LESSON 11Advertising as Visual communicationTOPICS COVEREDAdvertisement Campaigns, Steps to develop Campaign concepts, ideas visualization,making verbal/visual connections, how to approach idea visualization.OBJECTIVEVisuals are used heavily in Advertising. How do they work? We see them in hoardings,in Point of Sale (shops) kiosks, newspapers, magazines, TV...You will learn how meaning is produced and conveyed in messages that are primarilyvisual. .Learning to make visuals work is the challenge of every media person.VISUAL MEANING IN ADVERTISINGHow is meaning produced and conveyed in messages that are primarily visual? Thisquestion is particularly relevant when the message is one that relies almost exclusively onvisual communication cues. The production of meaning from visual messages in suchvisually intensive areas as advertising has been largely uninvestigated even though thequestion is of tremendous importance to designers of advertising messages. The reason isbecause of the difficulty of capturing visual meaning and the lack of structured researchapproaches to code and categorize such information.Visual SemioticsStudies of meaning evolve from semiotics, a philosophical approach that seeks tointerpret messages in terms of their signs and patterns of symbolism. The study ofsemiotics, or semiology in France, originated in a literary or linguistic context and hasbeen expanding in a number of directions since the early turn-of-the century work of C.S.Pierce in the U.S. and Levi Strauss and Ferdinand Saussure in France.A sign can be a word, a sound, or a visual image. Saussure divides a sign into twocomponents--the signifier (the sound, image, or word) and the signified, which is theconcept the signifier represents, or the meaning. As Berger points out, the problem ofmeaning arises from the fact that the relation between the signifier and the signified isarbitrary and conventional. In other words, signs can mean anything we agree that theymean, and they can mean different things to different people. Given the nonverbal natureof the "1984" commercial, it might be expected that the complex sign system in thecommercial might produce a variety of meanings.
Pierce categorized the patterns of meaning in signs as iconic, symbolic and indexical. Aniconic sign looks like what it represents--a picture of a dog, for example. The meaning ofa symbol, like the flag or the Statue of Liberty, is determined by convention--in otherwords, its meaning is arbitrary; it is based upon agreement and learned throughexperience. Language uses words as symbols that have to be learned; in Westernlanguages there is no iconic or representational link between a word and its signifiedconcept or meaning. An indexical sign is a clue that links or connects things in nature.Smoke, for example, is a sign of fire; icicles mean cold. Visual communication,--including video forms--uses all three types signs. Because of the essentially nonverbalnature of the "1984" commercial storyline, it is particularly rich in complex visualsignification.Most signs operate on several levels--iconic as well as symbolic and/or indexical, whichsuggests that visual semiotic analysis may be addressing a hierarchy of meaning inaddition to categories and components of meaning. As Eco explains, "what is commonlycalled a message is in fact a text whose content is a multi leveled discourse. In the"1984" commercial, it would be interesting to deconstruct the visual image to determinewhat elements are iconic, symbolic, and indexical.The broadening concept of text and discourse encourages additional research into howvisual communication operates to create meaning. Deeply explains that "at the heart ofsemiotics is the realization that the whole of human experience, without exception, is aninterpretive structure mediated and sustained by signs." Semiotics now considers avariety of texts, using Ecos terms, to investigate such diverse areas as movies, art,advertisements, and fashion, as well as visuals. In other words, as Berger explains, "theessential breakthrough of semiology is to take linguistics as a model and apply linguisticconcepts to other phenomena--texts--and not just to language itself." Anthropologists likeGrant McCracken and marketing experts like Sydney Levy have even used semioticinterpretations to analyze the rich cultural meanings of products and consumerconsumption behaviors as texts.Visual texts are an important area of analysis for semioticians and particularly forscholars working with visually intensive forms such as advertising and television becauseimages are such a central part of our mass communication sign system. Linda Scott hasdeconstructed the images in perfume advertising as well as in Apples "1984" commercialusing close readings of the various messages which can be interpreted from the ads. ShaySayre has also looked at perfume advertising images and the visual rhetoric in Hungarysfirst free election television advertisements using semiotic analysis. Also using semiotics,Arthur As a Berger has deconstructed the meaning of the "1984" commercial as well asprograms such as Cheers and films such as Murder on the Orient Express.Systems of meaning, Culler and Berger tell us, is analyzed by looking at cultural andcommunication products and events as signs and then by looking at the relationshipamong these signs. The categories of signs and the relationships between them create asystem. Barthes, for example, has analyzed the "fashion system," and classified thesystem of communication through fashion into two categories: image clothing anddescriptive clothing. Likewise, an advertisement has its own system of meaning. Weexpect an appeal to purchase, either directly or implied, to be made and a product to beshown, for example, as part of the advertising system.
