Part of AQA’s list of Close Study Products, this is a print advertisement for Score’s Hair Cream. Published in 1967, the representation reinforces negative gender stereotypes with its portrayal of the powerful and dominant man who conquers the passive and subservient women.
The focus in the exam is on media language, including semiotics and ideologies, and media representation. You will also need to develop your understanding of the techniques of persuasion. This guide will help develop your understanding of these key concepts.
The message straightforward: if you want to get the girl, then buy this hair cream.
A number of signifiers help encode this preferred reading. First, the man is positioned at the top of the mise-en-scène, connoting his higher status, and the fact he is being carried on a litter could even suggest a god-like superiority. The rifle, which is propped casually in his manly arms, has obvious connotations of violent power and adventure. Presumably, this is weapon he used to subdue and dominate this new world. The indexical animal skin is evidence of his success. Finally, notice how his short-sleeved shirt reveals his muscular arms. This is a man who is ready to fight.
It is also worth mentioning the watch on his wrist. Although they measure time, watches often suggest the wearer is reliable, responsible and someone who values how their time is spent. Barthes would have labelled this part of the signification process a myth. Importantly, this confidence will appeal to the audience’s values.
In terms of Charles Peirce’s triadic model of signs, the representamen of the man being worshiped by the women, who carry him on their shoulders, creates a mental concept of masculine power and control. This interpretant is designed to inspire the audience to purchase the product and, as the headline suggests, “get what you have always wanted”.
There is no doubt the advertisement appeals to the male gaze by objectifying the women. Their skirts are short and their matching shirts are tied across their chests, revealing as much skin as the regulators in the 1960s might permit. Their tanned bodies, alluring black eyeliner and luscious hair also connote glamour.
Three of the women are staring at the man in absolute awe of his presence. In fact, the blonde-haired woman at the back of the litter is reaching up, desperately trying to touch her idol. However, the dark-haired woman at the front stares directly at the viewer, suggesting that you too could have this power if you buy the right hair cream.
With his sleek and perfectly-parted hair, tanned skin and satisfied smile, the man could be considered the “hero” of Propp’s character types and will appeal to an audience who want to conquer their own world and look good in the process. It seems that the adventurous protagonist has gone on a quest and used his ingenuity, courage and wonderful hair to save the day and get the girl(s).
In terms of the folklorist’s narrative functions, we could also argue this is a moment of transfiguration when the hero has achieved a new status or appearance. Using Todorov’s framework, this might be the new equilibrium when order is restored and ambitions are fulfilled.
The advertisement’s title, “The Jungle”, points to the exotic setting established by the safari clothing worn by the characters. The exciting location is also encoded in the strange, blade-like leaves in the background. By placing the story in an unfamiliar landscape, the marketing team are trying to associate the “great grooming action” of their hair cream with all the thrills and danger of a hunting expedition into the unknown. With “greaseless” hair, you too can be hero.
Advertising and Techniques of Persuasion
Placed in magazines and on posters, “The Jungle” is an example of direct advertising. Marketing agencies continue to pay a considerable amount of money for these slots because they offer a good return on their investment. Direct advertisements also fight for our attention, for example, during the breaks on television and the pre-roll ads on YouTube.
Advertisers want to connect with their primary target audience so brand values are incredibly important. Gillian Dyer (1988) identified some of the strategies used to engage the audience and called these advertising tricks “lines of appeal”. This particular advertisement uses images of beautiful people to appeal to the audience’s vanity, creating a false consciousness that men and women should look just as attractive as these models. There is also humour in the ridiculous fantasy narrative. Perhaps the brand value is look good but don’t take yourself too seriously.
Applying the AIDA Model
The AIDA model of communication is one of the best-known attempts to describe how consumers come to a decision to purchase a product. To satisfy the first stage of this process, the advertisement needs to raise awareness of the product. The image of the man being carried by the women is visually striking, especially the man’s direct address which is designed to grab our attention.
The next step is interest. In this example, the advertisers outlined the benefits of the product in their description of its “greaseless look” and “masculine scent”. What man could resist such “great grooming action”?
