Language of Images

The other day I was sitting enjoying a cup of my favorite hot chocolate at Bouchon’s Bakery to look up and see a huge advertisement on the windows of Armani Exchange. The image was larger than life size of two men and a female, displaying sex appeal at its max with limited clothing and accessories. This then reminded me of Abercrombie and Fitch’s advertisements, as both stores seem to be using the same approach to draw customers in.  As I was experiencing the Armani Exchange advertising campaign, I was reading, Chapter 7 of John Berger’s Way of Seeing, which talks about “Publicity”.  I have read this book many times over the years, as it always enlightens my way of seeing images. Berger’s ideas can be applied and seen in museums, galleries, newspapers, magazines, billboards, ads, painting, photographs etc. In Chapter 7, Berger explains how “publicity” uses the same visual devices shown within historical paintings in order to persuade the viewer of a particular lifestyle. He details how influential messages within images make one reflect on ones own desires to be loved and accepted within society.

Images surround us everywhere, especially now with the speed of technology. This is especially true in NYC, as thousands of images flash before my eyes all the time, everyday.  It starts probably with the AM or Metro Newspaper that is shoved into my hands every morning as I enter the subway.  While waiting for the subway there are billboards for movies, health plans, tv and broadway shows.  Then on the train there are advertisement spaces on each end of the rows of seats along with long ads above, so people standing have something to read and see. The infiltration of images really do work, by making us evaluate every portion of our lives from what we wear, to what we do and see on our free time.  I can tell you I have the L train PBS Comedy Series Make ‘Em Laugh advertisement list almost memorized. “Thank you Tree Huggers.” On the outside of the 7 train: History channel advertisements. Colleges and doctors are in the N, W, R trains. As I get off the train on 34th street I pass Macy’s, Foot Locker, H&M, Starbucks etc to get to work which all have window display cases, more billboards and advertisements. Upon arriving to B&H Photo, Video, Pro-Audio (work), my home page on my Internet browser is MSN.com where a slide-show of images pop up to show different articles to read.  To be honest, laziness has prevented me from changing the home page.  The cycle continues as I leave the office to visit hotel concierges and then proceed home.  It is almost as though “they” (whoever they may be) are saying we are not educated enough, unhealthy and don’t dress to impress. 

So I ask you, what images do you pay attention to?  How do those images make you feel?  What messages within the images do you listen to and act on?

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One thought on “Language of Images

  1. It’s a very interesting topic! Being a marketer, I am acutely aware of ads and study them constantly, so I am severely biased.

    That being said, I don’t watch television, listen to radio or read periodicals. I am in somewhat of a vacuum – except for the internet. But that’s where I advertise, so I scrutinize ads everywhere. I look for engagement, relevance and creativity.

    Last Ad I saw that I remembered was an Adobe Acrobat Ad on a Australian tech site – it used a verb – “Pull here” to turn on the Flash ad, and a celebration of confetti flew out of it to below the ad space, and a product/feature browser came up that was so smartly designed that I refreshed the page 15 times so I could see it again and record it with a screen cap movie.

    And I also love Ways of Seeing – great book! Think it;s time for a re-read!
    Outside of that, I always remember ads that are narrowly focused on things I like and avoid being so general that they exclude me while trying to satisfy everyone. there are so many ad spaces and corresponding demographic data these days that it’s ridiculous to go for broad appeal.

    Bottom line, make me laugh or make me think it’s something I cannot live without (better life equation) and I’ll remember it. When I act on it depends on too many variables to generalize…

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