Ex 4.1 Looking at adverts

This exercise requires a response to one of Dawn Woolley’s (OCA tutor) blog posts in her series, Looking at Advertising. At time of writing, it is 11th December and the advertising festive season has already been with us for some time! So I chose her blog number 14, which considers Christmas.

The post is concerned with keywords and describes her process of identifying keywords in featured in advertisements from an assortment of magazines over the Christmas period. It does not talk about the connection between words and images in the adverts, but is concerned with the decoding of the meaning of the words themselves. Woolley explains that words mean more than their dictionary definitions (ie their denotation) but also have other meanings to people, that can change over time and have political and social implications (their connotations). Woolley choses the word ‘magic’ to focus on:

I will concentrate on ‘magic’ as it is used to advertise a vast array of products from cosmetics and electronics to home furnishings and food.

We indeed all enjoy the ‘magic’ of Christmas; for many of us, it takes us back to our own childhood and the mystery of Father Christmas, or for those of us with children, the wonderful experience of sharing with them what we and our parents and our grand parents also felt as children. However, Woolley takes the word out of it’s specific Christmas context and talks in general terms about the ‘magic of advertising’ and how consumers also need to have the feeling of participation in making the magic for the advert to be successful – she refers to research into an instant cake mix advert that was not working until the requirement to add an egg was specified. Consumers do not like to be portrayed as passive in the face of consumption apparently.

I was a little disappointed that the post did not follow through on the theme of Christmas magic rather than general magic. I feel that the context of Christmas adds a different meaning to the word. At Christmas we can all suspend belief in logic and practicalities. It is expected and socially conditioned. In fact, I wonder if magic is a wise word to use blatantly in commercial advertising during the Christmas period – does it smack of commercial exploitation of the intimate magic experienced with families? Woolley features an advert for cinnamon spice as a lead image in her blog post. The main theme of this is tropical warmth, relaxation and slowing up. This really caught me at a time I’m looking forward to a Christmas break  -it made me think of home and making a syrup for mulled wine with the scent of cinnamon in the kitchen, Christmas songs playing on the radio. As the advert suggests at its close, giving a ‘sprinkling of magical Christmas dust’. Sold!

As Woolley closes her post in the hope that it doesn’t spoil the ‘Christmas magic’, I’m left feeling that it did not touch on Christmas magic; but am left convinced that I will again be making my own mulled wine syrup in a couple of weeks time!

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