By explicitly discussing several feasible meanings of this image, it becomes easier to see why it works in the advertisement. But one must also realize that when exploring connotation “the reading of the photograph is …. always historical; it depends on the reader’s ‘knowledge’ just as though it were a matter of a real language [langue], intelligible only if one has learned the signs” (Heath 1977, 28). Someone from outside of our culture who may have never even seen a cell phone would surely not make the same connections and this particular image would be rendered an ineffectual add-on to the billboard.
Given the cultural practices and values in our current society, this picture works well to sell its viewer on a polished, urban lifestyle. The text helps to explain and anchor the advertisement’s message, but the photograph serves a true function as well. The image is entrusted with giving a symbolic, affective description, which we can perceive and digest more quickly than a lengthy verbal description (Heath 1977). The advertisement is successful in that we can immediately grasp its message in more ways than one.
"As the population of the United States and Canada continues to mature, marketers in these countries are directing increased attention to older consumers" (Lumpkin et al., 1985). This is appropriate, as individuals in advanced years are becoming increasingly attractive targets based upon their numbers, income, and purchasing patterns (Keane, 1985). When seniors retire, they have the option of deciding where they would like to live. Many sell their homes in favor of moving to a smaller development. Sometimes seniors like to be around other people their own age and live in a building that caters specifically to their needs. They can choose a retirement home designed for old folks or maybe opt for something that will give them the optimum living environment.
This section will focus on illustrating several billboards of senior advertisements and contrasting them and their true meanings. These billboard advertisements are the perfect option for marketers to target the certain classes they are looking for.
These billboard advertisements are the perfect option for marketers to target the certain classes they are looking for."Most advertising is always constructing consumers as dissatisfied. "Most advertising is always constructing consumers as dissatisfied in some way with their lifestyles, appearance, jobs, relationships and so forth. Many ads imply that their product can alleviate this state of dissatisfaction. They often do this by presenting figures of glamour that consumers can envy and wish to emulate, people who are presented as already transformed, and bodies that appear perfect and yet somehow attainable" (Sturken and Cartwright 2009, 275). In this advertisement above, you see a happy, senior couple wearing expensive clothing and drinking wine while smiling and apparently enjoying each other's company. This billboard screams prestige and high class. And it is no wonder; this billboard is advertising a senior's home that is aimed for the wealthy. WIth a built in nurse and cook, a huge recreational facility that provides entertainment, a pool, a gym and so much more, these seniors are living the life of luxury. With rent that is a minimum of roughly $200 a month, this senior home is exclusively for the rich and the billboard clearly supports that statement.
This billboard is located in the west side of the city with a suburb house environment located nearby. The houses that are located near this location are all pricey and belong to those who are upper middle to upper class people, Therefore, all these people living in this are would see the billboard for this new wealthy senior development and begin saving for when they themselves retire to live in it or perhaps for their parents if they can afford it. Therefore, this billboard is set in the perfect location targeting just the right type of people who choose to live in that sort of development.
“Representation is the use of language and images to create meaning about the world around us” (Notes). As we can see, what is represented in this photo is a wealthy senior couple enjoying their life because they get to live it high class. It represents the notion that living wealthier means good times as is represented by the smiles in the advertisement. Of course, this whole advertisement plays into the idea of the myth of photographic truth. “We perceive photographs to be an unmediated copy of the real world” (Notes). What may in fact be a happy couple in this advertisement may just as well be a total set up. This brings us into the denotative and connotative interpretations behind this billboard. Barthes identified that an image has a literal, denotative meaning as well as a connotative meaning which employs a cultural and historical context. What is denoted in this photograph is a happy old couple enjoying life and their environment. This of course, could also be interpreted another way. It is interesting that this couple happens to be white and wearing clothes that would identify as being of an upper class. These characteristics in themselves show a broader meaning behind this happy couple. It shows the ways in which this marketing company is targeting to a certain ‘type’ of people and represents it by using white upper class couples.
Therefore, this demonstrates how what seems to be a standard advertisement, is in fact stereotyping a certain message to the buyers. That this certain living development is for those of the higher class and represents that through a white, wealthy senior couple.
Obviously, the main intention is to entice the viewer into purchasing one of these houses. But in order to create this desire, the advertiser consciously presents us with representations of a healthy and relaxed existence. The man running alongside his “best friend” and the woman riding her bike all embody a feeling of vigor, strength and happiness. They are disciplined people who are afforded leisure time in which they enrich and strengthen their bodies; they live their lives in a way that so many of us plan but never actually do. And when they are finished exercising, there’s a conveniently placed bench set in a picturesque atmosphere, which is awaiting their arrival.
When perceived together, the pictures portray a desirable communal life. They represent the conventional, nuclear family that our culture has long idolized, and which may be particularly a focus for this neighborhood, which maintains a military legacy. There are several explanations for the advertisement, as “the connoted image is reduced to a phenomenon of language, and it exhibits all the characteristics of a text: it possesses a “discourse” which can be “read” and interpreted in a cultural or ideological context” (Halley 1982, 70). The images are presented as more than just visual distractions; they are stories and metaphors, which are meant to entice wonder, contemplation and understanding.
The misconception that a photograph is a direct reflection of the real world is a notion Roland Barthes refers to as the myth of photographic truth. When under this impression, the billboard is merely an unmediated announcement of a new condo development. But when we explore the myth, the billboard comes to have a new existence, a life that is born from history and culture and understanding.
Initially, the image is merely that of pleasant looking homes, but when we read the description on the right, “Tuscan Village, Start Living from $179,000,” we are instantly transported to an Italian villa, and we see the condominiums in a new light. Their stucco walls, ornate verandas, and terra cotta roofs suddenly stand out as prime features of an Italian lifestyle and may even seem to offer us a “quaint village atmosphere” as is stated on the Tuscan Village web site. The phrase “start living” posits that our current lives are inauthentic, and that this new community can offer us a more genuine, pleasurable lifestyle.
Part of what has made this advertisement successful is the communication between the photograph and the surrounding text (Heath 1977). The image is given instant additional meaning by association with the words beside it. Therefore, “in the relationship that now holds, it is not the image which comes to elucidate or ‘realize’ the text, but the latter which comes to sublimate, patheticize or rationalize the image” (Heath 1977, 25). In other words, “the text loads the image, burdening it with a culture, a moral, an imagination” (Heath 1977, 26). The picture’s hidden connotations are illuminated, and suddenly this thought “denotation of reality” somehow makes us crave a life that offers romantically lit streets lined with archways and green space, a place where we can roam serenely as if in a dream, a place where we can “start living.”
Barthes, Roland. “The Photographic Message.” In Image Music Text. Edited and translated by Stephen Heath. New York: Hill and Wang, 1977, 15-31.
Barthes, Roland. “Rhetoric of the Image.” In Image Music Text. Edited and translated by Stephen Heath. New York: Hill and Wang, 1977, 32-51.
Cartwright, Lisa. Sturken, Marita. Practices of Looking: An Introduction to Visual Culture.New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.
Halley, Michael. 1982. Argo Sum Diacritics 12 (4): 69-79.
Kips, Henry. Culture Unbound: Journal of Current Cultural Research; 2010, Vol. 2, P 91- 102
Lacan, Jacques (1981): The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis, Jacques- Alain Miller (ed), Alan Sheridan (trans) New York: Norton
Peterson, Robin T. “The Depiction of Senior Citizens in Magazine Advertisements: A Content Analysis.” Journal of Business Ethics, Vol. 11, No.9 (Sept. 1992) P 701-706
By: Stephanie Crawford, Andrew Nelson, and Yana Rogatko