Analysing TV Advertising - The Guinness surfers advertisement and the Levis Odyssey Advertisement, directed by Stephen Butler.
Advertising has become one of the biggest and wealthiest industries in today’s society. It is a device that retailers use, to manipulate you into purchasing the latest trend or “must have” product, and advertisers combine an assortment of trickery to make you do so. They create stereotypical versions of you, and although many deny being influenced by the force of advertisements, it is like an unwelcome virus that has spread to every corner of our world, and there is no escaping it. Advertisements appeal on a subconscious level to your irrational and gullible side, a side that advertisers effortlessly manipulate and mould into doing what they want. I remember when Top Trumps were the “thing” to have, I begged my Mum for weeks for a packet, but when she eventually gave in, the trend had moved on. Advertising works in this cycle, relying on the fact that you will get bored of a product, and then teasing you with a newer “upgrade”, making it essential that you purchase it.
The Guinness surfer’s advertisement first aired on British television in March 1999, and was directed by Jonathan Glazer. Since then it has become illustrious for its visual effects and powerful impact. The advertisement focuses on the idea of “Good things come to those who wait”, a pint of Guinness takes 119.5 seconds to pour, and the advertisement compares that to the surfers waiting on the beach for the perfect wave. The advertisement evokes a belief that you can conquer anything that you put your mind to, and appeals on a subconscious level to the part of you that craves the type of lifestyle that the surfer represents. It makes the consumers believe that if you buy a pint of Guinness, you too can conquer your dreams and aspirations.
The advertisement tells a short story about four male surfers who wait perpetually for the perfect wave. When this wave comes, they run at it and put every ounce of strength into trying to conquer it. In the end, only one man does, and the advertisement ends showing him and his friends celebrating in a state of ecstasy. Guinness’s slogan then appears on the screen above a pint of Guinness – “Good things come to those who…” The story is illustrated through many different shots of this event, varying form long range ones of the whole beach, to close ups of the surfer’s faces, and there is some narrative by a male voiceover. There are also frequent cuts to sounds associated with drinking a pint of Guinness. For example the exhalation after taking a refreshing, cold gulp of Guinness, and the sound of a glass being banged down on the table after finishing one.
Glazer also uses black and white colours to help you associate the advertisement with Guinness, because until the end of the advertisement you could still be unsure of what actually was being advertised. The colouring also adds to the intended theme of the advertisement, it is meant to be an epic, almost like a snapshot out of a classic action film, and the black and white colours add to this effect. The editing is used to great effect in this advertisement, and is one of the main things that make it so spectacular. Overall there are around fifty different frenetically cut shots, which all create a sense of urgency and desperation. The first shot shows a man’s face, the man isn’t looking directly at the camera and seems to be focused on something behind the camera- an upcoming wave. You then see the four surfers running frantically towards the sea and mustering every ounce of strength and stamina in their bodies to try and tackle it. The shots are then showed in very quick concession, showing the surfers’ thrashing bodies amongst a midst of white foam and waves. A group of white horses are also very cleverly cut into the shots – horses are seen as a metaphor to the waves, and cutting them in makes the whole event seem even more majestic and heroic. It also makes the shots busier, giving an even more frantic feel. The horses faces are often cut in next to the faces of the four characters, drawing similarities between the two. Close ups of the men’s faces are shown briefly with their eyes squinted, and expressions of determination etched into their faces.
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The choice of these characters has obviously been very carefully made, as they make a huge difference to the appeal of the advertisement. For the main man, Glazer has chosen a pretty average looking middle aged man - he is not conventionally attractive, but he looks worn and slightly rugged, as if he has “been there”. Glazer’s target market is similar aged men who probably all have a job and a family and are held down by a lot of responsibilities. This advertisement appeals to their aspirations, and allows them a moment of irrationality to imagine themselves, like the surfer, able to seize dreams and live for yourself and the moment, doing what you want, when you want without being restricted by responsibilities which tie you down. This advertisement cleverly associates this idea of freedom with a pint of Guinness, and these men now allow themselves, not necessarily to be as drastic as to go to Hawaii to find the perfect wave, but to take an hour out of their seemingly mundane lifestyles to go down to the pub and have a pint of Guinness.
