Is the importance of linguistic content in video advertising diminishing and does this matter?

Maynard says: ‘Chew chew chew chew…’Maynard says chew

This will never not be weird.

It seems to me that whenever we now see an advertising campaign, especially when in the online or video–format, the actual linguistic content and its importance becomes belittled. That’s not to say that the linguistic content of these adverts are not necessary, but rather that the emphasis is placed more on the bizarre imagery of the advert in the pursuit of a viral success.

Bizarre, you say? Take for example the very famous 2009 Cadbury ‘Eyebrow’ advert. This advert was very popular due to its parody-inspiring children moving their eyebrows impressively in time with Freestyle’s `Don’t Stop the Rock’ whilst waiting to have their school picture taken: . A minute later the advert simply ends with `A glass and a half full of joy`; the Cadbury’s slogan  leaving you a little confused and amazed at the same time, especially after seeing the advert for the first time. At this point, you are now more distracted with the fact that you can’t make your eyebrows move that fast and ending up looking like a James Bond impression with a face full of trapped nerves.

My point being that the viral nature of an advertisement is more important than attention to the actual product itself – clearly, dancing eyebrows don’t usually have a connection with chocolate or… fame. It does rather seem that the entire point of the advertisements is more for the conversation afterwards between you and your friends:

`Have you seen that eyebrow advert? `

All of Cadbury’s adverts since 2009 this eccentric all-purple approach following the success of the eyebrows adverts (on fleek?) from men in tiny purple cars to hairdressers smashing chocolate. The entire purpose of the advert is to baffle you with a minute or less of strangeness so that you feel like you have to talk about it to everyone you know.

eyebrows on point

Eyebrow game strong?

Another good example is 2010’s `Maynard says chew`, an advert for Maynard Wine Gums; There is actual speech in this advert however, it consists of only one word; Chew. This ad follows people about their normal day-to-day business before they encounter a stuffed moose head which then proceeds to hypnotise them into chewing their wine gums as if he’s the long lost touchy-feely cousin of Futurama’s Hypotoad.

laser owl

Laser owls!

Fast forward 5 years and this is still a very popular advertising method. See Ribena’s new ad, `You Can’t Get Any more Ribenary`: As some of the many features of this advert is owls shooting lasers from their eyes wearing helicopter hats and I think you would agree this ad is of a similar bizarre calibre. In fact, the advert is so busy with flying blackcurrants, owls and bunny rabbits that it makes the ad easier to re-watch. The most-catchy aspect is definitely the music and after watching it 15 times, you’ll be humming the nonsensical lyrics too– zoobydoo zoobydoo…

Adverts have always had an air of oddness to them at points, but the influence of the internet and social media sharing has had to have had an effect. Perhaps with the rise of social media and the influence of the internet on commercialism, the visionary aspects of an advert have the most effect and this is just the winning format for success.

With this in mind, can it really be said to be a bad thing and does it actually matter? Often the more bizarre an advert, the more entertaining it is, the more likely it is to receive a positive response. What the ever changing nature of adverts does bring is new levels of creativity and diversity to advertising and a real-world scenario where a marketing executive can seriously suggest, `yeah, but what if the owls also shot Ribena-emitting lasers from their eyes? ` What’s not to like about that?



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Yo, Baby White!

Names have always put me in a bit of a quandary. I’ve never been one for nicknames, unless I’m being highly sarcastic (which if you know me well, is in fact most of the time). ‘Imogen’ seems to be abbreviated to all kinds of horrors; ‘Imy’, ‘Imo’, ‘Imy-G’, even ‘Starkinator’. I recall one time being mistaken for an ‘Emma-Jane’, but I’ll save that complaint for a future post. Being blessed, or perhaps cursed, with a surname like Stark, it’s difficult for me to stray from the world of Iron Man and Game of Thrones. Whilst I appreciate the witty nature of the pop culture references, the many times I’ve been asked if Tony was my dad or if winter is coming can get a little repetitive.

To be honest though, I’ve gotten away quite lightly with Stark. My other names (Imogen, Laura and Elizabeth) are all pretty standard these days, despite that they’re so ridiculously posh. Occasionally, I come across someone who compares me to the infamous Imogen Thomas from Big Brother. Just brilliant. (Please do not sing her jingle to me. Ever.)

Consider the poor sods who’ve been named after Disney’s latest fad, Frozen. Whilst Anna has been acceptable for quite some time, Elsa’s on the rise, and who’s to say whether or not a little Olaf will make an appearance soon?

