Several Years ago I saw a film called “Ways of Seeing”. It was made for the BBC by PEMC and was narrated by John Berger, who gave a very comprehensive and forceful presentation, concerning advertising in England. Berger’s main focus was on bill-board (or poster) advertising and magazine advertising. He showed what a powerful and persuasive medium advertising is and how it can seduce people into buying articles such as perfume, cosmetics, alcohol and cigarettes, among other things. The film showed how the power of advertising can work on a fear within us, and although the purchase of these articles will make us poorer, we are given the impression that we will become richer, in some way, by buying them. It would seem to me this method of advertising has not changed much over the years.
The persons who design the posters very often take the imagery from old oil paintings. The artists of these oil paintings enhanced the self image of the persons in the paintings, but the publicity of today is different, because it appeals to a way of life to which most of us wish to aspire, but which we have not yet achieved. Consequently, persons are led to believe that if they buy things that are advertised, it will change their lifestyle drastically, either in the home, or the place of work or even in a relationship, because of having this new possession.
Very effective and cleverly chosen music was played in the film. Subtle use was made of periods of quietness as well as music that devised atmosphere. There were many instances shown of posters or magazine photographs, in the film in which atmosphere was important. Beautiful women, very glamorously depicted, relaxed or posed in exotic places. Colourful use was made of local backgrounds, which helped to give strong atmosphere to the picture, and to the objects advertised. These pictures can cause the viewer to become somewhat envious, because the model(s) look so glamorous, and to quote Berger “without social envy glamour cannot exist”.
The film made one realize another frightening aspect of today’s advertising – by showing our anxieties about money and by giving the impression that by merely asking for credit at the bank, our money worries will evaporate like magic.
Another impression I got from viewing “Ways of Seeing”, was that poster advertising and the advertising that is mainly in women’s magazines, is perhaps more effective than the advertising shown on Television. This is because the advertisements on T.V. are very momentary, whereas the large and colourful posters, and magazine pictures, can be viewed repeatedly over a period of time.
The film illustrated that when people feel trapped in a very routine way of life, it is important to have a dream, and that advertisements offer a way of being released from the drabness of everyday life. One is given the impression that what is happening to the person in the advertisement, can happen to them, if they purchase what the picture is offering. In fact reality becomes unrecognizable.
Guest Author Bio
Mary was born in London, England, the youngest of four children. Her Mother was widowed when Mary was only one year old. This led to her Mother working long, hard hours at whatever she had the opportunity to do. A lifetime of “making do” and scraping was the only life the family knew and this also resulted in each child having to leave school early to find work. Mary always had the ambition to travel and has visited over fifty countries. In 1967 Mary and her husband Colin emigrated to Canada with their little daughter. Mary is a talented artist who enjoys painting, writing and the challenge of crossword puzzles.
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