Another way that this message is put across is the choice of voiceover. Glazer chose a man with quite a common accent, and his use of glottal stops are something that ordinary “punters” who would purchase Guinness can relate too. It would be a lot less effective if the narrative was spoken very grandly and in a posh accent, as this would make the beer come across as almost snooty, a concept which would put off the target market. The narrative also makes regular references to Moby Dick – “Ahab says I don’t care who you are, here’s to your dream.” This keeps to the whole “dreams and aspirations” theme to the advertisement, and by comparing it to Moby Dick, makes it seem so much more dramatic and heroic than it actually is – an advertisement for a pint of Guinness. The music is also very effective in this advertisement. It puts you on edge, the pulsing drumbeat is similar to that of a heartbeat, and it makes you feel like you are almost there with them, feeling the same anticipation and the same awe that they would be feeling. It also makes the advertisement seem more frantic, as the drumbeat is quite over powering, and amidst all the foam, horses and men it creates even more chaos and confusion.
The presentation of the product itself plays a minimal role in the advertisement, but the advertisement is so spectacular and memorable that too much presentation of the product would ruin it. However, a lot of Guinness’ sound effects and colours are used throughout, as a constant reminder to what is being advertised. An image of a pint of Guinness comes in at the end, and is held on screen for 13 seconds. This contrasts against the rapidity of the prior scenes, after all the chaos in the water, you are left almost out of breath yourself, but the stillness of the image and the length it is just held on the screen, really makes it stick in your head. Guinness’ slogan appears above the pint, this slogan is so well known by now that the use of an ellipsis is used for added effect.
Overall, I would conclude that this advertisement is very successful, it appeals to its target market on many different levels, and makes what is a relatively ordinary object, seem like so much more through an excellent use of epical special effects. The advertisement is very clever, and appeals to an irrational, ambitious side of you that some people didn’t even know existed, and subconsciously makes you associate a pint of Guinness with bigger ideas and aspirations. After seeing the advertisement, you are much more inclined to order a pint of Guinness above any other beer, because you are under the illusion that doing so will transform you into that surfer; a much more free willed, adventurous and ambitious version of yourself.
The second advertisement I have chosen is the Levis Odyssey Advertisement, directed by Stephen Butler. This advertisement first aired in 2002 and promotes a range of Levis called Engineered Jeans. The advertisement is very dramatic and compelling, and although there is no dialogue and little story to it, it has stunning visual effects and the combination of music, characters and editing evokes a craving to indulge in a pair, whether you need them or not.
The advertisement is very surreal, and almost has a futuristic feel to it. This is highlighted at the end when the slogan – “Freedom to Move”- appears on the screen in a very space-like font. The advertisement shows two characters – wearing Levis – running through a deserted building or warehouse. The pair blast through the walls, seemingly effortlessly. It appears as if they are trying to get somewhere, they are running with all their might and aren’t letting any obstacle get in their way. They break through the outside walls of the building, and the advertisement ends with them finally ending their run, and taking one tremendous leap into the air – the advertisement slows down and they are seen for the last few seconds bounding through the air, in an almost space-like and surreal way. They do not run in a particularly proper manner, as you would expect somebody sprinting in the Olympics – but the way they run is desperate, their limbs are flailing everywhere and you can tell by their facial expressions that they are driving every ounce of effort in their bodies into getting to their desired destination, as quickly as possible. They defy the restrictions of time and space, and seem at some points to be running upwards, or sideways. The purpose of this advertisement, is to make it seem as if the jeans are what’s making them able to do all this, and it works very well as when the characters are breaking through walls, they throw their legs forwards and into them first, as if the levis are the harsh, impenetrable force which is smashing the bricks, something that we all know is impossible.