Any Game of Thrones fan will know that Khaleesi and Daenerys are popular girl’s names since the series has hit new heights. I’ll admit that I quite like the two but I can’t imagine a world in which my daughter is called Daenerys Stark. Imagine the uproar about Targaryen vs Stark!

My largest disgust with baby names and pop culture stems from Peppa Pig. Any child named Peppa has now most likely been named after a pig. A cartoon pig. Who snorts. A lot. Really?!

However, I don’t have much opposition to Hazel, Augustus and Isaac from The Fault In Our Stars, probably because John Green is a literary god and any name his characters don will be acceptable. Likewise, Piper from Orange Is The New Black to me is fine… if you want your child to be known as the pretentious drug trafficker who had pie thrown for her. If OITNB is as popular as we think it is, are we going to see names such as Poussey and Crazy Eyes on the rise? Maybe Chocolate and Vanilla Swirl or Dandelion will make an appearance in future primary school registers.

Will Anastasia and Christian follow suit bearing in mind the unfortunate popularity of the recent 50 Shades franchise? Imagine knowing your name was chosen all because your Mum (or more worryingly, your Dad) read some cheesy sex novel?

Most importantly, can we just take a minute to think about the prospect of a baby Walter White or a little Jesse? Psycho Skyler and purple-obsessed Marie? Think about a young Hank whose first word would most definitely have to be “minerals”.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that most names these days have any number of connotations to some kind of pop culture reference, whether it be positive or negative. I’d be curious to find out the name of the next person you meet; think of any pop culture reference possible that’s related to their -perhaps unfortunate- name. Let me know in the comments if it tickles you!

Imogen Stark

What’s the measure of size zero?

tape measure

At 5’10”, I, Imogen Stark, stand tall and proud in saying that I have a ‘size zero’ waist. Defined by the fashion modelling industry as being between 22 and 24 inches, my waist is smaller than the circumference of my head. Whilst this may sound absurd, I can assure you it is 100% true. Is it wrong of me to be so proud of my measurements? How does this incredibly small size define me?

Recently, fellow linguist Jade posted about her opinions on the term ‘plus size’. For me, it raises issues at the opposing end of the spectrum: To what extent do measurements matter? How do terms such as ‘size zero’ and ‘skinny’ project certain ideas?

The term size zero in itself simply doesn’t compute with some people; how can a size be nothing? Is it even a real size? If not, when are you considered a ‘size’, or perhaps more interestingly, a ‘plus size’?  If we feel the need to use the term plus size, then does it call for an opposing term? What about “negative size” or “minus size”? Are the connotations which follow from these latter terms any better than those which follow from plus size? Consider victims of eating disorders and those who, like myself, are naturally slim.

It’s important to remember that these are of course, gendered terms and are hardly ever used to refer to men. Would defining a woman by her size as they do for men by using S, M, or L be better, or should we follow the common tendency for plus size women to refer to themselves as ‘real’ or ‘natural’ women? I quite clearly don’t fit into the category of being ‘plus size’ so does that mean that I’m not a ‘real’ woman? Should I not embrace my naturally slim figure? Should I be shunned for feeling confident about my size? I understand that there’s an audience who feel a stigma confronted by labels presented to them when shopping for clothes, but I can’t help but feel that there’s an ever growing judgement on those at the ‘skinny’ end of the spectrum. Take a Victoria’s Secret model, for example. Are they ‘real’ women? Should they be confident in their size? They’re not holograms; of course they’re real women. Of course they should be confident.

Whilst the terms ‘real’/’natural’ women aim to show respect and that size doesn’t matter, think about what you’re doing to those women like me at the opposing end. If you’re not happy to use the term ‘plus size’, would you be happy in using the term ‘negative size’ to refer to me? Am I to be considered a ‘real’ woman? What’s the measure of a so-called ‘size zero’ woman like me?

photo credit: Day 22/365 via photopin (license)

What’s in a label?

By Jade Cook

Cosmopolitan Magazine recently posted an article featuring Remi Ray and why she’s embracing the term ‘plus-size’. In the article Remi confronts the term and explains why she’s not ashamed of the label and I agree with her; it’s not the label that causes upset, it’s the connotations it carries and the way society has attributed such an undercurrent of negativity to the term. Nowadays, the label itself is bypassed with the recipient fixating on what the speaker might have ‘really meant’. Meaning is existing in the subtext rather than the text itself – and this is the problem.

