A picture paints a thousand words

Genre Essay

A popular proverb that goes 'A picture paints a thousand words' can be applied to many things, but none more so than within advertising, a clever advertisement can often evoke many interpretations through one image. Depending on the product, the style of the advert and the audience it is aiming to attract; advertising is a hugely diverse form of media within our society, having the impact to promote a product or service and influence an individual. Within its diverse range of ways to advertise, marketing departments for a whole host of companies have the problem of coming up with ideas and ways to attract its key demographic whilst promoting its product as the best within its field. As a result, there are many types and kind of advertisements that individually aspire to be different but also share similarities to other forms of media. Adverts that focus on a particular target market often use complex meaning or subtle references to other forms of media that the intended audience would recognise and be familiar with. Many companies use advertisements to lure you into looking further at their products. Advertising is not always as plain as it may seem, any advert that you view will have a certain colour, for example, to attract your attention, something psychologically proven to affect your senses and evoke some kind of hidden message. This form of advertisement, although usually cleverly implemented, is often criticized as it alienates viewers that are not within the advertisements intended audience. I will be exploring some of the more controversial examples of these types of adverts within TV and print and how they have evolved through varying social perceptions over time.

A modern British Army advertising campaign was launched in 2009 by Publicis, merging both TV and videogame mediums through advertisement not only within its presentation but also its interactivity. The "Start Thinking Soldier" adverts focus their efforts to place the viewer firmly into the boots of an unnamed soldier, and from his or her perspective the viewers are presented with a number of situations, like how would you approach an unmarked vehicle seemingly deserted in the wasteland, or how would you go about breaching a heavily guarded enemy outpost? The TV adverts present the scenario and offer a number of choices; what would be the best solution to deal with the situation at hand, leaving you with the question 'What would you do?' Whether the viewer chooses the right or wrong solution is largely irrelevant, because the advert is successful at capturing the viewer and provoking a mental response. The modern day depiction of the setting within the adverts is effective in keeping the situation socially appropriate, successfully demonstrating that these types of situations are the norm for the modern day soldier currently serving in Iraq or Afghanistan.

This way of presenting the advertisement would be extremely familiar to the key demographic, namely the young 16-24 year old male. 'Young people of this age are the target demographic for the campaign, 68 per cent of the age-group have no career path in mind' (Purchese) and with the recession a lot of youngsters are looked over as employers prefer more experienced applicants within there respective fields of work. The Army deals with a tough recruitment market, not helped by negative publicity over deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well competition from other employers, low unemployment and further education reducing the number of potential recruits. The biggest selling video game of 2009, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, a realistic first person shooter depicting modern war, shifted 1.24million copies on launch day in the UK alone (CVG), the biggest launch of any game. Although this doesn't immediately suggest that every person that bought this game would want to have a career in the services, it does show that there is a large target market to aim for, and a good advertising campaign would do well to attract and grab the attention of that market. The way these TV adverts are filmed have a direct link to videogames, filming it from the perspective of the soldier mirrors the first person view genre within videogames so it is instantly familiar with people that have had a chance to play a game like Modern Warfare. It is a clever way of incorporating a visual reference from a successful form of media that share the same genre.

A website was formed as an extension to the TV advert that would then act out the chosen choice and present you with the chosen or best solution to the given scenario. It would then expand on your actions and present the next challenge through various interactive games that relate to everyday army challenges, encouraging decisions within training, teamwork and general tactics. Although the online Flash based games are simplistic, they are successful in bridging the gap between attracting a viewer, inviting them to take part in activities and encouraging them to experience Army life in an open, welcoming way.

"Following the TV and online aspects, those eager to get a flavour of the Army will be invited to live events with the chance to meet real soldiers and see some of the kit they've explored online." Hall, C (2009)

According to website developer Skive, two months since the campaigns launch in April 2009, the online advert has attracted 604,038 site visitors, 52,336 registrations and an average dwell time of approximately 9-10minutes. This is a prominent example of the evolution of advertising within the war genre. This direct 'have you got what it takes?' mentality has been prevalent throughout previous Army marketing campaigns, even dating back to the early World War II posters, the Britain Needs You recruitment advert being the most iconic example. Posters like this are still being created but they try and keep it socially relevant, an April the 1st 'No Fools' poster, again by Publicis, is a good example, depicting motivational words structured in the shape of a 1 aiming for those not taken in by April Fools jokes.

