Archives For author

“Greatness is no more unique to us than breathing. We are all capable of it. All of us.”

-Tom Hardy, in Nike’s “Find Your Greatness ad”

It was during the 2012 London Olympics when Nike launched an advertising campaign under the slogan “Find your greatness.” After the one-minute television showcase, Nike’s Youtube channel was bombarded with visitors. The campaign consisted of short, minute-long videos, featuring “everyday athletes” from all over the world including South Africa, Jamaica, China, and many more. According to the Mail Online, the most popular ad in the campaign, titled “The Jogger,” received close to one million hits.

Nike recruited sporty “Londoners” outside of England’s London (London in Ohio, East London in South Africa, Little London in Jamaica, etc) in order to fully expound the campaign’s London Olympics theme. Furthermore, the campaign ran in 25 countries, and the showcase coincided with the opening ceremony of the Olympics. Critics noted that “Nike’s campaign is clearly designed to cash in on Olympic fever and get one over on arch-rival Adidas, which has paid tens of millions of pounds to be an official London 2012 global sponsor” (Sweney). Surprisingly, however,  Nike was not chosen as the official sponsor for the 2012 London Olympics while its competitor, Adidas was.

Nike’s “Find your greatness” advertising campaign, tried to differentiate itself from Adidas by featuring amateur athletes as opposed to professional athletes. They aimed to suggest that the idea of “greatness” and other “achievements” were not necessarily “reserved for chosen few.” But rather,  it is something “we are all capable of”. Nonetheless, the target audience, Nike is trying to reach, ultimately coincides with viewers of Adidas advertisements; and this is perplexing because Nike is contradicting itself and the message they are trying to deliver.

On its official website, Nike,  quoted: “A powerful message to inspire anyone who wants to achieve their own moment of greatness in sport, launched just as the world focuses on the best of the best.” The quote encapsulated the core message of the campaign. The website further stated that not only “championship athletes” but also “everyday,” “amateur” athletes “can strive” and “achieve their own defining moment of greatness.” Nike is trying to deliver very hopeful messages to its viewers here; however, the advertisements do not seem to parallel such sentiments and meanings. We will be conducting “semiotic analysis” for two video advertisements (aired on television, released on Nike’s Youtube Channel) in order to better understand the basic structures and elements of the advertisement which will allow us to comprehend more concrete “functions” and “meanings” the campaign constitutes (Leiss et al. 164). There are 4 steps in the process we have to take: 1) identify signifiers 2) What are the signified? 3) What meanings does signifiers assign to the product? 3) What social norms and values does the ad promote? 4) Are there particular social groups the ad speaks to?

First ad is “The Jogger,” which was the most popular one for both regular viewers and media critics. We first have to identify “signifiers,” which are “the material vehicle of the meaning” (164). Some signifiers we can identify here include 1) Obese white boy jogging and sweating in athletic clothing 2) Narrative voice (by Tom Hardy) that recites “Greatness, It is just something we made up. Somehow we came to believe that greatness is a gift reserved for chosen few. For prodigies, for super stars, and rest of us can only stand by and watching. We can forget that. Greatness is not some rare DNA strand. It’s not some precious thing. Greatness is no more unique to us than breathing. WE are all capable of it. All of us.” 3)Early Morning 4) Empty Road 5) Nike Logo 6) Campaign slogan “Find Your Greatness.” Next step is to figure out “signified,” which is deriving “meaning” from the “signifiers” we just identified (164).  On the surface, the signifiers all suggest the “hopeful” messages Nike initially intended for the audiences. However, when we give ourselves more time to think about the signifiers they are a bit strange and unnatural in many ways. It becomes  more evident that the video was scripted and artificially crafted for the audience to brew sympathy for the jogger, who is an obese individual who is breathing heavily in order to achieve his goal. And frankly, such images are not very “usual” or “realistic.”

