Kobe vs Messi: Legends on Board – Turkish Airlines

Since it costs a large amount of money to advertise on any media platforms, advertisers must strive to convey the most in the least amount of time. One of the methods of achieving the goal is to convey meaning through signs. Signs are composed of two elements: the signifier and the signified. “The signifier is the material vehicle of meaning; the signified actually “is” the meaning” (Leiss, Kline, Jhally and Botterill, 164). In other words, a signifier is a visual object in the advertisement that carries meaning; the signified is the implications for this object.  The concept of signs will be used as a framework for analyzing the advertisement of the Turkish Airlines.

Turkish Airlines has invited Kobe Bryan and Leo Messi to be the main characters of this advertisement. They serve as signifiers in the ad. Both are top-niche athletes who serve their countries by competing in national sports competitions. There are specific attitudes and qualities that they can represent. As a representative of their countries, they must strive for their best in competitions. In order to win, athletes must be able to adjust to changing situations promptly in their basketball or football matches. They must maintain high standards of skills to be the top players in their teams. These qualities and attitudes can be transferred to the cabin crew, who represents Turkish Airlines. It implies that the cabin crew of Turkish Airways always tries to give their best service to passengers on board. They are so skillful in answering the queries of passengers that their services can be comparable to the skills that Bryan and Messi possess in sports.

Besides, the advertisement captures a competition among Bryant, Messi and a flight attendant who try to capture the attention of a young boy. Each competitor competes to become the best by surpassing the others when performing his or her series of acts. The competitive sequence highlights the social value of striving to be the best in the heap. Ultimately, a flight attendant manages to win by serving the young boy with a plate of ice-cream. In other words, she has won victory over two of the best athletes in the world. The victory implies that she is the best of the best. Since she represents the Turkish Airlines, the victory can be translated to the Turkish Airlines. Therefore, the Airline is also portrayed as the best of the best.

What is more, the competition also signifies the improvement made by Turkish Airlines between  2011 and 2012. Kobe Bryant was the brand ambassador of Turkish Airways in 2011; Leo Messi was the ambassador of 2012. It is obvious that the acts performed by Messi are more complicated than that of Bryant. For example, in the first round of the competition, Bryant passes his basketball between his legs in the air. In response, Messi does the same while holding a football on his forehead. In the second round, Bryant has built a pyramid with a deck of cards. In response, Messi builds a castle with his cards, which is longer in length, with an addition of four spinning cards on top of his castle. In the third round, Bryant twists a cat with his yellow balloon. In response, Messi twists a rabbit with balloons in three different colors. In short, the relative complexity of Messi’s act symbolizes the advancements of Turkish Airways from the time since Bryant was the ambassador.

However, there may be alternative readings of the competition. Prejudice and discrimination to African Americans may be interpreted in the advertisement. Specifically, since Bryant’s acts seem to display lower levels of difficulty, it may be perceived that African Americans are not as capable as those people of other races. In terms of competition, they may be seen as “losers”. The difference in the environments of performance is one of the factors causing Bryant to lose. Messi has a seat with extra leg room. In other words, he can have more room to perform his acts. With all the extra space, it allows him to perform more flexibly and  with more complexity in his acts. On the other hand, Bryant can only perform in a relatively cramped space which limits the acts he can do in his seat. For example, he has so little space that he needs to roll up his body before he can pass a basketball between his legs. Given this possible implication, the advertisement can turn away some African American audiences.

Furthermore, the competition promotes the value of innovation. For example, it requires a creator to think outside the box to make cards spin in the air. Also, the choice of twisting balloons, which requires DIY (Do-it-yourself), instead of traditional balloons, also emphasize the importance of creativity. The emphasis on innovation can attract audiences who are interested in or working in the professions of art and design or any other industries that involve creativity.

Besides the competition, the ball is also an important signifier in the advertisement. By looking at the signs on it, the audience can be informed about Turkish Airlines. Since both the ball and the globe are round in shape, the ball is used to signify the globe in this advertisement. Towards the end, the advertisement shows the audience how the lines on the ball are formed. Initially there are no white lines on the ball. The lines are only formed when airplanes fly through them. Therefore, they can represent the various routes that the planes of the Turkish Airlines fly through. When the lines eventually meet, it represents that the whole world can be connected by the service provided by Turkish Airways. In short, it is conveying that Turkish Airlines can bring you to every country around the globe.

Besides the shape and the patterns on the ball, a white logo of a bird at the center of the ball also serves as a signifier within the advertisement. It is the company logo of Turkish Airways. The bird symbolizes the function of the Airways, which is to fly from one place to another. Since birds are creatures alive, it can be predicted that they have the ability to choose where they want to fly to. This idea connects to their current or prospective passengers of the Airways. Given nearly 40 destinations to choose from, passengers can freely make their decisions on where they want to “fly to”, just like the birds. Besides, birds can also symbolize freedom. This idea can easily appeal to those who value a life without constraints.

Furthermore, the colors and the design of the ball serve as another signifier. The ball overall is red in color, while the company icon (the bird) is white in color. Similarly, the background of the Turkish flag is red in color, while the icons of the star and the moon are white in color. In other words, the design of the ball has a similar structure as the Turkish flag. Advertisers are trying to create a “floating chain of signifieds”, which is a series of interpretations brought by a signifier.  In this case, advertisers are trying to create a connection between the Turkish flag and the ball, which represents the Turkish Airlines, so that more positive associations can be related to the brand of Turkish Airlines. As a result, audiences may identify Turkish Airlines with nationalism. Since patriotism may be a globally recognized virtue, regardless of nationality, Turkish Airlines’ association with nationalism can attract not only Turkish patriots, but also patriots around the world. Moreover, its created relation to the Turkish flag can also suggest that Turkish Airline is an airline, which can represent Turkey in the aviation field. In other words, the Airline is trying to present itself as the best Airline in Turkey.

In conclusion, the use of signs is a very effective way of conveying meaning within short time limits, just like advertisements. As shown in this ad, one signifier can signify a wide range of ideas related to a company. All of these ideas can be open to audience’s interpretation. Since the interpreted meanings are arbitrarily based on the audience’s cultural exposure and life experiences, it is possible that the audience may attach negative implications to specific advertisements. This is not likely to be beneficial to the advertisers. Therefore, it is wise for advertisers to clearly direct their audiences to the intended meanings of the signs in their advertisements to minimize the possibility of negative interpretations made by the audiences.