The Bridgestone Semiotic Advertising

There can be little doubt as to the effectiveness of Bridgestone “Scream” TV ad, because commercial’s semiotic message was designed to appeal mainly to the “collective subconsciousness” of a targeted audience. The closer review of this particular TV ad, reveal its semantic meaning as such that is being conveyed to viewers on semiotic levels of denotation, connotation and myth, even though that ad’s denotation appears to be deliberately underdeveloped. In this paper, we will aim at substantiating this thesis at length, while exposing the actual mechanics of how ad’s semiotics affect viewers’ perception of Bridgestone brand name.

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As we have mentioned in introduction, denotation is the weakest of all three elements of semiotic appeal, contained in the clip, which can be explained by particularities of this commercial advertisement’s format. Bridgestone ad was specifically designed to be shown on TV (in America, running a commercial on one of popular TV channels, during prime hours, often cost and much as $50.000 per second), which implies that it must be capable of instantly winning audience’s attention, in order to justify its high operational costs. However, clip’s denotation, which can be formulated as follows: “The quality of Bridgestone tires is nothing short of supreme”, can hardly be referred to as particularly memorable. There are absolutely no rational reasons for customers to prefer buying Bridgestone tires, as opposed to tires manufactured by this company’s competitors, such as Dunlop of Goodyear, for example, simply because tires are not a high-tech or objectively unique product. This is the reason why designers have made a point in minimizing ad’s logical appeal (denotation). Nevertheless, this appeal can still be easily identified as such that consists of verbal, textual, and visual components:

  1. The commenting statement: “For drivers who want to get the most out of their cars – it’s Bridgestone or nothing”. Given the fact that this remark is being expressed in the form of categorical imperative, producers expect viewers to accept it rather uncritically. The voice of a person that comes up with the statement sounds very manly (nobody really wants to argue with someone who sounds like an authority figure), which strengthens ad’s “voice from authority” effect.
  2. The logo “Bridgestone”, which appears on the screen at the end of the clip.
  3. The actual sight of how car, equipped with Bridgestone tires, handles in extreme situations.

The analyzed Bridgestone commercial is the example of a TV ad, where the semiotic element of myth plays a crucial role, within a context of increasing the power of ad’s emotional appeal. In its turn, this myth can be described as such that derives out of the concept of euro-centricity and out of the idea that White people (with all their existential values), still remain the masters in this country. The following, is our deconstruction of a socio-cultural myth, upon which designers had built commercial’s ideological premise:

  • The image of squirrel, holding on to a nut, implies “cuteness”. However, it is important to understand that it is namely White people, which are being instilled with the inborn moral taboo against killing the animals they consider cute or the ones that are being commonly perceived as pets. For example, Chinamen think of cats and dogs as simply a food, with the thought that the apparent cuteness of these animals should protect them from being killed, never occurring to them. Therefore, the Bridgestone “Scream” ad can actually be referred to as such that was meant to target a racially defined audience – particularly, White people, simply because it facilitates these people’s subconscious anxieties. Moreover, Bridgestone ad contains many clearly environmentalist undertones (featured animals scream in unison with bug-eyed, hysterical White woman), which can only have one meaning – apparently, commercial’s producers were well aware of the fact that, in recent years, it is particularly decadent Whites that were becoming increasingly attracted to a philosophy of “New Age” (“spirituality”, “environmental friendliness”, “closeness to earth” etc.). In other words, ad’s ethos (myth) corresponds to the fact that, up until comparatively recent times, White people’s psychological anxieties served as the basis for designing socio-political policies in Western societies. Deep inside, these people still believe that this continues to be the case, even though that they are being turned into a minority in their own countries, as we speak (“celebration of diversity”). However, their subconscious belief in their superiority is nothing but a myth. While understanding this perfectly well, the producers of “Scream” ad had taken an advantage of such their knowledge, in commercial context of this word, by adjusting ad’s emotional appeal to how Whites perceive a surrounding reality.
  • Another proof as to the presence of myth of “euro-centricity” in “Scream” commercial is its apparent sexism. The image of a woman, sitting beside the man who drives a car, fits perfectly well into traditional, euro-centric perception feminine “soft” virtues as representing lesser value, when compared to masculine “hard” virtues. It is not a secret that the overwhelming majority of men (specifically White men), continue to think of women as very “cute”, but highly irrational and even hysterical beings, who are simply incapable of relying on their sense of rationale, while facing existential challenges. In fact, even Christianity (traditionally White religion) fully supports such sexist attitudes, on the part of men. Therefore, it is not simply an accident that the woman, featured in “Scream”, screams in a similar manner with owl, deer, rabbit, mouse, turtle, and even some bug – apparently, producers wanted to degrade this woman to the level of animals (and even insects!), in order to adjust ad’s commercial message to traditionally White concept of “family living”, as such that implies the existence of separate social roles for wives and a husbands, when husbands are being put in position of making executive decisions and wives are being expected to act as husbands’ “aids” rather then the “life time partners”. This is the reason why, after having listened to his wife’s (girlfriend’s) screams for a while, the driver simply drives around the nut holding squirrel, with the sarcastic smile on his face, as if he wanted to say: “stop screaming you stupid woman – I’ve got everything under control!”. This serves as an indication that Bridgestone ad exploits the myth of male superiority, in which majority of White men and women continue to believe even today.