The jogger may not even be under the category of “amateur athlete” who we can encounter on the street or in the gym. Am I making false assumptions here that obese people do not go or are not allowed in the gym? Maybe. But it is something that I learned from our society. Our societal norm suggests us some skewed stereotypes about obese people that they do not exercise but all they do everyday is endlessly consuming. Some Youtube-users may agree with me on this since the video created responses such as:

(Screenshot of a Youtube comment http://ow.ly/l2AXD )

(Screenshot of a Youtube comment http://ow.ly/l2B0K )

And yet again, Nike’s “The Jogger” ad is subtly reminding us with such stereotypes by putting two seemingly “opposite” subjects together. The audience automatically will assume that the jogger is going through a tough time because he is overweight. And it is not only the jogger but also the place setting of the ad seems very odd and surreal. There is only one person (the jogger) that appears in the ad because he is the only person running on the road. Remembering our usual, everyday circumstances, there should be other people running or even walking pass by you. We would start to feel scared and anxious when we are the only ones walking on the street. So, Nike, by attaching  stereotypes to the obese protagonist, is actually contradicting its intended message that greatness does not belong to any specific group. “Greatness” shines even brighter when achieved by someone unexpected like the overweight jogger. Whether the advertisement was a success or not, Nike established a new cultural meaning in our society that obese people desire exercising and jogging. And this new cultural meaning adds a new “value” or “meaning” to Nike’s Swoosh “sign value,” which “establishes the relative value of a brand” and emphasizes “difference” in various brands where their products’ “functions difference…is minimal” (Goldman, Papson 84).

The signifiers in the second ad consists of: 1) Chinese teenager practicing Wushu (Chinese martial arts) along with some other Chinese kids 2) Tom Hardy’s narrative “If you’d like to tell the guy with the sword he’s not great because he’s not famous…be my guest.” 3) In China/Asia (there are Chinese characters written on the pillars in the gym) While the obese white boy joggs in Ohio and challenging himself to achieve greatness, his Chinese friend, again, practices his Wushu skills. Can this be the other way around? The Chinese boy is jogging and sweating in London, Ohio while the white boy practices Wushu.

    By coming up an Asian Wushu athlete, Nike have given efforts to bring in diversity to its ad campaign. And also diversity would have been a key factor since Nike initiated the campaign during the Olympics, an international event watched by people from all over the globe. However, we question ourselves again—“Would this be an incident of diversity representation or racial stereotypes?” Although, as trite as it sounds, not every Chinese/Asian person retain Kung-fu skills like Jackie Chan. However, it is also true that Jackie Chan is one of the most well-known figure with Asian ethnic background in the Western society that for some people, their very “first” exposure to Asians or Asian communities was via Rush Hour trilogy. And Jackie Chan, when he became famous, he also immediately became an attractive character for the advertisers that this Asian Kung-fu master character was forced to become the subject of commodification, which then created another stereotype for Asians. Consumer goods, being nonverbal communicators that reveal “status, roles, social mobility, social structures, lifestyle”, have always been a big part in building our popular culture that they consistently contribute in making and reinforcing cultural meanings in society (Leiss et al. 230). Then it is also the responsibility of advertisers and mass media participants to correct and construct new identities and meanings for various communities that are often targeted to become subjects of commodification. Therefore, recruiting  a different Asian amateur athlete that is not too stereotypical would have been more effective for Nike’s campaign  since “The Jogger” also offers a rather unexpected scene to its consumers.

 (An example of Jackie Chan merchandise that reveals a stereotype)

When most brands and companies dedicate a large chunk of their budget on TV ads and print ads, Nike’s “Find Your Greatness” campaign depended heavily on social media and the Internet, which are usually peripheral part of most ad campaigns. Nike released the ad videos to the consumers via its Youtube channel (http://www.youtube.com/user/nike) where the videos received million views and widespreaded. The videos themselves were produced to be very short (less than a minute), which was appropriate for fast-changing web communities and fast-clicking web users. Furthermore, Nike created a hashtag (#findgreatness) on Twitter “to ignite conversation around how athletes everywhere find their own greatness” and also to allow digital version of “words-of-mouth” marketing between Twitter-users. Utilization of social media, especially Twitter, allowed the campaign to be a big success since more global audiences paid attention to the campaign and were also allowed to participate in spreading the words using #findgreatness.

