You can view the commercial on Youtube here

Sharon’s analysis of the Turkish Airline campaign featuring Leo Messi and Kobe Bryant sheds light on how signifiers bring cultural meaning to an advertisement. Both Messi and Bryant, legendary sports stars, serve as the signifiers in the campaign and as Leiss et al. points out in Social Communication in Advertising, “the meaning of the ad is conveyed by the link between the attributes associated with the people in the advertisement and the relationship they embody between themselves and the product” (184). Viewers see the construction of this relationship through the minute long spot, as the characteristics of these top-notch athletes transcend into the cabin crew and representatives of the airline. In doing so, viewers associate qualities such as hard work and talent with Turkish Airlines.

While a semiotics analysis of a campaign may provide valuable insight into the values of a particular cultural or historical context, advertisers frame products and/or services in other ways in order to construct meaning to a product and/or service. For example, the Turkish Airlines spot takes on a personalized format, in which a service is associated with the people who might use it (as Sharon briefly mentions in her analysis). The personalized format presumes that “the way an individual or a culture identifies similarities and differences between persons and groups in their milieu is the foundation ion which everyday social intercourse is based” (184). Often times, the personalized format features celebrities, and in the case of Turkish Airlines, viewers see two world famous athletes enjoying their flight with the airlines. This depiction of celebrity status figures being emotionally satisfied resonates with viewers. If Turkish Airlines is good enough for Bryant and Messi, it’s good enough for your average flyer.

Not only does the Turkish Airlines advertisement feature Bryant and Messi on board, the commercial spot shows a little boy torn between the pros impressive ball-handling skills and tricks. Bryant and Messi try to win over the affection of the little boy, however both athletes ultimately “lose” to the smiling flight attendant offering an ice cream sundae. Here, viewers see a key characteristic of the personalized format: “the direct relationship between a product and the human personality” (184). The fact that a flight attendant wins over the affection of this little boy is impressive – the flight attendant serves as the friendly face of the company, and in turn, humanizes the airline.

Despite the humanization of the brand, it seems as if an advertisement utilizing a personalized format would inevitably alienate a particular social group. The book also points out that, “The relationship between service and user depends on whether the viewer is a user, consumer, typical representative of a particular personality (smart), or group (homemakers) (184). Because Messi represents both Spain and Argentina, and Bryant is associated with America, viewers get the sense that Turkish Airlines is a world-class airline – flying travelers from around the globe. And while the commercial spot takes on a personalized approach, it does so in a way that doesn’t alienate a particular viewer. The advertisement features celebrity status figures/athletes (African American male as well as Spanish male), a child, and a female flight attendant – ultimately implying that Turkish Airlines flies all types of passengers all over the world. However, Sharon sees the competition between Messi and Bryant as a source of discrimination when she writes, “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.” However, I see the relationship between Bryant and Messi as less serious and more comedic – putting the world’s most popular game (soccer) against basketball with no prejudice or discrimination intended.

Advertisements