Marketing (symbols)

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by Julie H, Jul 22, 2017.

  1. You know what they mean.

    They know that you know.

    They also know what everything that you don't know that you're seeing but are seeing ... means.

    They know everything that the content of their pictures does or could do. It's all designed to work in concert to do one thing: deliver their payload to a targeted audience. Symbolism works.

    Some examples:

    muscle car 1
    muscle car 2
    sports car
    not a muscle car

    darkness 1
    darkness 2 [scroll to see full width]
    darkness 3



    eyeglasses 1
    eyeglasses 2

    If you're not "getting" an advertisement, it's probably because you're not its target audience. They go for an exact demographic, and if you're not in it, they're not interested in you.

    For example:

    testicles 1

    I looked at that picture for a long time, wondering, "Why are their two chicken eggs in that person's pants?" In my defense, I offer this second ad:

    testicles 2

    Shoe on the other foot:


    Their target audience is not men.


    Do you know what everything in your pictures means or could mean?

    If not, why not?
    • you don't care
    • you couldn't get rid of it
    • nobody will notice it
    • who cares?

    I know I don't. About your careless picture, that is.

    • it's 'real'
    • it's documentary
    • it's a window

    Okay. It has no 'meaning.' It's just stuff to look at. As if I didn't already have enough stuff to look at ...


    Last edited: Jul 22, 2017
  2. Well my exposure (hahaha pun) was from my documentary photo teacher who also was/is a successful commercial photography and taught those classes. Very knowledgeable guy. And he said commercial photography is about telling a story and presenting a concept pictorially. One of the themes he worked on would be having his class turn 5 photos that depicted "the good life", whatever the student thought was good. When he critiqued he would show how the everything in the photo worked or didn't work to tell the story. He talked about ad campaigns where he will go through catalogues of models from the agencies to find people to construct a certain type of family. He did a grease (like the movie) based photo campaign for Olympus where he shot in a diner out on route 66 with a man and woman who were into "rockabilly", and he chose every single element, the cloths, the table cloth, the things on the diner table, the type of silver ware, not to mention the time of day to shoot for the optimal light, and also the lighting setups and angles, in short, yes he knew what every detail of the photo was there for. Then he shows how to process your photos so you move the viewers eyes to what you want them to focus on, and of course how to compose. Now that's extreme and not all commercial photography hits that detail but its not uncommon.
    However, shooting documentary and or street or event photography, it is crazy to think you can comprehend what every thing in the frame means at the time you take the photo, because the process calls for spontaneity. But as you say you don't care about that. But commercial? Yes, very controlled. But that's the photographer telling the story, the text in the ads comes from the marketing people so its a collaboration. the photographer may not have any control or input into the wording and design of the ad. And I agree that advertising in general is more and more based on market research and targeting audiences with images and concepts that will appeal to them. For instance, watch a Golf match, or even HGTV, you will see ads for high end products, cars etc. And look at the messaging, it will generally say you can be special and unique by being associated with our product. That's their idea of what their target audience will think is the "good life". Watch MSNBC and it will be countless ads for drugs to control any ailment, or if you don't have ailments, to make up ailments and offer cures so you can despite your infirmary, experience the "good life". Or legal teams looking for possible class-action plaintiffs to sue those same drug companies for having taken away your chance at the "good life". Well that's a ramble!
  3. Norman 202

    Norman 202 i am the light

    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 22, 2017
  4. Actually, its possible our teacher did those McDonalds photos. He did a similar campaign like that back in about 2006 or 7 where he drove accross country and every place he stopped he photographed the golden arches. Not sure if it was a personal project or a campaign. I would point out that the CGI you see in a lot of these photographs, like the Viagra ad and some of the others weren't done by the photographer. They were probably commissioned to shoot the car (or it may even have been a stock photograph) and then the ad creatives did the photoshop, or maybe it was altered before the photo. Point is for most ad campaigns from companies that can afford them, there is a whole team in which the photographer is only one and not the most important, part.

    On the baby add, darkness 1 I think, I would imagine that every element including the shape and shadows of the lamp and the forms on the wall were at least considered if not planned for. Certainly the make-up and lighting is a major part of the photo and the concept is actually pretty cleverly executed. Personally, I don't think advertising is necessarily sinister just because its aimed for a certain group of people. I'm sure if you have have toddlers who soil their diapers at night they can be monsters til they get changed. I think that's an effective creative ad.
  5. That makes sense Phil, the meaning of what's being conveyed in art photography can often be vague, mutable, self-contradictory etc, something that has to be worked at to understand, even though many "art" photographers control every element of their pictures as tightly as some commercial photographers. Examples - La Chapelle, Witkin, Duane Michaels, even Ralph Gibson just to name a few including our Jullie H.
  6. Well, I take a biological or evolutionary approach to what makes something get a look, if not always a pop look. Kittens have the large eyes that mammalians are geared to nurture and protect. Boobs are the evidence of mammalian prodigious reproduction that our males cannot avoid. Thus motorcycles may drive testostrone and sex. Bikes with babes will pull in more eyes. Want to sell anything, get attention first. Use the genes already there. For women, a more subtle approach, but I leave that to the experts. Our clothes catalogs have a scent in them as well as photos. and lush environments.
  7. Ambiguity, Yes! Meaning, No.