(Screenshot of Nike’s Youtube Channel)

(Screenshot of various Tweets on Twitter #findgreatness)

    Running and marketing the campaign through social media also made younger audience pay more attention to the campaign. Olympics, even though it is one of the biggest international event, is not the hottest, most popular topic for current generation. However, the youth generation has always been a crucial, attractive market for most consumer products due to 1) large amount of disposable income that can be spent 2) maintaining of customer loyalty 3) largely influenced by others (Klein 66, 81; Leiss et. al 478-479). However, the young audiences, also known as “Generation X,” are also conceived to be the most difficult market to reach to because they are “tech-savy,”  “alienated  spectator” who tend to get engaged in rather “anti-conventional, frame-breaking” type ads rather than traditional type ads (471, 483). Therefore, social media marketing for the campaign was most apt and efficient method to approach the young consumers that spend much of their time surfing around the Internet looking for something “cool.” Furthermore, Nike’s “Find Your Greatness” ad campaign visual ads (videos) featuring various amateur athletes from diverse backgrounds  which was also very appropriate for Gen X that tend to prefer  “heavily image-based advertising” that “specifically use freedom a theme in their depictions of diverse people” (484-485). The young audience’s attention and participation revealed through various creative “parody” videos that also got shared on Youtube.

(An example of a Parody Video on Youtube “Jogger”)

    In conclusion, Nike’s “Find Your Greatness” ad was very successful. The advertisements were unique in a sense that they retained high production values with occasionally having creative and novel subjects. Also, the marketing and distribution method of the campaign was also another creative side of the process where it showed the effectiveness of social media. However, what is worrisome for the me is that the campaign was still an advertisement that promotes consumerism in a “sneakily” and “unnoticeable” way that is hard for us to figure out. What Nike is ultimately promoting in their various encouraging messages is that all of us, even though we are not star players or champions, can achieve greatness but when only we purchase Nike sporting products. Therefore, the entire campaign can be a perfect example of therapeutic ethos: “to arouse consumer demand by associating products with imaginary states of well-being” (Leiss et al. 74). And also the campaign, while being creatively crafted, retains various negative cultural meanings and outdated stereotypes in our society and the campaign is targeting young audiences that are easily vulnerable to influences. The current generation is where we need to strive to start eradicating irrational stereotypes and societal meanings completely. We can not further instill and re-instill such ideals.

Nike’s “Find Your Greatness” declares that we all can achieve success and greatness even though we may consider ourselves as not as important or special than professional athletes. But we live in a society where societal barriers and stereotypes are constantly being reminded and projected to us by even an ad campaign that wants to overcome our weaknesses and achieve greatness. #findgreatness #contradiction

Works Cited

Goldman, Robert, and Stephen Papson. “Advertising in the Age of Accelerated Meaning.” (1996): 82-98. Print.

Klein, Naomi. “Chapter 3: Alt.Everything.” No Logo. New York: Picador USA, 2000. 63-85. Print.

Leiss, William, Jackie Botterill, Stephen Kline, and Sut Jhally. Social Communication in Advertising: Consumption in the Mediated Marketplace. New York: Routledge, 2005. Print.

“Nike Launches “Find Your Greatness” Campaign.” NIKE, Inc. N.p., 2012. Web. 14 May 2013. <http://nikeinc.com/news/nike-launches-find-your-greatness-campaign-celebrating-inspiration-for-the-everyday-athlete&gt;.

“Revealed: The 200lb 12-year-old Star of Nike’s Controversial New Ad… and How He Is Now Hitting the Gym to Lose Weight.” Mail Online. N.p., 7 Aug. 2012. Web. 14 May 2013.

Sweney, Mark. “Olympics 2012: Nike Plots Ambush Ad Campaign.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 25 July 2012. Web. 14 May 2013. <http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2012/jul/25/olympics-2012-nike-ambush-ad&gt;.

