Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Visual Imagery Analysis: UBS Financial Services Social Responsibility

As a large financial firm, UBS Financial Services has an obligation to serve the community and world around them. A large amount of information is given on their website about their commitment to be responsible with the environment, in the community, to their employees, and customers.

The image UBS chose to brand this section of their company struck me as interesting. They chose a photo of a white masculine hand digging in dirt to plant a green leafy plant into the ground. The coloring in the image struck me as bold and intentional. The clean hand digging in the dirt symbolizes the employees of UBS who are always working to ensure satisfaction and who are willing step out of their clean behind the desk jobs to care for others, and at times that may mean getting a little messy. The green plant symbolizes the benefits ensued. The use of a plant visually demonstrates their commitment to the environment. 

The image communicates well UBS Financial Services' desire to be socially responsible. The choice of a close up image of a hand planting a tree shows that they want their responsibility to have a long-term effect. This plant will grow into a larger tree and last for years to come and provide numerous benefits during its lifetime. To put it into one word, the image is SUSTAINABLE.

In terms of the critics world view, the image does not pose and issue of ethics. The photo captures a physical demonstration of social responsibility. I can appreciate the absence of guilt and offensive material. But, as the only visual used, it should depict a broader range of people. A simple suggestion for improvement would be to have multiple hands planting the tree.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Pentadic Criticism: Mormon Church TV Campaign

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has a campaign running to remove the negative stigma of the Mormon Faith. In this brief essay, I am going to explore how this campaign message pursues this purpose using pentadic criticism and how the motive helps to determine how the Church views the world.

Their current campaign puts a familiar neighborly face to Mormons. The messages focus on sharing brief life stories during a commercial slot and at the very end of the film they casually reveal that they are a Mormon.

This ad in particular tells the story of Joy, a professional Hawaiian long boarder. She tells the story of her life  in Hawaii and emphasizes the relationships within her family. She talks about the competition she won and the and the excitement that brought. During the last 20 seconds she relates long boarding to her place in the world and the need to have a firm direction. At the last moment, she says, "and I am a Mormon."

Below I have identified key terms and placed them in the pentad as either an act, agent, agency, scene, or purpose.

Act: Joy is a Mormon
Agent: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints
Agency: Joy, a Mormon, sharing her testimony through a commercial spot
Scene: Hawaii
Purpose: To make Mormonism appealing

After applying the ratios to one another, I have identified the dominant term as the Agent.
Joy is a Mormon because of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, she shares her testimony of growing up in Hawaii during a commercial spot because of them, and it is the church who drives the purpose.

By identifying the act as dominant I am able to get at the motives of the story and figure out what the film maker wants to say. The church chose a young and talented girl to represent them. Joy has role-model qualities and her story relates well to those with strong family bonds or a desire for it. Choosing Joy was strategic and I believe it was to help rid of the negative stigma given to the Mormon church. But, by removing the negative stigmas they are hoping to evangelize and bring people to a greater understanding to their beliefs  and to join their church.

This purpose reveals what they view about the world. The Church of the Latter-Day Saints believes that the world is a reachable place. They believe that the world needs a savior to save people from their sinful nature. But also, they believe that the world does not approve of them and lacks an understanding of the Mormon people. 

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Pentadic Criticism: Dan in Real Life

In the film Dan in Real Life, the main character Dan has not been able to move on and find love ever since his wife passed away years ago. Within this story there are multiple smaller stories and important characters. The film focuses on this larger story, it overshadows the other smaller situations and I would argue causes most of the other problems in the story. Through looking at the act, agent, agency, purpose, and scene I am going to find out which term dominates over the others and through that analysis answer the question of what motivates this story.

The story of Dan falling in love weaves throughout the whole film. In the scene at the begging of the film, Dan takes care of his three girls by doing their laundry and frustrates them with his controlling demeanor. After traveling up north to meet his family for Thanksgiving, he meets this woman in the bookstore. They have coffee together after hitting it off at the bookstore. She then gets up and leaves frantically because her boyfriend calls for her. Dan goes home only to find out that his brother’s new girl friend is the woman he just fell in love with. Dan falling in love with this woman and having to watch her and his brother sweet talk for a couple of days ends up driving both Dan and the woman crazy and she leaves. He follows her and tells her he loves her. The brothers end up in a fight because Dan took his brothers woman, but the other issues Dan has with his daughters seem to look up after they give him permission to chase after her.

Coming up with the list of what to call the act, agent, agency, purpose, and scene was difficult. I wrote out four or five different scenarios and decided to label them as this:

Act: Dan falls in love
Agent: The woman
Agency: Meeting in the bookstore and having coffee together
Purpose: To help Dan move on from his wife and release control over his girls
Scene:  Up North in Dan’s parents town

After analyzing each term against each other, I found that scene dominates over the act, agent, agency, and purpose. Being up North causes Dan to fall in love, causes the woman to be up North, causes the woman and him to go out for coffee, and helps Dan to move on. If Dan was not up North than he would never have met the woman, therefore never fell in love, and as a result never moved on from his past wife.