The genre itself continually evolves; TV shows like Band of Brothers, films like Saving Private Ryan and videogames like Call of Duty are all influenced by real world past, present events and each other to create their respective forms of media depicting war. It is almost dramatic irony then that army recruitment advertisements are influenced by the popularity of these types of media to promote army life. As a result of this, Army adverts and the war genre as a whole is often a subject of much controversy as many feel the media glorify war too much as opposed to acknowledging the negative side; the devastation and loss that is prevalent within war. This coupled with the fact that the marketing campaign specifically targets the young adult school leaver causes much debate in social circles. This same kind of controversy is consistent with many forms of advertisement however; not all products are as socially accepted as a whole but aimed more at a specific interest, group or market. Another good example of this and how society has changed causing advertisement to evolve is the cigarette industry.

Cigarette manufacturers were one of the first industries to advertise on television and they invested heavily in trying to advertise their brand as the best on the market. Beginning in the early forties through to the sixties, most television programmes featured a primary sponsor, the more popular the TV show, the sponsor would potentially receive more brand recognition. This was important for the cigarette industry as competition between manufacturers, even at an early stage in a relatively new medium, was strong. To compensate for the low viewing figures received during the early stages of television, celebrities and stars featured on the programmes were expected to be seen personally using or endorsing the sponsor's product. This was important for cigarette companies to create and distinguish brand recognition to make them stand out from their competitors. The use of celebrity endorsement in particular was important, as it created the perception that the brand being promoted was used ad enjoyed by popular celebrity figures, almost signifying the brand appeals to the upper class and famous. If the viewer then went to see a film featuring the same celebrity they may then think of the brand they were associated with. This seamless transition of the product between TV, movie and the various genres within them fundamentally influenced the success of the product through association to a very wide target audience. As years went on and it proved more successful, it evolved and was used in other forms of advertisements, particularly within printed magazine adverts, banners and sports.

Advertising cigarettes in sport was introduced after 1965 as a result of the implementation of the Television Act, which caused all cigarette advertising to be banned from UK television. Cigarette manufacturers used particular sports in order to display their brand name to audiences rather than directly advertising on TV.

These sports were mainly focused on Rugby, Snooker and, most prominently within motor sports. All of these activities attract millions of viewers not only through TV on a global scale but also to spectators visiting the events. Brand association was incorporated into the events, with billboards, trophies, jerseys and TV features all displaying the brand name. These events helped convey the image of the brand name to people that the product was generally cool and an accepted part of society, especially to younger generations. Formula 1 in particular has used cigarette sponsorship and branding heavily in the past, as a result it became heavily criticised that children as young as six years old would associate brands like Marlboro with speed, excitement and fast cars.

Magazine prints would often feature cigarette adverts with images promoting the product. Cigarette companies, especially in the 70's, used sex appeal as a way of subliminally attracting the consumer. Camel cigarettes, which were a leading brand since it was introduced in 1913, often used women in its adverts to give the product a competitive edge over its competitors by linking and associating its product and sex appeal. Through inter-textuality this attracts both males and females, as females would potentially see the product as a status symbol and sublimely represent sex appeal to women that use it from a male's perspective. This form of advertising has been used as a genre through many forms of advertisement particularly those that aim to attract a particular gender like fragrance products, fashion labels and can even be extended to videogames. With cigarettes seemingly linked to sex appeal through advertisements, it has a profound affect on other forms of media. Actress's characters being portrayed as sex symbols in films would often be seen on screen smoking a cigarette, as viewers would immediately recognise this through its subliminal reference from the advertising. The aim is for the viewer to transfer the qualities signified by the actress to the cigarette creating a metaphorical sign that smoking is essentially a provocative status symbol.

The use of sex appeal within advertising as a whole is generally considered a controversial issue as it is causing our society to become more image conscious, putting an emphasis on appearance and weight, which not only influences adults but also affects young children as well. However, the simple fact is that sex sells and therefore it is almost impossible to eradicate it from advertising altogether as it is instinctively within our nature to be attracted to products that use this particular genre to advertise. We live in a fast paced and progressive culture that accepts and even embraces such advertisements now. If you flip through any magazine, even a video game magazine for children, you find adverts with scantily clad women and sweaty muscular men selling a whole range of products not necessarily associated with the magazines subject matter.

