Advertisement as a persuasive tool
Whenever we speak of the central purpose of advertising, we must acknowledge before anything
else that an advertisement is created for the sole purpose of selling an idea. No matter where the
idea may come from if it does not draw in an audience, if it does not appeal to the viewer on
some primal, tangible level then the advertisement has failed in its purpose. The advertisement
that will be analyzed in this topic will be the poster for the Apollo 13 motion picture which was
published by Universal Studios in August of 1995 in the United States. My thesis is that this
advertisement establishes a feeling of fear within the viewer thus creating a need to know more
about the main subject.
The poster of course follows a format that is used by cinematic posters even today. The header
contains the names if the actors involved in the film while the footer details the all of the people
associated with the project including the distributor and manufacturer. The main photograph is
one of an actor by the name of Tom Hanks. The Caucasian actor is shown to be exhibiting signs
of trepidation while looking directly at the viewer. His face is half concealed by an opaque
helmet situated in front of him. The helmet is from a NASA spacesuit which conspicuously
seems empty. The light source for the photograph is behind the actor with the logo of the film
being below the picture and above the footer with the background of a crescent moon.
The first thing that is noticed on analyzing this poster is the asymmetrical symmetry that it
conveys. Each element of the photograph is given equal importance in creating a connection with
the viewer. There is a strong use of blacks and whites with the main figure immediately drawing
attention due to the contrasting and bright colors viewed on him.
At the time the poster was released United States was undergoing a cultural shift. The use of
technology was becoming more of a commonplace in society with the release of Windows 95
and the increasing popularity of the internet. As the country had just come out of an inflation
crisis, the dot net market was expanding at an increasing rate offering new opportunities for
investors. This was also the year that US space shuttle Atlantis docked with the Russian Mir
space station and the unmanned Galileo spacecraft arrived at the planet Jupiter. There was an
increasing optimism inherent in American culture as they looked towards the future. The person
in the advertisement is one who was greatly respected as a dramatic actor who had given several
Oscar worthy performances in the past. The effectiveness of the advertisement worked by
combining the contemporary viewpoint on the advancement of technology with the primal fears
associated with confinement and aloneness.
When we consider the poster from the perspective of Aristotle’s ethos, pathos and logos, the
photo itself does not try to convey anything to the viewer through any form of subversion. The
tagline on the picture is not prominent as well creating an immediate interest in the viewer to
know what exactly is occurring. The photo creates a connection with the viewer by conveying
the fear felt by the main figure. There is a close viewpoint in the poster with asymmetrical
symmetry, emphasizing the importance of all the different elements present. The use of blacks
and whites against the bright colors create a feeling of isolation and desperation, a need to reach
out to someone. What is inspired however is the use of the helmet to occlude part of the actors
face. This also entices the feeling that there is a barrier between the viewer and the subject; the
physical connection cannot be manifested due to this creating a deeper empathetic response. This
is further increased by the use of the tagline and the logo for the film underneath. Not only does
the tagline create a feeling of immediacy that completes the urgency of the environment but the
logo further adds to the fear that is conveyed. The moon subjectively is a lifeless body far away
from any sense of civilization and the view of the crescent moon enhances the feeling of
loneliness due the inherent absence of light. The light source behind the actor along with his
expression conveys that the subject is headed towards this destination arousing further emotion.
The inherent close proximity of the subjects face also adds a feeling of intense claustrophobia in
the viewer. If the purpose of this photograph was to create a need to watch the film, then it can
be said that it was quite successful.
The advertisement succeeds not in creating an environment of isolation and fear and conveying
this to the viewer without being subversive or obtrusive. It also plays on the primal urge to aid
those who are experiencing such emotions, thus succeeding in its purpose to create an interest in
the film within the American public.
Universal. "Apollo 13." August 1995. adFlip.com. 6 May 2009 <http://adflip.com/addetails.php?