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From Naturalisation to Sacralisation: Changing Paradigms for Analysing Visual Advertising
Unformatted Document Text:  10 10 commodities. Fiske and the others who argued for a pluralism of reading practices decentred and discredited ideological critique of Williamson and others. Bignell (1997) has added to this theory of the plurality of reading practices to consider how advertisements target audiences which are suitable for the products advertised. He argued that the Williamson’s position is too simplistic and that ideological critique completely ignores the whole targeting process in advertising and the way that ads are orientated towards specific populations with specific knowledge. Hence, in his discussion of a Volkswagen ad, he points to the fact that it makes references to the television show, Dr. Who which would be familiar to the target group of affluent young professionals who would have looked at the show in their childhood. He goes on to examine how advertising in the 1990’s often included references to the ideological critique of advertising. In his own discussion of a Wonderbra ad, he states “ However as we have seen, it is by no means certain that the ideological message revealed by such ( feminist) critique is the “true meaning “ of the ad. There are a number of coherent alternative ways of reading the ad, and a number of possible subject positions from which to understand it. The signs in the ad are too ambiguous, too “polysemic” or multiple in their meanings to decide on one ”true “ message of the ad.( Bignell 1997:52) As Bignell points out ads can be read with irony or with critical distance. However, even irony about advertising can be seen as seductive. reminding us of Williamson’s point that advertising can appropriate everything even its own technique. Bignell argues that Wonderbra appropriates feminist critique in its ads to further enhance the idea of a powerful reading subject. The Wonderbra ad takes on a feminist ideological critique that would see women as signs of desirability and objectification and is ironic about this critique. The wearer of a Wonderbra is offered two kinds of pleasure: both the pleasure of being a desired object, and the pleasure of refusing to be perceived as a desired object while being one. The Wonderbra ad becomes a sign of the woman’s power over the way she is perceived. Hence the postmodern ad flatters its audience by telling them that it is they who choose their image and construct it. Deisel’s ironic campaign which criticised advertising was an example of this 4 . The reader of the ad is seduced not by desire for the product but by desire to be competent, to be able to read the ad, to identify with the values which reject an easy consumerism. Bignell’s work shows how despite polysemy and different encoding processes, advertising manages to interpolate different audiences and still generate desire for products. It seduces through flattering their knowledge of communication rather than by a simple incitation to desire. 4 On this see article by Frédéric Bouchar “ cannes la cuvée 2001” in News Mag available on the web at http://www.febelma.be/MagNews/Mag0103/Page010306.html

Authors: Doyle, Waddick.
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10
10
commodities. Fiske and the others who argued for a pluralism of reading practices decentred
and discredited ideological critique of Williamson and others.

Bignell (1997) has added to this theory of the plurality of reading practices to consider how
advertisements target audiences which are suitable for the products advertised. He argued
that the Williamson’s position is too simplistic and that ideological critique completely
ignores the whole targeting process in advertising and the way that ads are orientated towards
specific populations with specific knowledge. Hence, in his discussion of a Volkswagen ad,
he points to the fact that it makes references to the television show, Dr. Who which would be
familiar to the target group of affluent young professionals who would have looked at the
show in their childhood.

He goes on to examine how advertising in the 1990’s often included references to the
ideological critique of advertising. In his own discussion of a Wonderbra ad, he states

However as we have seen, it is by no means certain that the ideological message revealed
by such ( feminist) critique is the “true meaning “ of the ad. There are a number of coherent
alternative ways of reading the ad, and a number of possible subject positions from which to
understand it. The signs in the ad are too ambiguous, too “polysemic” or multiple in their
meanings to decide on one ”true “ message of the ad.( Bignell 1997:52)
As Bignell points out ads can be read with irony or with critical distance. However, even
irony about advertising can be seen as seductive. reminding us of Williamson’s point that
advertising can appropriate everything even its own technique. Bignell argues that
Wonderbra appropriates feminist critique in its ads to further enhance the idea of a powerful
reading subject.

The Wonderbra ad takes on a feminist ideological critique that would see women as signs of
desirability and objectification and is ironic about this critique. The wearer of a Wonderbra
is offered two kinds of pleasure: both the pleasure of being a desired object, and the pleasure
of refusing to be perceived as a desired object while being one. The Wonderbra ad becomes a
sign of the woman’s power over the way she is perceived.

Hence the postmodern ad flatters its audience by telling them that it is they who choose their
image and construct it. Deisel’s ironic campaign which criticised advertising was an example
of this
4
. The reader of the ad is seduced not by desire for the product but by desire to be
competent, to be able to read the ad, to identify with the values which reject an easy
consumerism. Bignell’s work shows how despite polysemy and different encoding processes,
advertising manages to interpolate different audiences and still generate desire for products.
It seduces through flattering their knowledge of communication rather than by a simple
incitation to desire.
4
On this see article by
Frédéric Bouchar
“ cannes la cuvée 2001”
in News Mag available on the web at
http://www.febelma.be/MagNews/Mag0103/Page010306.html


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