Exercise: Implicit and explicit, pt 1


I’ve split this exercise into two parts: the analysis of existing ads, and the creation of my own examples.

Take a look at recent advertising that involves photographic representation of the human body. Choose two ads where the message is explicit and two where it is implicit. Can you find any that are a combination of the two? Analyse these images in your learning log.


Explicit examples

The ‘Beach Body Ready’ campaign caused an understandable stir when it hit the London Underground in 2015. Accused of ‘body shaming’, the ad went for a very straightforward message of implying that women need to look like this to go to the beach.

By comparison, the Harley Medical Group ad is uncontroversial but also unremarkable. The advertiser is aiming to reassure the viewer, though this is mostly done with the text. The photo is there simply to depict a satisfied customer for the viewer to identify with.

Implicit examples

Both of these ads employ sexual imagery, specifically erect body parts, but for quite different reasons.

The Skoda ad is one of those very ‘clever’ ads that car makers are known for, implying a feature of the product without showing the product at all, rather by showing an outcome that stands in for the product. It’s cheeky and subversive, if objectifying. To be overly pedantic though, the imagery contradicts its own internal logic – it implies that one seat in the car can have two temperature zones (which is not the case), or that the cold air from one side of the car can impinge on the other (which diminishes the feature message). Yes, I’m overthinking this, but it becomes a negotiated reading – I look at it and I think “so as a passenger in a Skoda Octavia I’m going to be half-cold?”.

While the Skoda ad chose to use sex to sell an unrelated product, the Lloyds Pharmacy ad is a very unsubtle attempt at overcoming the fact that the ad is about erectile disfunction, something that can not be depicted directly and must be implied by whether or not one has to hold onto one’s hat…



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