Other terms that are dominating, but did not show up as strong in my analysis are the woman and meeting in the bookstore and having coffee together. The woman caused Dan to fall in love, to meet and talk, and to move on. Having coffee together caused Dan to fall in love and move on. The woman falls short by one point in being the dominating term. But, scene takes the lead because the woman would not be able to do all those things if it were her not being up North.

So, what motivates this story? Being away from normal, routine life has caused Dan to rethink things. Being around his family and their concerns for his well being has created a unique atmosphere, one where he can fall in love because his daughters are being taken care of and his daily responsibilities are relieved. Taking a break from the normal to have time to relax and reflect was important, but it was the need for Dan to relinquish the pain he his holding on to in order that he can find happiness, but also for the well being of his family that motivates this story.

Friday, November 5, 2010

A Narrative Analysis: The Heritage and Mission of Starbucks

Every day, we go to work hoping to do two things: share great coffee with our friends and help make the world a little better. It was true when the first Starbucks opened in 1971, and it’s just as true today.

On Starbucks's website there is a link to the company's heritage. This blog posting explores their Heritage/Mission statement as a story and I am analyzing and critiquing it though a narrative perspective.I am first searching for the purpose of the story and how the story serves that purpose. My critique will then answer the question, does this story have coherence and fidelity?

The Heritage story exists to inform us of the roots of their company. It allows us to have a deeper understanding of the original Starbucks and why their company functions the way it does today.

It starts off with a thesis that provides Starbucks's mission in a simple two sentence paragraph. The words chosen are pursuing their mission by using words "share, with our friends, better, help, hope, true." These words were carefully chosen to portray a friendly and relaxing atmosphere. The choice to use the words "we" and "our" places themselves as actors but also includes the reader in the story, Starbucks's consumers are part of that "we". The remaining paragraphs in this narrative give a story of how Starbucks was created and its journey to today. This is important, because when you are a part of something you need to be an expert on it, that means knowing the history.

Towards the end of the story, Starbucks states its mission "to inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup, and one neighborhood at a time." Their heritage lines up with what their mission is. They try to be a personable place that acts as an oasis to relax, think, and be inspired. Howard Schultz's (Starbucks president, chair man, and chief executive officer) inspiring experience in Italy was what lead to his passion for Starbucks and now functions as the driving force behind the mission. 

The heritage story starts out with their current mission worded differently than the official, then it brings you back to its roots and how the mission was created and closes the story by going back to current times. At the end of the story the reader has an understanding of the company on a personal level. The heritage does not speak about business terms, it talks about a consistent desire and a passion to inspire people. 

Overall, Starbucks tells their story well through the word choice and organization of the elements. After reading their heritage statement in relation to their mission statement, I believe Starbucks has coherence and fidelity in their rhetoric.

To read the full Heritage statement follow this link:

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

COACH is Like a Fairytale

These three ads are all promoting one name: COACH. This is a brand of luxury. Coach sells high fashion bags/wallets, shoes, scarves, the occasional coat, jewelry, shoes, key chains, perfume and a variety of other accessory items. Their ads are typical to the ones above. They have a white clean background with models and products in vivid, bright colors. Their logo has a vintage look and is placed in various places in advertising, but is always clearly visible on their products. 

These three ads in particular bring the audience to a different world. They are metaphorical in the sense that the Coach wants you to believe that it is their products that will give you this fairytale world. Clearly stated Coach is like a fairytale. Coach is like a dream come true. From looking at these advertisements from a metaphorical criticism method I want to ask: Do Coach's fairytale metaphors seek to target the inner child-like desires of their targeted market of women business professionals?

 Looking at the ad on the top right, it resembles the witch from the Wizard of Oz. The witch is a negative character in the story, Coach is presenting us with the idea that the witch was not negative, but serious and bold. The seriousness comes from the black shoes and the bold pattern of the socks. Besides the color and pattern in the image, they are using a story metaphor and making a fairytale livable by buying those shoes and socks. The buisness professional who is typically seen as harsh might wear those shoes, but underneath her black slacks are these funky socks that show what she really desires to be like. Or it could be marketed to the complete opposite; A woman who is timid and meek but secretly desires to take control and be the boss one day. By purchasing what is in this ad both of those stories can serve as an outlet for those desires.

The ad in the bottom middle also supports their consistent theme of fairytale. This fantasy takes place in a historical setting of being the wealthy class and living in a life of bliss where fashion and flowers are all that matters. The smile on her face and poise of walking towards the camera bouncily gives the audience the sense that although it is only an ad, with the purchase of those products, the fairytale she is living in can come true. I can not help but think of the target market for this ad being the women who comes off as a feminist who firmly believes that she is called to work full time while her kids are in day care. This ad could target that women's inward desires and by purchasing that coat and scarf she can pretend that she lives in a world where nothing matters but her fashion and those flowers and she can laugh and smile all day long with out a worry in the world.

