UVC Assignment 3 – Decoding Advertisements

Please click here for a PDF of Assignment 3; no updates following feedback, prepared as a document for July 2017 assessment on 24 March 2017.

Click here for feedback, original submission and research.


Assignment 3: Decoding Advertisements

Assignment 3: Decoding Advertisements

At the bottom of the page there are links to PDFs for Assignment 3 and Tutor Feedback.  However, there are brief notes below in response to specific points raised in the feedback.

  • This is a much improved and more methodical approach to an assignment. Close attention is given to the text, but there’s some jumping to conclusions prior to the evidence or argument that gets you there. Try to work more steadily towards a conclusion. I’m pleased to receive some positive comments at the beginning of the feedback, I must say. I found the previous feedback confusing and somewhat tricky to digest. In relation to jumping to conclusions, as soon as I submitted the essay I was annoyed with myself as I recognised I’d made assumptions without backing them up so am well aware of that tendency. 
  • On the whole you tended to construct a critique of the advert through linguistic rather than iconic connotations. It would be helpful to have some examples and illustration from my text, as well as alternative suggestions so I can see and understand more clearly what is meant by this. The language is unfamiliar so examples would be extremely useful and go some way towards deepening my own understanding of the terminology. 
  • You picked out two key features of the image – the cutting board and the depth of field of the photograph. In order to be consistent with the ‘family’ aspect of the linguistic message I would think the setting is in a domestic kitchen rather than a pub. I have evidently failed to communicate myself here.  I in no way meant to suggest that the setting was a pub, rather that there is a trend in pubs to emulate homely, domestic albeit faux atmospheres, and in turn, homes to emulate what they see in the pub.  The faux, homegised decor often seen in updated pubs nowadays is then appropriated by families or the rather the people selling kitchen objects to families, and so we see that same trend in real kitchens. It’s like a triangle – family, pub designer, advertiser (I suspect there are many more actors in the equation). I’m aware I still haven’t said what I mean clearly. And I’m also aware that I may have not really identified or located the ‘thing’ I’m alluding to here. 
  • However, at times you seem to project a class reading onto the advert before submitting it to close examination. Yes, I’m sure I have done. And will endeavour not to, or at least to be more methodical before making sweeping statements.
  • Barthes, following Saussure, thought a scientific account of meaning or signification was credible. We now know better, but there are nonetheless robust ways of reading to achieve a reliable account of a text. I’m lost… please explain further,
  • Projection is inevitable to some degree but it is always best to stay close enough to the text to be able to test one’s initial impressions. Yes, I’m aware of this and will try to remain aware of it
  • In the first ten or so lines of the ‘family’ paragraph you seem to jump too quickly to the idea that the slogan amounts to class division. In his essay ‘The Great Family of Man’ (Mythologies) Barthes argues that ‘family’ is taken to be a universal unifying concept in a way that obscures differences. This seems to be the way the word is used in the advert, but to regard this as obscuring class divisions needs more evidence. Family, kinship and childrearing are the subjects that interest me most and so I am keen to read The Great Family of Man and will do so. I would need to think further about how I’d provide more evidence as the way in which the phrase obscures class divisions seems obvious to me as it’s so patently a ‘line’. The Warburton family are much richer than the vast majority of families who buy Thins because they own and manage one the biggest food retail producers in the UK and it says as it much on the company website.  Although the company is still owned by the family it is not a family operating in the same way as most British families. Nor it is it a local bakery providing real food for a small community, many of whom know each other, which is the sense the line is attempting to communicate. Although the Warburton’s may not be landed gentry, and although the individual family members may work hard, their work is very different to the working class consumers they sell to. (I am sure that middle class customers buy their goods too  – and saw some Thins in my very middle class friend’s beautiful newly decorated kitchen only recently –  I suppose it is complex and more so than I might have suggested.)
  • I wonder though, why you didn’t raise this as a gender issue merely by asking whether the advert is directed towards women. If the scene is a kitchen and the food just prepared who might the sandwich be for? To begin with, it’s very hard for me to resist being horrifically judgmental by suggesting this sandwich is aimed at anyone who might have a bit of an issue with food, regardless of their gender (Evidence of projection I wonder? I was bulimic and toyed with anorexia as a teenager so hardly surprising). It’s a ridiculously overfilled sandwich wrapped up in something that is evidently meant to be useful for slimming. For me that is one of the most compelling things about the ad actually – ‘diet’ focused advertising for someone with a large appetite for something, which they perhaps find difficult to control. As for the gender thing… well, I think I am aware that I bang on a bit much about gender (deep down ingrained sexism, the type that people don’t notice which leads to behaviour that people don’t even question, depresses me immensely as anyone reading my blog will have picked up)  – The word ‘Thin’ is so tied to how women value themselves, 1500 words would never cover it. But it is also connected to class – and I don’t feel able to discuss that here further without making more of the same sweeping statements I made before, which would need backing up to avoid coming across as projection and assumption.  Saying that, the line, “you can never be too rich or too thin” springs to mind…..and, it does seem the poorer you are, the more limited your nutritional choices might be and so food low in nutritional value but high with empty calories become the first, only or necessary port of call. Healthy, fresh food is a luxury whether you’re male or female. I think the advert is aimed at women rather than men as it is predominantly women who do the weekly shop, (yes, I probably need something backing this statement up too) but I also think the advert is a testament to a cultural phenomenon that is relevant to both sexes. So I chose not to focus on gender for those reasons. And perhaps I think that class rather than gender is more of an issue with this advert. 
  • You would expect me to quibble about the use of the first person in the reflections. I merely think the writer is at the service of the writing rather than the other way around – many would disagree. I am super, super, super confused by the first sentence here.  Really? I will need an example of how reflection should be written if not on the first person. I just can’t even begin to imagine it. I need to think more about writers being at the service of the writing vs the opposite…I’m not entirely sure what is meant by that.
  • Finally, I think the feedback is fair and accurate in the main. But at points when I read through it I am struck that there is an assumption I know things which I clearly have no idea about.  I am reading and trying to understand new and difficult concepts in isolation and there is no direct teaching as such, so I think I would find more and clearer examples to illustrate the points made a big help (distance learning is brilliant making it possible, allowing access when otherwise it would be much tricker, but I very much miss real live interactive teaching because that is how I learn best). I think Levi-Strauss’ writing might be highly relevant and I wanted to look at it  but ran out time – however, I suspect I might get round to it when I can. But his ideas may be outdated and as you say in one of the comments above, “we now know better”. (I don’t though, so be good to know who to read beyond the big names and where that better knowledge can be studied).

Assignment : Assignment 3a

Tutor Feedback:  Assignment 3aSJFassignment3CreativeArtsTodaytutorreport

Image (c)SJField 2016