Now the target audience has decoded the preferred reading of the text, including the brand personality, there will be desire for the product. This desire is reinforced by the strapline “get what you’ve always wanted”.
Finally, the consumer will take action and buy Score Liquid Hair Groom.
It is important to remember advertising agencies often focus on raising brand awareness rather than promoting a single product.
The binary representation of masculinity and femininity is obvious. Liesbet van Zoonen argued femininity was traditionally represented as passive and subservient – the women in this media text certainly reflect that identity. Interestingly, their dress codes echo the famous image of Raquel Welch in the 1966 film “100 Million Years BC”.
When he was presenting his encoding / decoding model of communication, Stuart Hall suggested producers would reproduce messages if they were decoded by the audience according to the preferred reading. This publicity photograph of the actress in a fur bikini was already iconic when Score’s “The Jungle” advertisement was released so it is no surprise, therefore, the marketing agency were trying to replicate Raquel Welch’s success.
Liesbet van Zoonen also argued masculinity was usually represented as combative and aggressive. Again, the man the in advertisement seems to reinforce that opinion because he has conquered his world with his weapon.
Ideology and Audience Positioning
Of course, our interpretation of the text will depend on the context and our frameworks of knowledge.
Stuart Hall defined three decoding positions. For the preferred reading, the audience are positioned to admire the man and consider buying the grooming product to emulate his power. Some women might take a negotiated reading of the text and want to buy the product for their husbands. In this specific example, the wives are looking to elevate their husbands’ status rather than reducing themselves to a subservient role in the narrative.
The complete rejection of advertisement’s message because of its sexist representations is an obvious oppositional reading.
After researching the representation of gender in the media, David Gauntlett commented on the differences between the old stereotypes of the housewife and the new images of women who were taking control over their own lives. This self-determination, or “girl power” was epitomised by The Spice Girls.
In this way, Gauntlett demonstrated the representation gender in the media was not fixed. While this advertisement may have helped the original 1960s audience to construct their identity, the product would not have the same impact on a modern audience.
Judith Butler also argued gender identities are fluid and capable of change over time. You should compare and contrast the representation of gender in “The Jungle” to Maybelline’s advertisement “That Boss Life”. This will help develop your understanding of performativity and gender trouble.
Finally, it is worth noting the three promotional materials in this guide feature women and dress codes which emphasise their bodies. bell hooks would argue the intersection of race, gender and class influence representation and our opportunities in life. Until women have greater control of the economy and means of production, women will continue to be objectified to satisfy the male gaze.
- Using the term syntagm, explain how the message is encoded in the advertisement.
- Suggest why the producers wanted the man’s eyes to pierce the viewer.
- What signifiers suggest the narrative is set in a landscape which would be considered foreign and exotic by a 1960s audience in the UK?
- In terms of Todorov’s narrative theory, what is the repair in this advertisement?
- What myths are reinforced in the product?
- Use the concept of personal identity from the uses and gratifications theory to analyse the text.
- What marketing techniques are evident in “The Jungle” and its representations?
- Do you think the advertisement reflects our modern values. Make sure you use the concepts of gender performativity and fluidity of identity in your response.
- Evaluate the usefulness of Barthes’ theories about semiotics in understanding advertising and marketing texts.
- Explain how the combination of elements of media language influences the meaning in advertising and marketing media texts. Refer to the Close Study Product Score hair cream in your answer.
- Explain how values and ideologies are communicated by media language used the Close Study Product Score hair cream advertisement.
- Explain how media language in advertising and marketing texts incorporates viewpoints and ideologies.
- Analyse the Close Study Product Score hair cream advert using the following semiotic terms: denotation, connotation and myth.
- Explain how and why stereotypes are used in marketing and advertising texts. Refer to the Close Study Product Score hair cream in your answer.
- Explain how the conventions of advertising and marketing have been used to construct meaning in the Close Study Product Score hair cream advert.
- Explore how representations of gender have been constructed in the Close Study Product Score hair cream.
- How do representations of gender reflect their social and historical context. Refer to the Close Study Product Score hair cream in your answer.
- Discuss how and why audiences might respond to and interpret advertisements differently depending on the social context they are consumed.