We, the undersigned, are graphic designers, art directors and visual communicators whohave been raised in a world in which the techniques and apparatus of advertising havepersistently been presented to us as the most lucrative, effective and desirable use of ourtalents. Many design teachers and mentors promote this belief; the market rewards it; atide of books and publications reinforces it.Encouraged in this direction, designers then apply their skill and imagination to sell dogbiscuits, designer coffee, diamonds, detergents, hair gel, cigarettes, credit cards, sneakers,butt toners, light beer and heavy-duty recreational vehicles. Commercial work has alwayspaid the bills, but many graphic designers have now let it become, in large measure, whatgraphic designers do. This, in turn, is how the world perceives design. The profession’stime and energy is used up manufacturing demand for things that are inessential at best.Many of us have grown increasingly uncomfortable with this view of design. Designerswho devote their efforts primarily to advertising, marketing and brand development aresupporting, and implicitly endorsing, a mental environment so saturated with commercialmessages that it is changing the very way citizen-consumers speak, think, feel, respondand interact. To some extent we are all helping draft a reductive and immeasurablyharmful code of public discourse.There are pursuits more worthy of our problem-solving skills. Unprecedentedenvironmental, social and cultural crises demand our attention. Many culturalinterventions, social marketing campaigns, books, magazines, exhibitions, educationaltools, television programmes, films, charitable causes and other information designprojects urgently require our expertise and help.We propose a reversal of priorities in favour of more useful, lasting and democratic formsof communication – a mindshift away from product marketing and toward the explorationand production of a new kind of meaning. The scope of debate is shrinking; it mustexpand. Consumerism is running uncontested; it must be challenged by otherperspectives expressed, in part, through the visual languages and resources of design.In 1964, 22 visual communicators signed the original call for our skills to be put toworthwhile use. With the explosive growth of global commercial culture, their messagehas only grown more urgent. Today, we renew their manifesto in expectation that nomore decades will pass before it is taken to heart.THE ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNFrom time to time, we have made reference to the "advertising campaign." Now that thebasic elements of writing copy have been investigated, it is time that more detailedattention be given to the overall picture of planning and executing a long-term program,and subsequently, an advertising campaign.
THE CAMPAIGNAn advertising campaign is a series of advertisements concerned with a product or familyof products (or services), having generally the same objective, with a unifying centralcreative theme or idea. This may be expressed in any number of appeals or approaches,but each advertisement indicates a "family resemblance" when it is varied for differentmedia. The "personality" of the verbal and visual elements gives a campaign identity andcontinuity.For example, the Ford Motor Company maintained the same basic campaign for severalyears with "The Better Idea," a central theme running through season after season ofadvertising campaigns. From billboards to television, the unifying idea ,was retained withmany variations, but always clearly making its impact on the public. Recently a corporate
variation has been added, extolling the factory operation and the finished cars as an"incredible" product.This, in essence, is the importance of a campaign, and the importance of a strong centralidea. It provides the maximum impact on the consumer for every dollar spent. No matterwhat the budget, the continuity and cumulative effect provided by a unified campaignmake each advertisement more memorable. In addition, a campaign forces eachadvertisement to contribute to the one that follows it. This continuity provides acumulative impact, which is the synergism the advertiser hopes, will give him extra sales.For the copywriter, there is a special plus derived from the aesthetic satisfaction ofhaving created an effective campaign. (The satisfaction is not what the client pays for, butit adds immeasurably to the excitement of the job!)THE COPY PLATFORMA copy platform is a written statement of creative plans that goes through two stages.First, when a presentation is made to a copy supervisor and finally to the client, as alladvertising agencies must do at regular intervals, a