This ad is a combination of Product-image format, Personalized format, and Life-style format. Product-image format is a type of ad that already assumes the viewers to be already aware of the product’s basic function and utilities. Johnnie Walker, similar to most other alcohol/alcoholic beverage advertisements, does not state the basic function of “alcohol” or what kinds of effects alcohol have to our body. Because, alcohol, as known by most consumers, retains detrimental effects such as “loss of breath,” “blackouts,” “heart attacks,” and in extreme case, “death.” Interestingly, Johnnie Walker, since it is aware of the fact that the consumers maintain knowledge about alcohol/hard liquor, the ad is trying to eliminate such knowledge. However, by introducing “rich” socialite’s life-style in its ad, Johnnie Walker is suggesting a different meaning to the product that the product, aside from the possible harmful effects it can bring, actually fits into our lifestyle (“Lifestyle format”), especially for those who are already a member of such “high society” that they utilize the product already in their parties (“Personalized format”).

I think lp1082 made a very interesting observation when he/she says ‘The hyperpoblic depiction of the important man’s life, using words like “leverage, portfolio, and fiduciary,” pokes fun at the idea that scotsch is only for such apparently stuck-up people, aiming to help the “less important” be able to relate to the commercial.’ There are several elements, as mentioned by lp1082, that reveal that this ad is trying to portray seemingly lifestyle of a “high society”; however, such overt portrayal makes the viewers laugh. The ad “trying” to sell the lifestyle of a prosperous, male socialite; however, this ad may not seem very appealing to the “high capital consumers” or “cultural elites” who are attracted by high artistic quality, vagueness, cultural values in ads. For those who retain “high cultural capital” generally share “affluent, educated and diverse” backgrounds. The ad’s efforts to appeal to such readership is because such prosperous, affluent lifestyle maybe shared by those with high cultural capital. The main focus of the ad centers on the male character, who is a wealthy, “party-going” businessmen, who seems like he can have high cultural capital and tastes. Nonetheless, the ad fails to appeal to the intended audience because the ad is too blatant about the desirability of high society and tastes. The “high cultural capital” consumers are greatly interested in cultural, sophistication, connoisseurship, aesthetics and quality rather than how the goods will elevate their financial and social status in a society. It is because, they are already aware of and has almost already forgotten about the fact that they belong to the “affluent and elite” category. Their core interests are not based on “prosperity” or “to show off” but rather becoming “tastemakers” in a society and “culture advocates.” “Rich,” “freedom,” “upper class” are tags that automatically follow the “culture advocates” or “tastemakers.” Even though the ad does not reveal the price of one bottle of Johnnie Walker, it pretty much puts out there that the product belongs to “upper class” businessmen and his acquaintances. 

Therefore, I think the ad successfully incorporates different adv formats that may expand their audience group and outreach. However, the ad may have failed to appeal to their principal, focus audience demographic, which are consumers with high cultural capital.

Work Cited:

Leiss, William, Stephen Kline, and Sut Jhally. “Mobilizing the Culturati.” Social Communication in Advertising: Persons, Products & Images of Well-being. London [etc.: Routledge, 2005. N. pag. Print.

As I was looking up ads, I came across this interesting Google advertisement that was aimed for Japanese consumers. The ad is called “Fashion show with Google.” This ad caught my attention because it retained numerous interesting functions. And in this blog post, I want to write about different functions of an ad through this advertisement by Google. There are are largely seven different functions of advertisements as discussed in class: 1) Information given out to consumers 2) Fitting Goods into our lifestyle 3) Pre-shopping research for consumers 4) Humanization of corporations 5) Presents new Social Values 6) Formation of imagined communities (ex: creating an invisible connection with other consumers that are purchasing or utilizing the same product) 7) Democratization of luxury. And “Fashion show Google” retains all seven functions.

First of all, the ad does not present the consumers with basic information such as ‘What is Google?’ or ‘How do we use Google?’ because Google, being one of the largest search engines, already assumes that their users are already familiar with how to get to Google website and what we use Google for. This is also a very interesting factor because it indirectly depicts our current “Information Generation” that lives in an “Internet-surrounded” environment. Google gives its consumers information on how we can employ Google in a different way rather than merely typing in words to gather information.

