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From Naturalisation to Sacralisation: Changing Paradigms for Analysing Visual Advertising
Unformatted Document Text:  14 14 totemism (1970 to today)..Hence they place Williamson’s arguments about totems and advertising in a historical context. They analyse advertisements to illustrate the changes in the cultural frame rather than deducing the cultural frame from the analysis. Fowles(1996) disagrees with their historisation and argues that anthropology teaches us that all societies at all times mediate social communication through objects invested with subjective meanings. He argues that totemisation and consumerism is little different from other forms of social experience. In brief, the work of Jhally, Kline, Leiss of Ewen and of Schudson has tended to favour what Leis, Kline and Jhally(1997) call the cultural frame as determining advertising and tend to read advertisements as reflecting the processes going on in those cultural frames. Another school of advertising criticism which is based on visual analysis is that of the visual communication approach. Paul Messaris’s work Visual Persuasion begins with an extremely inept attempt to apply the semiotic theory of Peirce to advertising 8 . He tries to apply three forms of sign identified by Peirce, icon, index and symbol to advertising. assimilating them respectively to image as simulated reality, image as evidence and image as implied selling position. He is not concerned with a broader social critique but with the mechanisms by which advertisements produce meanings and create what he calls implied selling propositions. Messaris’s (1997:7) key notion is that of “breaking the visual dictionary”. He draws on the work by the cognitive psychologist, Roger Shepard, on how the brain deals with impossible or unfamiliar figures. He claims that advertising images should be similar to images that we are familiar with for us to be able to recognise them but different enough for us to not be able to do so immediately. In the first advertisement analysed, the paradox or puzzle is the two women are indeed the same. This is the same in ad 3 as we shall see below. In ad 2, our visual dictionaries may not be used to associating fruit with elegant handbags or formal, elegant women licking fruit. This brings attention to the brand and product and leaves us susceptible to consider changing our perceptions. Messaris explains that this is done through a process of juxtaposition of two analogous things and a process of visual metaphor. In the two ads we have so far analysed, the juxtaposition concerns fruit and handbag or elegant women fighting. Messaris creates a typology of these juxtapositions, which can work on analogy, causality, generalisation or contrast. In both cases we have examined, it is a question of contrast. Messaris‘s other key idea is to associate how advertisements and brands can come to have a conventional meaning or what he calls implied selling proposition. In the case of the Louis Vuitton ads, the implied selling proposition would be the idea of transgression and envy linked to the bags and its contrast with the traditional image of bourgeois respectability associated with the brand. Messaris’s approach to advertising has reconsidered the role of metaphor. Rather than refer to advertising as cultural instances of a dominant ideology as do Ewen , Leis, Klein and Jhally(1997. and to lesser extent Schudson, he has considered them visual puzzles, visual language games of a self-referential system, which can be understood through analysis. While moving away from the notion of free interpretation proposed by Fiske, he has ignored the problem of the broader social and political dimensions of advertising in favour of a descriptive visual grammar. Messaris’s work for all its shortcomings reminds us of that advertising is fundamentally referential but not so much to the real world but to what he calls 8 His work seem to show very little knowledge of Peirce beyond the existence of the tripartite structure of the sign of which he has a very idiosyncratic understanding.

Authors: Doyle, Waddick.
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totemism (1970 to today)..Hence they place Williamson’s arguments about totems and
advertising in a historical context. They analyse advertisements to illustrate the changes in
the cultural frame rather than deducing the cultural frame from the analysis. Fowles(1996)
disagrees with their historisation and argues that anthropology teaches us that all societies at
all times mediate social communication through objects invested with subjective meanings.
He argues that totemisation and consumerism is little different from other forms of social
experience. In brief, the work of Jhally, Kline, Leiss of Ewen and of Schudson has tended to
favour what Leis, Kline and Jhally(1997) call the cultural frame as determining advertising
and tend to read advertisements as reflecting the processes going on in those cultural frames.
Another school of advertising criticism which is based on visual analysis is that of the visual
communication approach. Paul Messaris’s work Visual Persuasion begins with an extremely
inept attempt to apply the semiotic theory of Peirce to advertising
8
. He tries to apply three
forms of sign identified by Peirce, icon, index and symbol to advertising. assimilating them
respectively to image as simulated reality, image as evidence and image as implied selling
position. He is not concerned with a broader social critique but with the mechanisms by which
advertisements produce meanings and create what he calls implied selling propositions.

Messaris’s (1997:7) key notion is that of “breaking the visual dictionary”. He draws on the
work by the cognitive psychologist, Roger Shepard, on how the brain deals with impossible or
unfamiliar figures. He claims that advertising images should be similar to images that we are
familiar with for us to be able to recognise them but different enough for us to not be able to
do so immediately. In the first advertisement analysed, the paradox or puzzle is the two
women are indeed the same. This is the same in ad 3 as we shall see below. In ad 2, our
visual dictionaries may not be used to associating fruit with elegant handbags or formal,
elegant women licking fruit. This brings attention to the brand and product and leaves us
susceptible to consider changing our perceptions. Messaris explains that this is done through
a process of juxtaposition of two analogous things and a process of visual metaphor. In the
two ads we have so far analysed, the juxtaposition concerns fruit and handbag or elegant
women fighting. Messaris creates a typology of these juxtapositions, which can work on
analogy, causality, generalisation or contrast. In both cases we have examined, it is a
question of contrast. Messaris‘s other key idea is to associate how advertisements and brands
can come to have a conventional meaning or what he calls implied selling proposition. In the
case of the Louis Vuitton ads, the implied selling proposition would be the idea of
transgression and envy linked to the bags and its contrast with the traditional image of
bourgeois respectability associated with the brand.
Messaris’s approach to advertising has reconsidered the role of metaphor. Rather than refer
to advertising as cultural instances of a dominant ideology as do Ewen , Leis, Klein and
Jhally(1997. and to lesser extent Schudson, he has considered them visual puzzles, visual
language games of a self-referential system, which can be understood through analysis.
While moving away from the notion of free interpretation proposed by Fiske, he has ignored
the problem of the broader social and political dimensions of advertising in favour of a
descriptive visual grammar. Messaris’s work for all its shortcomings reminds us of that
advertising is fundamentally referential but not so much to the real world but to what he calls
8
His work seem to show very little knowledge of Peirce beyond the
existence of the tripartite structure of the sign of which he has a very
idiosyncratic understanding.


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