copy platform is included at thebeginning of the section on copy. The copy platform has been discussed by copy chiefs,art directors, and, sometimes, account supervisors. It is hoped that it will later beapproved by the client.Before the campaign goes into production, the copy platform must be approved by theclient whether or not some few changes have been or will be made. Then, in its secondstage, it becomes the bible for each copywriter who works on that account.PROCEDURES FOR DEVELOPING CONCEPTS FOR CAMPAIGNS AND COPYUp to now, we have covered a reasonably deep study of the factors that combine toproduce effective concepts for advertising campaigns and copy. In fact, it would seemappropriate at this point to give the student copywriter an opportunity to look back andsee how it is all put together.The following are the steps generally covered in developing concepts (central ideas) forcampaigns and then writing the copy. This need not be taken as gospel; it is a guide to areasonable procedure that can be helpful before the copywriter gains enough experienceto prepare her own procedures.Steps to Develop Campaign Concepts1. Assemble and analyze all the facts for planning a strategy: (a) The company you arewriting for.(b) The audience you are writing to.(c) The product you must sell.(d) The objectives (product and/or institutional) of the immediate advertisement.
(e) The medium you are writing for.2. Assemble and study the ad facts, mechanical facts about the proposed advertisement:(a) Is this a single ad, or a part of a campaign?(b) If print, what is the size and shape of the space?(c) Black and white or color? (d) If on radio or television, what is the length of the commercial? How will it beproduced? What is the time slot?3. Review the product facts_ use buyers fact sheets, all research, surveys, tradepublications, etc.4. List all the products selling points. (a) Study and number them according to strength; relist them in order. (b) Decide on a cut-off point of usable selling points (usually three or so).5. Determine the most effective copy appeal on the basis of the selling point chosen asthe most important and dominant, the one that offers the greatest consumer benefit andbecomes the theme of the copy and the headline area.6. Decide on the copy approach. (At this point, the copywriter has developed a concept.)7. Decide on tentative idea visualization; do lots of vizthinks and thumbnails. Make nota-tions for the guidance of the art department.8. Outline the body copy.9. Write the headline. (Steps 7, 8, and 9 are interchangeable; sometimes one, sometimesanother comes first.)10. Write the first draft.11. Check all facts again. Check copy against copy checklists and copy platform givenyou by your own company or against any other guides you may wish to use.12. Confer with the art department on actual layout and artwork.13. If necessary, rewrite the body copy or details of the copy to fit the final layoutexactly. Be prepared to do a character count if exact typographical specification isrequired. This is called copy fitting. This technique is fully described in Chapter II.14. Write final copy, complete in all details, ready for typesetting. (Do not rely on thetypists to do your detail work for you.)15. After the advertisement is set in type, see the proofs at ever-y stage. You areresponsible
As suggested in Step 11 above, it is wise to review the copy against a checklist, as well asto look at it critically, before rewriting it in final form. Some of the following may bepertinent questions to ask yourself:1. Does the copy state customer benefit(s)?2. Will it be interesting to a prospective buyer?3. Is it accurate?4. Is it clear?5. Is it specific?6. Does it give adequate information?7. Is it plausible and believable?8. Does it call for proof? If so, is your proof impressive?9. Can it be made more concise?10. Does it make the reader want the product?WRAP-UPTo summarize this chapters discussion of advertising campaigns, the following may beobserved:1. Start with a basic consumer (customer) benefit.2. Keep the central idea simple but strong.3. Do not be timid or fainthearted. Strike out with new, innovative ideas.4. Subordinate techniques of advertising production, either verbal or visual, to a strongcentral idea. In other words, do not create the central idea around tricky type faces orgrotesque camera shots.5. Test a single idea against others.6. Keep the central idea fresh with numerous variations.7. Do not be swayed by "armchair" research.8. Stick with your campaign idea so long as the marketing goals remain the same. 9. Plan ahead for change.10. Be ready to change when basic marketing conditions or new product benefits call fornew goals.