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Advertising & Media Theory

Stephen Hill | Monday July 13, 2009

Categories: Advertising, More on Advertising, Key Concepts, Theory, Misc Theory

Fig 15: The changing face of Vauxhall’s advertising: the Viva estate in bucolic surroundings (circa 1972) and the VXR Astra’s brand synergised FHM Sport’s Driver of the Year Campaign.


This dialogic approach to the production of media texts has also informed contemporary ideas about advertising. The traditional view of the adverts as a paid one-way communication, in which the sponsor controls the message, has been replaced by texts that invite the audience to engage more creatively. For example, while slogans of the past pay have instructed the audience that ‘Guinness is Good For You’ (Guinness 1930s) or to ‘Go To Work On An Egg’ (Egg Marketing Board 1960s) since the 1970s advertising has been more elliptical and cryptic. Likewise, humour has become a key weapon in the armoury of advertising creatives.

In Salman Rushdie’s copy for cream cakes (‘Naughty But Nice’), Martini’s ‘anytime, anyplace, anywhere’ campaign and Heineken’s ‘refreshes the part other beers cannot reach’ ad, the use of innuendo draws upon the multiple meanings inscribed in the text by the audience. Clearly this reflects Barthes contention that the meaning of a text is fixed not at it moment of creation but in its reception.

Today advertising campaigns are increasingly interactive, operating across multiple platforms and utilising synergised brand allegiances. Vauxhall VXR’s Sport Driver of the Year is a case in point: teaming up with men’s mag FHM, the car company put together a competition for readers that invited them to partake in a series of race days that generated extensive coverage in four issues of the magazine. Such creative solutions to ‘buying’ media space is increasingly characteristic of agencies that promise to deliver a very specific audience to the client by strategically targeting specific demographic profiles.

As with journalism, advertising is increasingly orientated towards defined...

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