    I don't think ambiguity 'enhances' meaning. I think it excites our interest. The ambiguity is to do with the meaning that can't be made to form and hold.

    Symbols are what we bring to a picture. They're out of the past. Art is now. It pushes back.

    In the beginning, there were no cars. Then there were cars. Then 'cars' became symbols. Somewhere in between no cars and symbolic cars, there's a great amorphous condensation of possible meanings that may adhere to 'car.' Some take hold; some don't. Symbolic 'cars' are ours, of our making, what we bring to 'cars'; real cars aren't. They grow, they change, they are 'made' in meaning and they are unmade in meaning. Out of the great "blooming, buzzing world."

    I think art works the transitions. The coming into being, the transformations, the goings-away, which are, by definition, ambiguous. It melts, it bleeds, it hardens, it sags, it erupts. It exceeds past experience from which current symbolic meaning has been reached. It abuses, argues with, explodes, refuses the symbolic. But for that very reason, it needs the symbolic.

    All of that not-symbolic sensing of the about-to-be and/or more-than works because we know what the current symbolic meaning — from which we are departing — is.

    Marketing art doesn't want to be art. It doesn't want ambiguity. It wants, it needs, clarity. No unknowns.

    It's my feeling that art photography and even recreational photography is in the privileged position of being able to get the earliest stage of coming-into-being of something meaningful because it doesn't leave things out. A painter or sculptor has already pulled the thing into a proto-symbolic configuration, which is to say, he's injected his past experience into what's arriving. The photographer can get the most delicate shadings and filigrees of about-to-be meaning because it's all there. It can be seen shading into and out of it's source; within the frame, it's not cut out. Marketing pictures cut it out.

    To answer my own question in the OP, the final "Or?," what I include in my pictures is the symbolic content that I'm tearing apart and everything else that is not currently seen as symbolic i.e. I actively exclude any other symbolic content. I want what I'm sensing to be able to bleed in and out of meaning/non-meaning without cut. I want it to shade imperceptibly into and out of the source of all visible things. I love that photography can and does include, in its art, the great pool that is that source in its art.
  8. I have an example of a marketing picture that goes dangerously close to being art. For that reason, I really like it. It's been interesting for me to watch myself look at it, then find myself coming back to it.

    The ad campaign if for an Eye Bank in Brazil. The tag line is:

    It's horrible to see it. Its horrible not to see it. Donate Cornea

    See the picture here.

    My first look:

    There is no symbolism here. It's direct, obvious; an act. The man is beating the monkey. It's terrible, and I agree with the ad's tag line.

    My second look:

    It's obviously symbolic. 'Man' is beating 'nature/animals' because 'nature/animals' won't accept our technology/behaviors as symbolized by the bicycle to which the monkey is chained (bicycle = wheels, levers, machines).

    My third look:

    slower: I wonder why they chose this 'horrible' thing to feature? Why not a man abusing a dog? Why not a man abusing a child? I think it's because those would be distracting. They lead out of or away from the stasis of wanting to see and not wanting to see that releases us back to the Eye Bank (because we have no obvious immediate other exit). Or?

    My fourth look:

    This picture is leaning toward art — after all, here I am again. Why is that? The man's gesture is not clear. Is he hitting the monkey, or is he sorry, bending down and offering the monkey a caress? He's both 'man' as abuser and man as 'apologizer' ...

    ... and so forth.
  9. Norman 202

    Norman 202 i am the light

  10. Norman 202

    Norman 202 i am the light

    mebbe advertising comes from a different part of the soul to photography. :)

    to me adverts work best when they are taking the P1ss in a humorous way (real men eat quiche) or when their purpose is counter productive (eg ads for martini resulting in increased sales for cinzano or the arches being synonymous with crap food.)

    are there any photographs out there that have had a similar effect?
    Last edited: Jul 27, 2017
  11. Norman 202

    Norman 202 i am the light

    but how symbolic are advertising images? what does a pic of the arches symbolize? to me the arches are "mcdonalds", there is nothing symbolic about it. the arches are a short hand for "mcdonalds". any symbolic value (crap, cheap, convenient) comes second hand based on personal experience.

    compare the arches with a large, fat, dark no name cigar. what affords the greatest scope for interpretation or misinterpretation?

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