Old Spice Commercial: Extraordinary Situations (Essay Sample)
1. Choose ONE COMMERCIAL from the attached list. WATCH IT AT LEAST THREE times before you begin.
2. RE-READ Roland Barthes, MYTH TODAY and one of the other theorists that we have read during this unit: Adorno, Williams, Althusser, Debord, or Fanon.
3. YOUR 3-4 page paper will offer a CLOSE READING of the commercial you have chosen. In order to do this, you must connect a detailed description of WHAT YOU SEE and HEAR ON SCREEN (the style of the editing, cinematography, the way things are framed and presented, etc.) with an analysis of the IDEOLOGICAL CONTENT – or what Barthes refers to as MYTHIC SPEECH. The point of the essay is to ground an understanding of the function of commercials and advertising in a detailed analysis of ONE COMMERCIAL – to do this you will need to identify the RHETORICAL strategies that are used in the commercial to connect DENOTATIVE MEANINGS with MYTHIC SPEECH and the way in which the commercial INTERPELLATES the viewer.
4. Your essay needs to answer the questions: What is the commercial is SELLING – the product and the associations with the product? What else is the commercial selling in addition to the product? What FORMAL and RHETORICAL strategies does the commercial use? And how does your commercial illustrate the role of ideology in a society that Barthes and one other theorist explain?
5. THE BODY OF YOUR ESSAY will be comprised of detailed FORMAL descriptions of the scenes from the commercial, calling attention to what is significant about the SOUND and IMAGE and how that figures into the VARIOUS LEVELS OF MEANING / MESSAGES of the COMMERCIAL.
Each paragraph should focus on ONE of the messages of the commercial and how it is constructed formally and rhetorically. This means that you will be identifying the strategy that the commercial uses to naturalize its message (what Barthes refers to as FIGURES of RHETORIC on pages 150-156 in “Myth Today.” See attached handout).
6. The final paragraph of the essay should summarize your thesis and then point to how this connects to the function of ideology in society more broadly. In this paragraph – you need to choose ONE of the OTHER theorists to support your argument – and include a QUOTATION from that text.
7. Be sure to proofread your paper by reading it aloud.
8. Papers will be graded on the strength and originality of your analysis, organization, your grasp of Barthes' argument, clarity of writing, and grammar. This paper counts for 12.5% of your grade. Late papers will be penalized.
Reading page for Roland Barthes Mythologies (London: Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux, 1972), 109-159; and choose any four from: pp. 26-28, 34-5, 41-43, 50-52, 84-87 [P1]
Old Spice Commercial
The Old Spice commercial is created to sell the “old spice body wash” with a tagline of “the man your man could smell like”. This advertisement of 32 seconds targets the females of the house to persuade them to purchase the product by informing them about the benefits of the products using extraordinary situations. Rapid-fire monologues have been used in the commercial to inform women how anything is possible if their men use the body wash by Old Spice.
The model asks purely rhetorical questions to female “look at your man, now back to me”, to make a statement that their men do not look like the model in the commercial. The commercial is created in a single uncut shot, where the model is transitioned from bathroom to a sailboat, to riding a horse on the beach. It is important to note here that he ensures to maintain eye-contact with the camera and continues his monologue.
According to Barthes the dominant ideologies successfully present themselves the way the world should be by appropriating popular culture and repurposing it. He believed that the popular idea of the real meaning is drained and then repackaged to create “myths”, which often carries a very different implication. Using his mythologies he showed that images (i.e. “signs”) were stripped of meaning once they have been removed from the proper context (Barthes, 151). Resultantly, there is a spread of uniform and unthreatening bourgeois ideology. It can be considered as a collection of myths that is reassuring but can also be turned into being stifling. Similarly, in the Old Spice commercial portrays a man who is charming, physically attractive and speaks in a deep and calm voice. However, the signs that are being projected in the commercial of the model by the society might not bear any significant relation to his actual qualities. He symbolizes of being an alpha male, but in reality, he might not be so; the intention is to persuade the women to purchase the product.
Similarly, the philosophy of Adorno – the culture industry postulate a different view of society with respect to the advertisement. He highlights the existence of new mass culture, where the common discourse h
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