Case Study: Visuals In Advertising

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Advertising is a complex social phenomenon, ‘envelops our existence without feeling the presence often’ (apud Chelcea, 2012, p.15). If we keep track of its evolution over time, we notice that it has been blamed or tribute in all its forms of expression, but as Levitt manages to formulate, ‘it provides exactly what a painter with an easel does, not just a simple reproduction photographic ‘(Chelcea, 2012).

Thus, as the artist works with a wide range of colors to reproduce the aesthetics inspired by the creative muse, advertising works with a range of essential concepts to render the benefits of a product or service to the consumer, his preferences as a customer is the main the criterion to which this activity relates, the satisfaction of the needs, expectations, and desires of the decision maker to choose what is offered.

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The way in which the dynamics of advertising activity is achieved by appealing to humor, myths, stereotypes, emotions and sensory stimuli gives us information about the psychic dimension of the phenomenon, advertising being the ‘lubricant of the system of free initiative’ in the vision of Leo-Arthur Kelmenson (apud Chelcea, 2012, p.14).

The choice of the theme is motivated by the desire to portray the dynamism of the process through which the target audience brings products and services from which to choose what is related to wishes his. At the same time, I intrigue how a person responds to what is meaningful to him and the role that concepts such as humor or emotions have in his perception of forms of expression of publicity.

According to Babeş and Forgaciu (2013), an important tool used in advertising is humor. It is used together with other symbols known in the target audience culture, the goal being to convey an easy to understand and assimilated message. Humor should be seen as a human resource, is a constant over time. Thus, regardless of the level of evolution, in different cultures, there were preferences related to types of humor or jokes to reflect the concerns, interests or desires of individuals in a particular society.

Cristina Horia, blogger, notes that ‘humor means interactivity, and interactivity increases the ability to memorize a brand’s message. Making good use of humor in advertising is to make buyers answer your efforts in a positive way. Humor leads to the multiplication of the chances that your advertising will be repeated in a lively way, expressing confidence and eventually inviting you to participate. ‘

Advantages of using humor in advertising (Petre & Iliescu, 2005):

  • An effective way of capturing attention without affecting the understanding of the message;
  • Increasing your message preference;
  • Efficiency in the promotion of ‘veteran’ products on the market;
  • Memorable spot (=> brand preference)

Myths are not just fantastic stories that put elements of religious beliefs into work in order to influence the human unconscious. The power of myths and their rear-crafting through contemporary discourses can be fundamental in understanding how advertising is about creating meaning for consumers. Advertising takes part in the discourse on the renewal and remodeling of human myths (Hackley, 1999).

The importance of the symbol and the myth in the construction of contemporary imagery and in influencing the choices of different categories of the audience becomes a piece of growing evidence. One of the most complex forms of symbolic language is the myth. Contemporary man has a wide variety of attitudes towards the myth.

In advertising, through myth, a trust element, based on his notoriety and his belonging to a cultural tradition, is introduced into the message. With the integration of myth in advertising, it becomes the myth of advertising, and we are talking about a relationship between it and the myth-source. We find two essential conditions regarding this dynamics: the advertising myth must be reportable to the source myth (meaning that it recovers enough elements to make it recognizable) and at the same time to be sufficiently different from it (in order not to he repeats it simply) (Bogdan-Dascălu, 2006).

Myths – Symbols Used in Advertising

The myth of the hero – The advertising hero is one that finds the solution to any conflict that jeopardizes the welfare of the consumer. Depending on his relationship with the product, the gender, age, and social stereotypes, the hero can be male or female, young or old, resulting in the hero title as long as he is ready to face the obstacles he has encountered. The hero can be the product, brand, or consumer. For each category, it is framed in a category, taking into account the traits and the mission it has in the story, becoming a justice, a fighter, a protector, a savior, the person at the right time.

The myth of returning to origin has a biblical connotation of the return to the paradise, ignorance of suffering, labor, the atmosphere before the fall, dominated by the freshness of nature, love, and peace. The main idea of the myth is that the first manifestation of one thing is the most important, and the feeling that the person first experiences cannot be replaced by anything. It is most often used in advertisements to evoke childhood, and advertisers appeal to emotions and memories of people at the expense of reason.

Erotic myth is as well consolidated in advertising and has in common with the myth of returning origin some logical sequences. We can identify several manifestations of it: love seen as temptation and seduction, hedonistic love, paradise love, domestic love. The idea of ritualistic temptation, which gradually turned into sexuality and functional eroticism, is very common. The erotic myth is the expression of hedonism, shared pleasure, love expressed through total identification between partners. Paradise love is love designed in a natural setting before it could be considered a sin.