With the help of Google, we can host a “fashion show” in our own homes.

Google itself would not be called a luxury good that brews envy and desire in people; however, the concept of “fashion show” maybe different. When we imagine what a “fashion show” is like, we picture beautiful, glamorous models walking in and out with the new Chanel or Marc Jacobs spring collection across the runway. And Google is telling its users that they don’t necessarily have to be those skinny models or own a Louis Vuitton bag to host a fashion show. Democratization of Fashion Show! With the help of Google, fashion shows can be held in your apartment. And this Google ad can also be a free advertising for some “fashion” brands because Google-users, who are trying to have a fashion show in their rooms, are going to search for clothes and bags on Google, and this physical clicking is “Pre-Shopping research.” This research may not necessarily for Google (because we would not Google, “Google”) but we are searching for consumer goods via Google.

This “democratization of fashion shows” assign both new social values and reinstate old values to the brand. People generally conceive web-surfing as an individualistic activity. All you need is a computer, an Internet router, and yourself. However, this ad suggests that web-surfing can be a group activity involving your friends and family. Furthermore, this introduction of new concept and role of Google being a group and social activity may function as “Humanization of Corporation.” Some web-users criticize search engines like Google that they are secretly collecting our information or we can literally search anything on Google that are sometimes detrimental to our lives such as ‘How to commit a suicide painlessly?’ Nonetheless, the ad, by proposing another “benefit” of Google, which is that it can be fun group activity, may create “humanizing” effect of Google, inc. In this ad, you see bunch of girls that looks like they could be friends having fun in a very casual setting. Interestingly, however, the ad also restores some old values of Internet–“You can be “anyone” online.” The models in the ad, having a fashion show, changes their outfit multiple times: cheerleader outfit, Kimono, cat, masquerade, etc. The Internet, specifically Google, not only allows you to be anyone online but also gives you new outfits in real life so you can be a different person in reality. And this can be another ad function, “Fitting goods into lifestyle.” Being participants of Information Era, we are exposed to the Internet daily. And almost every Internet-user realize that they can have a different identity in online-world. However, we can utilize the Internet to host a live fashion show in our rooms and during that fashion show we are allowed to tweak our identities a little by wearing different clothes and accessories.

The primary target audience of this ad are Japanese people. The entire ad is ran in Japanese and perhaps without the Google logo at the end of the ad, some non-Japanese audiences may have not recognized that it is an ad by Google. However, although the ad is produced for mainly Japanese audiences, foreign audiences can comprehend the plot and what the ad is trying to deliver and pitch to its audience since “fashion show” is not distinctively “Japanese” culture. This reciprocation and comprehension by both Japanese viewers and other viewers create an invisible global connection between them–“Formation of imagined communities.” It is a pretty smart move of Google that this community further strengthen the brand as one of the largest and most global Internet search engine.

Image

This is an ad by a popular yoga outfit brand lululemon athletica and I want to present a semiotic analysis of this ad. There are different parts to semiotic analysis and first, we have to figure out the “signifiers,” which are “the material vehicle of meaning” in order to figure out what they “signify” or what they mean (Leiss, Kline, Jhally, and Botterill 164). Some “signifiers” that can be located in this ad are: the female model, Aarona Pichinson, performing a seemingly high-level yoga position in an organic setting, the spandex brand Lycra logo, a slogan that says “You either have it or you don’t” and two texts, “Aarona Pichinson lululemon Ambassador” and “When lululemon atheltica is powered by Lycra, it fits our body and your lifestyles too.” The next step is to analyze what these signifiers “signify”; in other words, what meanings to they try deliver to the ad viewers.

