Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Text & Subtext in Advertisements

Since I was not in class for the lesson on the text and subtext of advertisements, I did a little research of my own to learn about what these two concepts mean. Firstly, the text of an ad is the straightforward or implicit message - the words, ideas, or images that the advertisers directly state or show. However, like all forms of media, the stated message is usually not the main one being delivered. The more important message is that of the subtext - the underlying tones or implicit ideologies that the advertisers give off in their ad. A subtext is one's own interpretation, and two people can find a different subtext of the same ad, but advertisers often hint at a certain subtext they want viewers to feel, which is a way of subconciously bringing out insecurties or inner feelings that lead the consumer to purchasing the product or service being advertised, yet another sneaky ploy of the media world.

Take a look at this ad for COVERGIRL Simply Ageless Foundation, which uses clever humour to hide the actually hurtful subtext of the ad.

In this commercial featuring comedian Ellen Degeneres, the explicit messages, or the text, is that this product will help you smooth wrinkles. It directly tells us that you the foundation can make you look younger, unlike a "prune" or a "wrinkleface". It is a fun and upbeat ad, with bright white lights and party music. However, the subtext is much more harsh and gives off strict ideas of what is considered good-looking in our society. The commercial implies that getting older and having natural wrinkles is ugly, and it is necessary to cover them up. It hints that people will judge you negatively if your skin is anything but "perfect" and that what others think about your appearance and age is important. It makes the consumer feel that how they look is not good enough and that this product can solve their problems. In addition, with the happy/dance-y mood of the commerical, it is implied that not only will this product make your skin better, it will make your whole life better. With smoother, younger skin, you will have more fun!

This subtext can be harmful to viewers, as it breaks down their self-esteem and lets the media control what our society considers as beautiful. As consumers, it is important to realize that advertising has its business interests before its humanitarian interests and the messages we feel from watching commercials should not be a reflection of society's values, though sadly this is seldom true.

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