Monday, November 2, 2009

Semiotic Analysis of the BMW We Built TV Ad

The Ad and Some Background Research
The quiet clarity of the guitar picking in BMW’s We Built commercial (Bimmer: We Built) immediately grabbed my attention when I saw it on MadMen. The elegant and attractive work is a .30 TV spot.

The guitar score is lifted from Jackson Browne’s These Days track from the mid-60s. These Days is emblematic of the pop music of that time (Amazon_30_sec) and it has “lasted for decades as a classic of [blue] introspection made even more remarkable by [Jackson] Browne having been only 16 years old when he wrote it.”

Music can stimulate creativity and is also a fundamental aspect of creative advertising. Dr. David Allan (2006, p 435) says the value of music in inspiration as well as its use in creative advertising campaigns is a heightened arousal. Arrangements similar to We Built would seem effective appeals to baby boomers of higher income and education levels. The demographics of this style pop music has a bias for higher income and education levels. Likewise for BMW’s demographics (for example see BNet).

Signifier, Signified and Signs
In this advert there are several signifiers: words and a series of video clips. BMW has captured a fundamental psychological mazeway, according to Zaltman and Zaltman (2008 ,p. 145), the deep metaphor of Resource for automobiles. Deep metaphors are seven unconscious lenses that “shape what people think, say, hear and do.” They are widely used in marketing and if you own a deep metaphor for a category, the way Budweiser owns Connection in the beer market, you have powerful advantages.

Griffiths (2006, p. 3) says that the effects of marketing are based on a reward from the product, and this can include “deeper psychological motivations.” A Resource is an enabler. It is the giver of many rewards.

Since the 1970s, BWM has beat this drum, and kept the same slogan “The Ultimate Driving Machine.” The signified is being enabled with this ultimate machine. There is a sequence of seven video clips that lead up to the presentation of the text, “The Ultimate Driving machine.” The words before each clip say “We did not start out to …” but the unspoken completion from each video sequence is “however, our cars enable it.” The seven sequences in the video are:
  • Mastery (skilled driving)
  • Artistic Expression
  • Subculture inclusion
  • Pop culture inclusion
  • Mastery (racing)
  • Social inclusion
  • We provide the resource (we just make the car)

The sign for the first six video signifiers is an iconic contrast. The words “we did not start out to” form a contrast to the video conclusion. Griffiths (2006, p. 5) notes that contrast can accentuate a sign, in his case individuality, in our case Enabler-ing. The video clips are themselves semblances of various cultural touchstones. Stultz (2009, p. 1) informs us that with iconic signs “the signifier resembles the signified, e.g. a picture.”

The last, 8th scene is a presentation of the text “The Ultimate Driving Machine.” This is a symbolic sign: conventional English words. Stultz (2009, p. 1) again tells us that symbolic signs are culturally specific (like English words) and represent a conventional relationship between signifier and the signified. The BMW machine is our resource to fulfill our desires.

As a final thought, Stultz (2009a, p. 8) informs us that the application of Semiotics to marketing involves more than just signs and symbols. It must also consider social context. The ethos of our generation is different than previous generations. Wallace (1963, p 103) contrasted the Dionysian and Apollonian ethos and the transition he sensed to have occurred. For a quick overview see Dionysian/Apollonian. The desire for the Dionysian is personal experience, while that of the Apollonian is moderation. “The Ultimate Driving Machine” would not have appealed to an Apollonian culture, while it does to a Dionysian.

Allan, David (December 2006). Effects of popular music in advertising on attention and memory.

Griffiths, M (2/16/06). A Semiotic Analysis Of Diesel Print Ads. Retrieved on October 26, 2009 from WVU IMC 625 Week One Readings.

Stultz, Larry (2009). Semiotic Terminology. Retrieved on October 26, 2009 from WVU IMC Week One Readings.

Stultz, Larry (2009a). Lesson 1: What Does Your Idea Look Like? Retrieved on October 26, 2009 from WVU IMC 625.

Wallace, AFC (1963). Culture and Personality. Random House

Zaltman, G and L Zaltman (2008). Marketing Metaphoria. Harvard Business Press.

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