It’s undeniable that, in today’s society, there’s a certain stigma attached to being deemed ‘bigger than average’. The problem here, of course, is the definition of ‘average’ according to today’s media. The beauty industry as a whole isn’t representing actual average sized women; it’s representing an average where ‘size zero’ is one end of the spectrum and where a size 10-12 model is ‘plus-size’ if she is part of a campaign fronted by a major fashion house. This makes their version of an ‘average’ sized woman at around a size 6-8, which is part of the reason that it’s unhealthy for every woman to compare themselves to this one standard of beauty and feel that they are lacking in themselves if they cannot compete.

What I cannot stress enough is that this is neither a pro-curves article, nor an article in support of size zero. This is an article that is in support of women, an article that is asking why we are allowing labels to dictate not only how we view ourselves, but also how we view each other. If a woman is naturally ‘thin’ by label, with her hipbones slightly visible and her collarbone protruding she’ll be treated by society as though she has an eating disorder of some kind that allows her to maintain such a figure. If a woman wants to lift weights, challenge her body and build her strength she might reasonably be labelled ‘strong’, but then she’s criticised for being ‘masculine’ – and as a woman, this is of course grounds to be deemed ‘unattractive’, right? Any woman who labels herself ‘curvy’ is accused of implying that she is the epitome of  ‘a real woman’, thus making any woman who isn’t curvaceous feel like she’s being called out for not being a ‘real woman’. The implications of labels are never explicitly said, but because of our incessant need to compare and judge people by what they are or what they are not, we take it that any attributes we lack ultimately make us less of a person, when they don’t.

Think of it this way: When we die, nobody writes in our eulogy what our hip to waist ratio was, nobody remembers us by the body shape we had, nobody defines our character based on the number on the scales – because it’s not important. All that labels are doing is telling somebody one quality of what we are to the naked eye; it is the connotations that we’ve associated with each label that are skewing their meaning. The labels themselves say nothing about our character, nothing about the depth we have as individuals, and yet we allow their use and how we interpret them to hinder the way we view ourselves in our entirety. Young women need to be taught the difference between the label ‘fat’ and ‘having fat’ – something that the human body cannot survive without. We should be educating women that the number on the scales takes into account the blood in your veins, the weight of the organs keeping you alive, the cells that created the body you live in, the bones and muscles that allow you to walk, run, dance and move and the water that hydrates the skin you should feel comfortable in; the kilograms in the reading are not just ‘fat’.  If we learnt these connotations rather than the negative ones usually associated with the label, perhaps ‘fat’ would lose its power in encouraging us to self-loathe.

If we can accept that no two women desire the exact same lives, careers, partners, friends, adventures or possessions, then why can’t we embrace that they do not desire to look exactly the same either? We have spent years trying to empower women, trying to encourage them to see themselves as equals. We’ve told women to believe in their ambitions and to fight for what they want. Now it seems we are reversing our hard work by disempowering them with not the labels, but the house of negative associations we’ve built and continue to build around each one.  Now every label that doesn’t have the connotation of ‘perfection’ is subliminally saying ‘you aren’t good enough’, ‘your size is holding you back’, ‘you should be ashamed if this label applies to you’, ‘your weight overshadows anything you achieve’ – where is the sense in that?  We’re creating a generation of women who are never content with who they are, women who feel they are constantly required to better themselves aesthetically.

As Remi Ray stated in her interview, ‘It’s not the vocabulary that’s standing in our way, it’s how the plus-sized community is perceived by the public (and more importantly, by its own members).’

So I stand to call an end to giving this issue anymore airtime, for the sake of the women suffering at the hands of these apparent ‘meanings’ that are encoded in every label, ready to dictate to them on some level that they are inadequate. For the sake of the pre-teens who’ve yet to discover the scale of this war on size we’re currently in and for every person who has fallen victim to the bullies in school corridors or work places, on the streets or in the club, who believe it is their place to tell you why you’re one thing and not another. What I find saddening is that we’re the ones falling victim to this process of comparison, we’re the ones inferring what each label means, therefore we are effectively the only people responsible for the power each label now has.  ‘Curvy’ only means you have curves in the outline of your body, it doesn’t mean ‘a polite way of saying you’re overweight’ the same way that ‘athletic’ doesn’t mean ‘lacking femininity’ and ‘plus-size’ doesn’t mean ‘fat and disgusting’.

Pity those who cannot embrace the beauty of difference and think of the misery they will endure for as long as they are fixated with conforming to one standard of beauty. If I can leave you with any thought at all it would be this:

If tomorrow, women woke up and decided they really liked their bodies, just think how many industries would go out of business.’ – Dr. Gail Dines.