Bridgestone commercial’s connotative semiotics can be easily identified, due to the fact that it is namely the utilization of contextual meanings, associated with images contained in the ad, which adds to clip’s overall dramatic appeal:

  • The image of a squirrel that sits on the road, while being hypnotized by the sight of a fast moving car, implies tragedy. In other words, two seemingly unrelated images (car and squirrel); create a connotative meaning, when put together. The same can be said about the image of an owl, which looks particularly ominous – owl is a night bird, and the sight of an owl being active during the daytime has been traditionally thought of as a bad omen.
  • The car, featured in advertisement is a Saab. This auto-manufacturing brand is particularly popular among White yuppies that profess Liberal values. These people are known for their escapist social attitudes. For example, White yuppies prefer residing in secluded White suburbia as such that features “better schools” and “safer living”, while lacking the courage to admit even to themselves that they are not particularly fond of “celebration of diversity” policy. In its turn, social escapism automatically implies existential weakness, on the part of those who practice it. Therefore, it is absolutely natural for weak people to continuously seek strength, which they usually associate with the ability of be in full control of their lives. Thus, the image of a Saab car that handles particularly well corresponds to these people’s subconscious longings. The connotative message, which viewers perceive from being exposed to Bridgestone ad can be formulated as follows: “putting Bridgestone tires on your Saab will put you in control of your car, which is the first step towards taking control of your lives, and maybe even reclaiming your country back!”.
  • The logo of “Bridgestone” is being shown together with the logo of “NFL”. Such visual composition connotes that the notion of toughness should be associated with Bridgestone tires as much as it is being associated with American Football. In other words, viewers are being encouraged to construct a logical sequence “manliness-toughness-quality-Bridgestone” and to resort to this mental construction, every time they decide to buy new tires.
  • The driver in the car has a short haircut and is wearing a leather jacket, which suggests that he is no stranger to “street realities” (this explains why he radiates confidence). In its turn, this implies that equipping their cars with Bridgestone tires will not only enable male drivers to impress their girlfriends and wives with their driving skills, but also may set them on the path of becoming “real men”.
  • Car’s color is white. This strengthens ad’s effect on targeted audience, which we have earlier identified as middle-class White people, because it actually awakens these people’s racial consciousness, even though they do not even realize it.
  • The action takes place amidst some heavily wooded area, although we cannot refer to it as being simply a forest. Such wooded areas are typical within east-coast upscale White neighborhoods. Apparently, ad’s producers we well aware of what corresponds to White yuppies’ dreams of a future. As we have mentioned earlier, as soon as these people can afford it, they move into secluded White suburbia (preferably into the one that features a breathtaking natural scenery), where they can enjoy the privacy of fashionable living. Thus, the natural scenery, featured in the ad, has a clear connotative meaning – it is meant to stimulate audience’s racially defined sense of aesthetics, for the purpose of adding intellectual soundness to clip’s overall commercial appeal.

Before we conclude this paper, we will need to summarize its main points: a) Bridgestone “Scream” TV ad is meant to target specifically White audience. b) Advertisement contains clearly defined racist and sexist undertones. c) Advertisement’s appeal relies on continuous existence of socio-political myths, which derive out of cultural and ideological legacy of euro-centrism.

Bibliography

Hall, Stuart “Critical Dialogues in Cultural Studies”. NY: Routledge, 1996.

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Peirce, Charles Sanders “Collected Writings”. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1958.

Mukhopadhyay, Samhita “The White Stuff”. 2008. The American Prospect. Web.

Saussure, Ferdinand de “Course in General Linguistics” (trans. Roy Harris). London: Duckworth, [1916] 1983.

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