The target market for this advertisement is teenagers and young adults, who can relate to the idea of “freedom” and would be interested in buying these kinds of jeans. They have chosen two very attractive actors, which makes the whole concept slightly more glamorous and stylish - if you see somebody looking good in a item of clothing, you immediately think that that item of clothing will have the same effect on you, even though this is often not the case. This age group of people, usually at school or university, will have a lot of responsibilities and restrictions, such as exams and school, and will not yet be old enough to have utter expressive freedom, a matter which can frustrate a lot them. Therefore, by associating this product – which they would probably be interested in purchasing anyway – with freedom and impulsiveness, it is making them a lot more appealing to them, as they think that buy purchasing a pair of these jeans, they will acquire that personal freedom that they crave.
The colours used in the advertisement also add this idea of abrasiveness and impenetrability. The lighting in the building or warehouse, is quite bright and fluorescent, and is reminiscent to the lighting in some kind of hospital or institution – it is quite stark and bleak, and almost puts you on edge. The whole advertisement is quite grey, pale and dusty colours – this evokes a semantic field of harshness, dryness and desolateness.
This semantic field is echoed throughout the advertisement, and Butler used it to almost contrast against the jeans. The characters facial expressions, and the whole concept of smashing through walls with such pace and passion, evokes a sense of being trapped somehow, restricted and frustrated, and then suddenly breaking free and putting all your energy into penetrating some kind of barrier, which they do at the end of advertisement, when they leap into “freedom”. This idea, which is cleverly woven into the advertisement, is what Levis and this new range of jeans represent. A lot of jeans do restrict you, some are very crisp and you have limited mobility, whereas this new range of jeans is flexible, and they allow you “freedom to move”. Also, the physical action of running with such vigour and rage, is very arduous and requires a huge amount of manoeuvrability, something that the jeans provide. The advertisement is intended to make the target market believe that by buying this particular pair of jeans, you will acquire freedom mentally and emotionally, as well as physically, and you will be able to “smash through” any barriers or restrictions you feel hold you back.
The editing in the advertisement is quite frantic and agitated. The shots quickly change from different angles; some are shown in quick concession whilst some are held on screen for quite a while. The advertisement also slips in and out of slow motion, and all of this rapid changing puts you on edge, and you are not really sure from what angle you are looking at, or even what you are looking at. Sometimes it takes you a while to adjust, and you realize that as they appear to be running along the ground, they are actually running up a tree or a wall. This adds to the whole drama of the advertisement, it is very epic with its incredible editing and special effects, and they make the advertisement very memorable, an element that is very important in an advertisement.
Contrasting against the rapid and frenzied editing, is the relatively calm, classical music, which is played throughout the advertisement. The music piece starts slowly and gently, as the male character emotionally prepares himself for the journey he is about to undertake. Ironically, he opens the door from the room he is in before starting, an action which he makes no effort to repeat throughout the rest of the advertisement. The music is like a lament, quite pensive and mournful. It is very effective and almost moving - bricks smash, clouds of dust explode, the runners have expressions of the utmost frustration and rage strewn across their faces, yet the music continues peacefully and slowly. It starts to get a lot more upbeat and dramatic nearer the end of the advertisement, yet it is still has a tragic feel to it.
Overall, I think this advertisement is very effective, and it will persuade a lot of potential consumers to purchase the product. It cleverly makes them think that by simply buying a pair of jeans, they will be buying into a whole new way of living. The freedom that comes with the jeans will be mirrored in the new freedom that they will acquire. Breaking through walls and buildings could be symbolic to breaking through any personal restrictions or barriers that are holding them back. Of course in reality, a mere pair of jeans cannot grant you “freedom”, maybe physically, but that is what the whole concept of advertising is, to appeal to that same irrational side of you that believed a pint of Guinness will help you conquer your dreams. At the time it seems that the product is a necessity, something that truly will change your life, and the disappointment you get when you realize this isn’t true, is the ammunition that starts the whole process off again.