This It performs as ‘the primary means of

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Last updated: August 17, 2019

This essay proposes to differentiate visual advertising frompropaganda, through comparing and contrasting the strategies evident in each example.They both influence and inform the audience, forming symbols of communicationand manipulation. Analysing the techniques used and understanding the purposeand effects of both visual forms will be the central discussion of this essay. Usingexamples from different periods of time will help develop an understanding of them.

 Advertising is a series of appeals, symbols, and statementsdeliberately designed to influence the audience towards a desired point ofview, to act in some specific way, whether it be to purchase, vote, holdpositive or negative views, or merely to maintain a memory. (1) It performs as’the primary means of stimulating the sales of the products of ourconsumer-oriented society, and as such has a direct influence in the economy’. (2)The two examples that will be discussed, illustrates the influence of consumerspending by presenting what is ‘desired’ through different techniques. Advertisingas propaganda has been largely responsible for the creation of the massiveconsumer culture in the twentieth century. (3) To support this, the Apple 1984 Super Bowl commercial introducingMacintosh Computer demonstrates the power of advertising to persuade consumerbehaviour, making a huge impact.

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‘The company represented an individualistic,anti-establishment approach to computer technology’. The Macintosh computerwould be a new product that would change the world, giving individuals accessto information. (4) The commercial ‘shows the Thought Police pursuing the girlinto a great hall full of transfixed automatons listening to Big Brother on ahuge screen. The woman ‘swings the sledgehammer over her head and hurls it atthe video image which explodes.

Over a picture of the stunned audience areprinted the words: “On January 24th Apple Computer will introduceMacintosh. And you’ll see why 1984 won’t be like 1984′. (5) The concept was toshow the fight for the control of computers technology, Apple’s competitors,IBM PC came to dominate the home and office computer market. Therefore, thecompany wanted to reassure viewers that the new technology would be used forfreedom, not control. One of the techniques used to achieve this was fear. The fearabout Big Brother, the idea of conformity was a fundamental subject that targetedeveryday people. The objective was to scare the consumers into believing theymust buy a Macintosh in order to have control over their lives otherwise theywon’t know “why 1984 won’t be like 1984”.

Furthermore, the fear of livingin a society with no control persuaded consumers to purchase the Macintosh inorder to achieve freedom. The idea that personal computers were available andsimple enough for those who were not technical meant that it was accessible topurchase and use. The ad ‘inspired a generation of young people to go into atechnology field that appeared more than ever to hold key to solving problemsand making the world a better place’.

(6) Simultaneously, another techniqueused is rebellion. The dark, dull and drab colours of the many innocent bystandersevoke a fearful and uneasy feeling for the viewers. The only bright aspect iswhen the woman appears throwing the sledgehammer at the screen emphasising thenotion of rebellion. The Macintosh was for the young and innovative individualsto break free and start something different, this is implied from what the sheis wearing and also going against authority and control by breaking the screen.The use of suggestive images and captions in visualadvertising is also another method to encourage the viewers desire for consumergoods. An example of a commercial advertisement that displays this is theHaagen-Dazs 1991 ‘Lose Control’ campaign. It deformalized the image of icecream, targeting adults explicitly and changing people’s preconceptions. Thiswas achieved by demonstrating the act of ‘eating it asan experience, all the more attractive when sharing it with another in a moodof sensual intimacy’.

 Haagen-Dazs uses sexual imagery as a technique to sell andallure customers, exaggerating the products purpose. The idea is that theproduct provides an unforgettable experience, a luxury adult treat,’associating the eating of Haagen-Dazs with “a moment of intense sensual andintimate pleasure”‘. (7) The advertisement composes of a sexual image, showinga black-white photograph of a partially dressed couple in an intimate positionsharing a tub of ice cream, with “Lose Control” concept. The man is lifting thewoman up as she holds the tub of ice cream above his mouth, ‘feeding him’ withhis eyes closed while she looks down and smiles. The “Lose Control” concept isjuxtaposed to the photograph, emphasising the sensual experience, creatingdesire and excitement for the viewers. The placement of the letters reinforcesthe sense of ‘Lose Control’ as the letters is fluid and big, dominating thespace in contrast to the phrase ‘smoothness’ and ‘temperature and humidity’. Theman is perceived to quite happily allow the woman to pour the ice cream intohis mouth, so in effect he’s losing control. The use of the words, smoothness,temperature and humidity is associated with skin, which is clearly highlightedin the image, again provoking a sensual link to Haagen-Dazs, persuading viewersto buy the product.

The ice cream is a luxury, and also gives the consumershope, the phrase ‘Dedicated to Pleasure’ implies relationships, and the imagedepicts a couple having a pleasurable time.  Propaganda is a form of communication that promoteparticular ideas and practices to an audience with a related objective, thatoften uses manipulative persuasion, intimidation and deception. (8) The purposeis to influence public opinion and attitude change through emotions, the effectivenessof propaganda must be seen, remembered, understood, and acted upon.