Stereotypes In Advertising

Vasile Cernat spoke at some point about a ‘universal trend’ that characterizes the human being. Defining this trend by a metaphor saying that when ‘bias refers to our thoughts, literature talks about stereotypes, when it refers to our emotions and feelings uses the term prejudices, and when it refers to behaviors it uses the term’ (Cernat, 2005, p.15). Another explanation of the same concept is that presented in Larousse’s Great Dictionary of Psychology where one can read that the stereotype ‘is a cognitive scheme associated with a criterion such as physical appearance, gender, religious identity, ethnic, sexual, etc. define beliefs and guide our judgments about social groups and their members. ‘

They have an independent existence and form part of the common cultural heritage, as images or representations defined by consensus. As members of society, we are all subject to the influence of these social stereotypes, so often during the socialization process, that we form our internal mental representations. While psychologists focus on individuals’ experiences with the group, the patterns of communication with the group, and the conflicts within it to form, sociologists, relate to relationships within other groups.

Their conservation is due to some factors: the cognitive effects of schematic processing (when a member has a certain behavior, confirms or strengthens the existing stereotype) and the emotional and emotional aspects of prejudices that provide logical arguments against the effectiveness of stereotypes in counteracting emotional responses. Therefore, their likelihood of perpetuation is due to the fact that they provide the premises on which we base our behaviors, and the way we express ourselves tends to perpetuate the stereotypes of the intergroup.

It can be perpetuated not only verbally, but also through writings or representations: photography, film, reportage, sports, shows, advertising.

The impact of stereotyping on advertising: Positioning (advertising images stimulate/activate related thoughts among the target audience, providing a prerequisite for further cognitive processing of other content) and segmentation (selecting elements of perceived reality and arranging them in a coherent form in understanding the links existing among them to promote a new content processing scheme) (Scheufele & Tewksbury, 2007).

Classification of stereotypes by theme (Moraru & Coman, 2009):

  • gender;
  • social;
  • of age;
  • cultural.

Classification of stereotypes by format (Moraru & Coman, 2009):

  • according to the particularities of the image;
  • language.

Advertising stereotypes are related to needs that we put in direct correlation with the collective ideal, ideals of perfection with very high standards of quality of life, which can be achieved only by purchasing certain products.

Emotions theories: intellectual theory (Herbart and Nahlowski argued that emotional affection is the result of concordance or nonconcordance of representations), the peripheral theory of emotions (James and Lange claim that emotion is triggered by a general psycho-physiological activation – arousal – and conscious perception of these changes (Schachter and Singer emphasize the importance of psycho-physiological factors and situational factors in the generation of emotions) (Cosmovici, 1996), the neurophysiological theories, and the bifactorial theory of emotion on the cortical centers.

The emotional vector in creative creation offers credibility and power to the message to be transmitted (appeal to similarity, empathy, sympathy) helps to attract the recipient of the message and makes it more permissive to the idea of purchasing the product/service. In addition to using affections to form a certain attitude towards the brand or to depend on the consumer with a behavioral reaction, emotion can play an important role in increasing the impact of the message of an advertising campaign (Pascu, 2010).

According to Stout and Rust (1993), we have the following roles and relevant aspects of emotions: affect the cognitive response to advertising messages through the emotional mood of those who receive the message, are associated with the brand through the classical conditioning mechanisms, create a positive attitude towards the message, to then transfer it to the brand / product, determines an increase in information processing and can change the attitude previously formed by contacting the brand / product.

Transmitting emotional reactions into advertising can take the form of positive or negative emotions.

It is assumed that a brand is the same all over the world, but the way different cultures perceive it can be extremely varied due to this local factor. The way people use their senses varies from one market to another, in terms of sensory priority and sensorial sensitivity (Pascu, 2010). Advertising is just one of the branding signals, which, like the others, has to convey, as simply as possible, the ‘idea’ of the brand, using as many of the senses as possible.

There are very limited means that advertisers have at their disposal to transmit tactile feelings about the product in the absence of the consumer’s ability to get in direct contact with him and only through advertising, printed or audio-visual products.

On the other hand, tactile perceptions can be replaced in visual communication with visual perceptions by synesthesia. Synesthesia means that a certain sensory experience or mental picture can be expressed or felt in terms of another, namely the phenomenon of stimulating or replacing one sense with another (Pascu, 2010). ‘Synesthesia determines the integration of primary perceptions into a distinct attribute system. Feelings of taste can evoke visual images, memories or emotions; the smell can evoke sounds, images, touches, etc. Colors can evoke various tastes … ‘(apud Petre & Iliescu, 2005, p.71).

Modern advertising is the one that discovered and exploited the narcissistic character of the olfactory pleasure, especially in the last twenty years, in the context of the feminist movement.