The text “Aarona Pichinson lululemon Ambassador” delivers a pretty straightforward information to the audience that a person named “Aarona Pichinson” is lululemon athletica’s ambassador or model. And after receiving this information, some viewers may throw a question such as ”Who is Aarona Pichinson?” It is because Aarona Pichinson is not a “well known” public figure as Brad Pitt or President Obama to most people. However, for those who practice yoga and retain some knowledge about yoga may recognize Aarona Pichinson as a popular yoga instructor. So, the ad, by choosing Aarona Pichinson and appointing her as the brand’s model narrows the brand’s targeted audience to the members of the yogi community. Therefore, to such narrowly targeted audiences, the model Aarona Pichinson can signify legitimacy and trustworthiness of the brand and the product. And Aarona Pichinson is just blankly standing there but is doing seemingly difficult yoga position in an organic setting. This can further add the legitimacy and trustworthiness to the product, the yoga outfit, by giving the audience an impression that with the help of yoga outfit that she is wearing, she is able to do some “crazy” and high-level yoga positions in a seemingly exotic, nontraditional (not in a typical yoga studio), and natural setting that looks like as if she is in India, the birthplace of Yoga. The purple Lycra Logo may represent high elasticity of lululemon atheltica’s yoga clothes because the clothing material is a high-quality spandex, “Lycra.” The slogan “You either have it or you don’t” is an interesting one because it reflects yoga philosophy—”you either can enact the posture and sustain or you don’t—which can be identified by the active yogis. The slogan, while embedding such philosophy, is urging the viewers to take an immediate action and purchase the product. Last but not least, the text “When lululemon athletica powered by Lycra, it fits our body and your lifestyle too” suggests that wearing lululemon athletica yoga clothes can not only help you with your yoga skills but will also imbue vitality to one’s lifestyle. Such establishment of product to real life connection may increase the consumers’ personal attachment to the product and the brand.

The signifiers and their “signifieds” or “meanings” explained above all hold similar purpose that they assign the brand lululemon athletica with strong sense of legitimacy, trust, consumer loyalty, effectiveness, and high functionality. And these qualities are fairly crucial for brands such as lululemon athletica since the brand’s products are largely sportswear and sport-related goods that require high performance and physical support. Moreover, having similar goals, these signifiers also promote societal norms and values in our society. For instance, presenting a single female model may suggest that Yoga is a sport that is practiced by more females than males, which may not necessarily true. And also Aarona Pichinson is telling her female audience that as women, they should desire such great flexibility. In addition, the ad also promotes individualism and nonconformity that is highly prevalent in our society today. Just like Aarona Pichinson who is performing yoga in “public” not really caring about others’ attention and thoughts, we, as audience, should follow such “carefree” and “liberating” attitude.  

As I mentioned above, the ad is narrowing down its audience to mainly active yoga practitioners and the yoga community. However, not only the ad is pitching to the yoga community, it is also approaching the female audience; because, most likely the female audience will be able to identify what “Lycra” is besides it being a brand name. Since Lycra is a kind of spandex material that is largely used to make women’s bras, the female population would know better and can relate to “Lycra” better than male audiences. Moreover, the ad may grab more attention from upper-middle class that reside in most cities. Sports like yoga or pilates are perceived as more of an city culture than rural or even suburban (Right below lululemon athletica’s logo, there is an information about the opening of the new location in Lincoln Center, NYC). So, city dwellers that are more likely to get exposed to yoga or pilates maybe the targeted audiences for lululemon athletica. Also, yoga, unlike running, is not a free sport that one needs to pay monthly or yearly fee for classes and needs to purchase a yoga mat and other necessary equipments. So, this sport and as well as the brand maybe more appealing to upper-middle class that are more likely to pay for yoga classes, yoga mats, and also the yoga outfits than the lower class.

An alternative interpretation of this ad is that the ad may possibly stereotyping Indians and yoga culture. Even though the ad viewers may not be able to identify the race and ethnicity of the model but to some viewers, like me, she can pass for being Indian or Asian. Having an Indian or Asian-looking model may increase the sense of authenticity of the brand as a yoga outfit brand since yoga originated from India; however, at the same time, the ad is stereotyping Indian and yoga culture by injecting thoughts in consumers such as, ‘Everyone in India should do yoga’ or ‘Yoga is distinctively Indian culture.’