January, 1999
What's in a name? With a name like Pure 6 one is certain to raise a few laughs but will marketing a product under a brand name like this help ensure that it survives. I doubt it. Surely you can do better than this, chaps. However, lets forget about the marketing strategy and a brand name that reeks of student rag week gags and consider the content of the ad.
Pure 6 is pure. We can tell that from the almost holy glow around the lighthouse. However, it is the rather unholy elements in the sea underneath that really ought to attract the attention of potential drinkers. Lying in wait for anyone who drinks too much of this stuff is the stormy deep. At least one unfortunate individual who has had a few drinks too many in his attempt to drown his sorrows shows his face in the stormy waters. He simply drowned.
Find a copy of the original ad and look for the spot illustrated in the blow-up shown below to see what I mean. You will find a less than positive message for drinkers.
Pure 6 might seem sexy but the goal of those who produced this ad was simply to sell drinkers more than was good for them on the assumption that they were already intent on 'drowning their sorrows' and 'slow motion suicide'.
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Last Revised: 20th September, 2001