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How Advertising Tactics Affect the Audience’s Perception

In: Social Issues

Submitted By maureenejacob
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It’s everywhere, in every direction we look. It’s on the way to school, on the benches you see, and even on the fast food cup you purchase. It is unavoidable. It is powerful, and much stronger then we realize. It can manipulate people into thinking a certain way, and even change cultural opinion. What is it? It is none other than advertising. According to CBS News’ Article “Cutting Through Advertisement Clutter”, every individual sees close to 5,000 ads a day. With the right research, look, and design an advertisement has a way of completely changing the way people view a product.
Take Dove for example. Prior to 2004, this international mega brand used advertising tactics much like many other brands were using- skinny models, sexual innuendos, and trendy images. But their products weren’t getting the success they had hoped for. Driven by a declining market share and decreased product sales, Dove decided to take a daring move and add curvier women to their ads. They called their new campaign the “Dove Campaign for Real Beauty.” The campaign, which targeted women of all shapes and sizes, sought to reverse the fabricated idea that all women should be a size 2, with voluptuous lips, perfect hair, and flawless skin. Ultimately, Dove hoped the campaign would change the way their target audience related to its products. This type of advertising was completely new to the worlds of advertisement, and almost critiqued the bias that other ads were portraying; Yet they never could of imagined the campaign would get so much attention, spark heated debate, and be a leading factor in increased market sales and market share.
So how exactly did Dove do all this? One billboard sums up the “Dove Campaign for Real Beauty” in a nutshell. This billboard, which advertises Dove’s skin firming lotion, is just one example of Dove’s newest campaign, which seeks to change the way Dove’s target audience, women, related to their products. The billboard is able to put a certain spin on the skin-firming product by using a variety of tactics and strategies, such as rhetorical details.
One such strategy is hidden in the text of the billboard itself. Advertising is famous for its use of rhetoric language, and the Dove advertisement is an excellent example of using rhetoric to persuade its audience. The words ‘new’ and ‘real’ evoke a feeling of freshness and help persuade the audience to buy the lotion. According to Gillian Dyer, author of Advertising as Communication, the word ‘real’ is one of the most common adjectives used in advertising. “Words such as ‘new’ and ‘real’, not only describe things, but they communicate feelings, associations, and attitudes; they bring ideas to our minds.” (Dyer 1988, p.140). Dyer also states “rhetoric language also carries the implication of extravagance and artifice, not to mention a lack of information.” The lack of information is clear in the Dove billboard. The sentence is abbreviated and simply constructed, which is a common technique among advertisements as to not confuse the target audience with the message.
Another element of the text on the billboard also plays a role of influencing the audience. As suggested by Dyer (1988, P.162), “if the space between words are narrow, everyday use of a product is signified.” One can see that spaces between the words on the billboard are not stretched out and rather narrow compared to the size of the actual billboard. Aside from the textual analysis, an image and design analysis are equally, if not more important in communicating a message about the skin firming lotion. As Dyer also argues, “It is ultimately the images that ads leave us with, and the image of the slogans, not the slogans themselves, that make the ad so successful.” The Image is usually much larger than the text in an ad and involves color; your eyes are meant to go to the image first and if that’s all you look at that is all you will remember.
Every element of the Dove campaign seems to have been strategically placed for maximum impact. The color white, which takes up most of the space on the billboard, is a sacred and pure color. The color can aid in mental clarity, help evoke purification of thoughts and actions, and enable fresh beginnings (Squidoo). The Women’s are also wearing white, plain underwear almost as if their intimates blend with the background. That really reinforces that the women are what we are supposed to be looking at, opposed to the underwear, because that is not what is being advertised. The women aren’t meant to look sexy, like most ads of women in their underwear; they are meant to look natural and beautiful. The color white also has a soothing aspect of it, and helps draw attention of the most important image on the billboard, the six women.
The women are shown wearing only underclothes evoking a feeling of intimacy, self-confidence, and acceptance. The women seem happy, relaxed, and secure. Every aspect of the women from their eye-contact, to their size, to their manner are all involved in the coding process of the ad, which helps to create a message of natural and real beauty. According the Dyer (1988, p.99), ads generally confirm conventions of the ‘ideal type’. However, with Dove showing ordinary women in their ad, a sense of realness and naturalness can be seen. These women have big smiles on their faces and are faced in ways to portray that they are not hiding anything and they are proud and comfortable.
By creating a sense of “realness,” Dove had to consider the elements of connotation. For example, all advertisements are made up of a system of distinct signs, and therefore to make an ad standout, one must use unique images, hence why Dove may have chosen to use unconventional models in their ad (Dyer (1988, p.99)). The six ordinary women, or the signifiers in the ad, lead to the signified, or the message of realness and honesty. This message leads the target audience to think of the skin-firming lotion in a whole new light; something more than the average beauty product, but rather a beauty product meant for real looking women.
Ultimately, Dove’s daring strategy increased their sales and market share (Guardian News). Women were able to connect to the ad, which in turn made then buy the product. The campaign led to the Dove Self Esteem Fund, which gave Dove even more media exposure with the making of YouTube videos and clips on social media. As one can see, Dove successfully turned around their advertising tactics, which led to increased sales and changed feelings toward Dove products. The products were the same beauty products before and after the new campaign, but successful advertising allowed for people to view the products as something totally different. Mass media has a powerful influence over people, and can deliberately control the mass audiences behavior.

Brodbeck, M. and Evans E., 2007. Dove Campaign for Real Beauty Case Study. [Online] Pennsylvania State University, Pa: College of Communications. Available at: <> [Accessed 20 February 2016].

Dyer, G., 1988. Advertising as Communication. London: Routledge.

Guardian News, 2010. Dove: A Clean Campaign? [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 20 February 2016].

Squidoo, 2010. Colour: Meaning, Symbolism and Psychology. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 20 February 2016].

Washington, R., 2008. The New York Times. A Dove billboard with the "real" looking women models. [photograph] Available at: <> [Accessed 20 February 2016].…...

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