The ad on the top left gives a combination of the right and middle ads. It is a serious, yet playful fairytale. This model lives in a world with fancy designer dresses and where objects that are small in real life are huge. The perfume bottle is so big that they are suggesting your scent is largely what defines you and if you purchase their perfume you will then be define similarly as a serious yet playful person. This ad more than putting you in a secret place of desire, gives a firm statement of reality compared to the other ads. It brings contrast in saying  you don't have to fantasize about being blissful or serious, you can be who ever you want to be, but allow your scent to define you. 

The consistency amongst Coach's ads is useful when critiquing because I am able to use multiple ads to research my question: Do Coach's fairytale metaphors seek to target the inner child-like desires of their targeted market of women business professionals? Based on the findings in my analysis, I believe their advertisements are actually seeking to satisfy those inner child-like desires in a class of women who are under a unique pressure in this world and in need of a fairytale world as an outlet.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Ideological Criticism of Barnardo's

Barnardo's is a charity that is located and works in the UK. They are focused on children and alleviating their poverty. Back in 2003 they started a marketing campaign that had a series of images with newborn babies in grotesque situations. This image in particular was striking.

A discussion of the elements of the photo:

The image colors are soft and calming. The main focus is on the babies face with a cockroach in its mouth. 
The baby is covered in "mucus" and is crying. It still has its hospital band on.
On the top in bigger letters is says THERE ARE NO SILVER SPOONS FOR CHILDREN BORN INTO POVERTY. After that there is smaller font that talks about the situation. 

The baby is not cleaned and is alone in the picture crying. Then the cockroach that is crawling into its mouth. This is where the words there are no sliver spoons for children  born into poverty is visually shown.

The elements are suggesting that babies born into poverty are left for dead. The image seems hopeless. The large text and word choice seems that they are boldly gearing this toward the rich in the UK. It is almost like they are crying out to the rich to see them and they resorted to an act of showing utter desperation.

The problem is that this image is offensive to many. It is a dramatized posed photo. It is not showing reality. If advertisements could be rated, this could be considered a Rated R poster. People did not have the choice to look or not.

Was the disturbance and harsh reaction from their audience what they wanted? 

Showing a newly born baby forces people to stop and take a second look. This image is effective, it is servicing its purpose. Looking at Bernardo's other past marketing campaigns this is a typical method used;bold photos to get others to join their cause. Looking at the photo, it seems that Barnardo's did this to raise awareness and to do the opposite of acting like everything is okay. The poverty situation in the UK is bad and they wanted others to feel disturbed because those living in it feel that way everyday.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Ideological Criticism of AT&T

The commercial begins with a luscious orange silk material scrolling down a monument and a song playing. It then progresses to cover the Hollywood sign in the mountains, to inside a sky rise and switches to looking at the sky rise from the outside. It shows people looking at the skyrises being covered from the sidewalks. It then goes to giant archways where people are on top scrolling down the fabric to cover it.

From there a car is shown driving in through the mountains and the terrain is being covered by orange and it shows the Las Vegas sign and then pans out to the city. It ends with a bunch of people running down the beach holding the orange fabric and covering the sand and then as they get to the water it cuts out to a picture of America from an outer space view. American is covered in orange and then text appears along with a voice over stating, “97% of Americans use AT&T.” Then, the word switches to say Rethink possible and the music quiets. All of the people in the ads look amazed and calm. The music being played throughout this commercial is acoustic and calming also. It is very easy to watch and brings a sense of calmness as you take the commercial all in.

There are many elements within this commercial that can be critiqued. A few of these elements come off stronger than the others and its effect is interesting also.

  • Before they even tell you the statistic, this commercial makes you feel like everyone in the country uses AT&T. This alludes to the fact that they are the best. AT&T manages to do this in a non-arrogant way. They make it seem like everyone is really happy about how they are taking over the world. They do not come off as arrogant because it is not like their slogan or company is directly telling us, we actually told them they are the best.
  • Covering everything in orange and having actual Americans do it makes you feel as if you are a part of something bigger than yourself and also that it was our choice.
  • The silk like material and beautiful scenes suggest luxury; as though if you use it you are in a high class who those things service if you use AT&T.
  • At the end of the commercial after they state their statistic of covering 97% of Americans, and then, Rethink possible is written on the screen. Rethink possible is written in a small humble font on top of the world that is covered in orange. This is suggestive of their being on top of the world and the most trusted.
  Their worldview suggests that we are a materialistic world desiring the best and rewarding the best. We are also a society that seeks to be a part of something bigger than one’s self. Because 97% of people use this service we are all connected and can talk for free. We have somehow made the world brighter by using this service, but it was not AT&T who did this, it was us; by choosing them to be the most used service in America.

I do not know if I picked the right ism and honestly I looked at over a hundred different isms and I couldn’t put one on this, if you have a suggestion then please let me know and I will consider adding it into this critique, but for now, I am not able to pin point which ism it is.