Regarding the possibilities offered by the synesthesia process, for the creation of advertising, in suggesting olfactory, tactile, tasteful sensations, advertisers can take note of the recommendation: ‘Do not talk about acoustic or olfactory impressions but try to transmit them as much as possible in a way specific to the sensory way. Do not talk about sensory impressions, but set them up with proper pictures. Try to use the image’s superiority over language ‘(Pascu, 2010, apud Kroeber-Riel, 1995, p.205). (=> use of visual stimuli)

Case studies

Altex Advertising

The main character is a crazy patient to be discharged from a psychiatric hospital, but when he receives his wardrobe clothes he has an episode of hysteria and replies: ‘Are these boxes at the promotion? Dear lady, dear! … Beyond it was cheaper! Did the ladies robe? How’s the gown …? How much is the robe ?! ‘This replica showed that the patient was not rehabilitated and taken back to the salon. The other characters are a doctor, a nurse, some madmen, and a nurse who returns the patients’ clothes to the infirmary. The spot message is simple: ‘Are you crazy looking for the lowest price?’ Then comes the solution for buying Altex products. There is also a promotion announcing the double price difference when the buyer finds the same cheaper product elsewhere. At the end of the spot, there is also the slogan ‘Altex, the lowest price in Romania!’ (Craiu Constantin-Ovidiu, read at

The sound of the spot is unprecedented. There is a burst of laughter in the background, which wishes to suggest the idea of clutter, disorder, specific to a madhouse. When the main character speaks these background sounds disappear, focusing on the characters of the main character. Interesting is the way the slogan ‘Altex, the lowest price in Romania’ is said. The focus falls on the word ‘small’.

The decor is a simple one, with no special effects (for example, there is a simple iron hanger), the clothing is simple, the characters take you to the common people, not the advertisers. Character comic (characters that make madness to make laughter), situation (action in itself and subject) and language appear. Humor in the ad was appreciated, and the replicas in the spot remained in the collective memory of the audience.

Advertising House Dior

This is the case for a Hypnotic Poison perfume, produced by Casa Dior, featuring the image of a beautiful woman (Monica Belucci’s character), a body snake and a spherical red bottle (Bogdan-Dascălu, 2006).

The image explicitly refers to the myth of the original sin, which easily recognizes three components: the snake (the temptation), the woman (the seducer) and the apple (the object of seduction).

Adam is missing (seduction), but his absence proves to be only apparent, for he can be identified with the consumer – the recipient of the advertising message. Replacing the mythical apple with a bottle, that is, with the product, creates the necessary distance from the source myth and justifies the myth of advertising.

Cosmote advertises

A man with his father appears in the advertisement, they are in a park set on a green bench, behind them a white house and a lot of greenery around them, a beautiful landscape, charged with color and light. In the background, there is the chirping of birds, including a yellow butterfly, which is the starting point for talks between father and son (Sperlea, 2012).

The soundtrack is unprecedented, comforts us, allows us to listen to the moving emotions between the two characters. The recovered colors have equally important significance. Green is the color that expresses safety, hope, concentration. In nature, the green emanates relaxation, tranquility, freshness, meditation, good mood, and in the field of business, it determines balance, safety, initiative, power. The white color, which means healing, purification, new, untouchable, calm, purity, sincerity, in the advertising spot express reconciliation, peace, quiet, innocence. Yellow is the characteristic color of the active, expansive, investigative type with a high suction level. At the same time, the color captures the attention, here we can refer to the yellow butterfly that appears in the advertisement and which flies are flying without any problems in nature as the precious time flies for us, without realizing how important it is in obedience to others.

The dialogue is built at the moment of the butterfly’s appearance and provides a suggestive example for conveying the message ‘We are given so much time to talk. We do not have time to listen. ‘

Advertisements for coffee brands (Jacobs, Lavazza) try to convey the sensation of tastes and smells through visual images in ‘natural’ colors, green or brown. In this product category, the packaging uses chromatic codes, which designate the product type: green for taste and smell ‘light’, red or dark blue for the strongest (Pascu, 2010).

Framed advertisements rely on two types of woman: the fatal woman (Nicole Kidman in Chanel perfume ads or Uma Thurman in the advertisement of Ange ou Demon perfume from the Givenchy brand) and face – flower (the image of the adolescent character innocence, shrouded in tones pink in the Nina perfume advertisement from Nina Ricci or Gwineth Paltrow in Estee Lauder’s Pleasures perfume advertisement). The first category, in their visual discourse, relies on seduction, sensuality, and self-esteem suggested by the effects of using perfumes. The others propose a different perception of the ‘eternal feminine’, emphasizing innocence, purity, natural (Pascu, 2010). 


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