(9) ‘Theuse of propaganda as a means of controlling information flow, managing publicopinion, or manipulating behaviour’ (10) was greatly used in the earlytwentieth century during the First World War which will be explored. Propagandaserves an informative function in that it tells people how to behave. Peopleturn into the media when there’s an uncertainty in society in order tounderstand events and what to do. (11) ‘Wartime propaganda attempts to make people to adjust toabnormal conditions, and adapt their priorities and moral standards toaccommodate the needs of war’. (12) The development of advanced militarytechnology led to large numbers of death, which meant ‘traditional methods ofrecruitment were no longer adequate to replace them’. (13) Consequently,’recruitment posters have often been designed to look like advertisements ormovie posters’ (14) for instance, the 1915 poster “Daddy, what did YOU do inthe Great War?”. Guilt was a common strategy used in war propaganda togalvanize people into action. The poster ‘was designed to shame eligible butreluctant men into doing the “right thing”‘.

(15) It urged men who were notenlisted at the beginning of the war, to enlist and join the fray. The posterpictures a middle-aged British father and his two children, in a comfortablehome. The son is playing with toy soldiers on the floor, while the daughter sitson his lap reading a book where she asks him, “Daddy, what did YOU do in theGreat War?”. The father fails to come up with an answer and stares blankly atthe audience as his reasoning was that he had not volunteered to fight in thewar, showing the sense of shame. This makes men feel embarrassed and guilty, especiallyto fathers, who can associate the feeling if they were asked the same questionby their own children. The poster is a charge to men to do the “right thing”, itchallenges British fathers to protect their families and country. This isachieved by promoting the war in an active manner, the chance for them to betruly masculine and be heroes and serve their country with dignity. This goesin line with reputation, the poster threatens the audience reputation by implyingthat fathers who do not go to war will have a bad reputation, and will be bad rolemodels for their children.

The poster also speaks out to women, to convincetheir husband to go to war to protect them from danger. The 1915 propaganda warposter is an effective means of recruitment for the war, in its use of emotionsto persuade the audience and influence attitude change.  Contrary, the 2008 Barack Obama HOPE poster is an example ofa political symbolism and contemporary propaganda that also used emotions topersuade the public’s view. Designed by Shepard Fairey, an American streetartist, he transmitted his beliefs to the public through this poster which iswhat propaganda aims to do. He quoted ‘in 2008, I viewed Obama as an inspiringspeaker and leader but also someone who would potentially hep push progress ona number of issues that I care about.

Many of those issue were about basichuman dignity and fairness’. (16) The 2008 poster depicts a stylized stencil ofObama in red, blue and beige, with the word ‘Hope’ beneath it. It has become alasting success of the Obama campaign as well as an iconic symbol of history.’The purpose of the poster is to provoke thought in the American electorate,and in doing so encourage the concept of hope to be almost subconsciouslyassociated with the image of Obama’. (17) The use of colours is intentional andsignificant to make the audience feel hope and optimistic about the situation.The red, blue and beige represent the American flag and the concept of unity,by believing that Obama can take America from its current state of despair, andto a state of success, emphasising his power and ability.

‘Obama has thedistant, upward gaze of a visionary leader’, perceived to be looking away fromthe viewer into the distance, the idea of an optimistic future and hope. He isconfident of change and progress and he wants the audience to feel the same, toshare his vision of a better future for America. The term ‘Hope’ beneath the imagereinforce the idea of the attitude the audience should have and invites them tomake a connection to Obama with the rhetoric of “hope” for America.  As a whole, visual advertising and propaganda share similarities,as discussed, they both use emotions as a touchpoint to persuade the audience inone way or another. Additionally, they are both symbols of communication and manipulationthat inform and influence the audience, often used as a tool by the dominantclass by which their ideology is perpetuated. To some extent, it can be arguedthat visual advertising and propaganda also serve a purpose for consumerism.

Thisis because they both attract a mass audience. Although advertisements emphases arethe individual, and encourage a certain lifestyle to adopt. It is the most ubiquitousform of propaganda. ‘It is found everywhere we look, almosteverywhere we listen, and its pressure is felt in every commercial transactionwe make.’ ‘Adverting’s “central function isto create desires – to bring into being wants that previously did not existed”.

‘This means advertising creates unnecessary “wants” that wasn’t desired. Whereas,propaganda as mass culture is disseminated as ideas and practices in theculture, as supported by the 2008 Barack Obama ‘Hope’ poster. Posters are theprimary medium of mass communication. Nevertheless, there is significantdifferences between visual advertising and propaganda. The first point beingtheir target audience, as explained, advertisements focuses on the individual. Theytry to create an experience where the audience can become emotionally investedin the brand, deepening brand affiliation which in turn leads to becoming loyalcustomers. Through exaggeration, the audience is persuaded to adopt a certain lifestylethat is perceived as ‘desired’.

In comparison, propaganda promotes an ideologythat is favoured by the propagandist, which is often bias at it looks at oneview. This can be positive or negative as displayed in the examples discussed. Propagandatargets a mass audience with the expectations of attitude change by influencingthe audience through emotions. The idea of joining up to a bigger and moral cause,and doing the “right thing” is a persuasive method often used.  In conclusion, propaganda and visual adverting are bothpowerful and influential tools that are often hard to differentiate.

The twoconcepts are inter-related and advertising is considered as commercialpropaganda to some extent. This is because the intention is to persuade theaudience to think and behave in a certain manner, thus motivation to buy whatis advertised stems from the belief promoted by what propaganda is. Thoughthere are significant differences between the two as discussed, they both aimto persuade the public to take action, stimulating the audience thoughts andbehaviour. The target audience and techniques used are significant indifferentiating propaganda from visual advertising as it dictates how a certainviewpoint is communicated.   

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