It is the evolvement of our increasingly health conscious society and awareness which have all but diminished cigarette advertisements of this kind altogether, promoting smoking was made illegal in the European Union in 2002 and was totally eradicated from sports by 2006. Now with the emphasis placed on adverts to discourage people from smoking rather than endorsing it. Anti-smoking advertisements are now prevalent through most forms of media, particularly hard hitting TV and magazine advertisements. The Department of Health, along with anti smoking campaigners hailed the ban of cigarette advertising as a success and that it would hopefully reduce the amount of lung cancer related deaths which are largely smoking related incidents. According to a BBC news report it is 'estimated that banning all tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship will result in a 2.5% drop in the number of deaths caused by smoking, eventually saving as many as 3,000 UK lives a year.' Some kinds of anti smoking advertisements have been a cause of controversy because they are perhaps too graphic by associating smoking with death and disease, in order to scare smokers into quitting the habit. Some however cleverly associate smoking and death within their imagery; some examples included here are found on a design website but are included in various magazines. The message, even without words, is clear. Advertisers use different approaches, death and disease is the main focus but using different approaches to death and associating it with smoking creates an impact. Examples of this are images of Russian roulette but with cigarettes instead of bullets, sperm cells swimming in ash highlighting impotency as a result of smoking, a toothbrush with the bristles replaced with cigarettes linking to teeth decay, images of suicide expressing the fact that smoking is a slow form of self killing, the list is endless. Although the aim is the same, advertisements use different examples of the death theme to exploit and express the affects of smoking, some go too far but the examples that are more cleverly thought out have greater impact. Since 2003, these anti smoking adverts depicting the damage caused have even appeared on the front of cigarette packets themselves, in the future they are hoping to remove all form of cigarette branding as a whole and have them as blank packaging.

"Written health warnings have encouraged many smokers to stop smoking.

These new stark picture warnings emphasise the harsh health realities of continuing to smoke. I hope they will make many more think hard about giving up, and get the help they need to stop smoking for good." Donaldson, L (2008)

Looking at these controversial adverts has proved that as society's perceptions and current events change, they all have direct impact on advertising. In order to stand out advertisers must use a combination of genre and inter-textuality not only to help associate their product with something familiar but also to make it stand out and thought provoking to the viewer who they are aiming the product towards.


  • CVG (2009) 'Modern Warfare 2 is 2009's Biggest Game' Available at: http://www.computerandvideogames.com/article.php?id=229647
  • Donaldson, L, (2008) 'Shock Pictures on Cigarette Packs' Available at: http://news.sky.com/skynews/Home/Health/Smoking-Kills-Horrific-Pictures-Will-Be-Printed-On-Cigarette-Packets/Article/200809415107899
  • Hall, C, (2009) 'Call to Duty: Army launches Start Thinking Soldier campaign' Available at: quote http://www.pocket-lint.com/news/23394/british-army-start-thinking-soldier
  • Skive (2009) 'British Army Start Thinking Soldier' Available at: http://skive.co.uk/start-thinking-soldier-army
  • Purchese, R, (2009) 'British Army Using Videogames To Recruit' Available at: http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/british-army-using-videogames-to-recruit


    Marlboro Ferrari F1, Available at: http://autoracingsport.com/wp-content/uploads/formula1/marlboro_rear.jpg
  • Camel Cigarettes, Available at: http://www.euro-cig.com/gallery.php?id_cap=90
  • Call of Duty screenshot, Available at: http://www.crunchgear.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/11/Call-of-Duty-4-Modern-Warfare-Screenshot-11.jpg
  • Basic Instinct, Sharon Stone, Available at: http://www.euro-cig.com/gallery.php?id_cap=90
  • Start Thinking Soldier advert screen grabs, Available at:http://www.pocket-lint.com/news/23394/british-army-start-thinking-soldier
  • Anti Smoking posters, Available at: http://thedesigninspiration.com/articles/top-45-creative-anti-smoking-advertisements/
  • No Fools Advert, Available at: http://www.campaignlive.co.uk/theWork/news/895372/British-Army-no-fools-Publicis/

Please be aware that the free essay that you were just reading was not written by us. This essay, and all of the others available to view on the website, were provided to us by students in exchange for services that we offer. This relationship helps our students to get an even better deal while also contributing to the biggest free essay resource in the UK!