The world of advertising is the foundation for how a company communicates its product to the consumers. Here a complex struggle takes place continually to gain the attention, even for a second, of a potential buyer. The footwear industry is no exception, and when combined with the semiotics of today s culture advertising campaigns often are a chore to understand. With a close examination of two ads, we will be able to understand some of their underlying marketing themes more clearly.
Nike Print Advertising:
Nike s advertising campaign has always been one of power, the type that jumps out at the reader and grabs his or her attention. Though their ads receive huge recognition, when combined with the semiotics of today s culture these campaigns often are a chore to understand exactly what the company is communicating to its audience. Fig. 1, One of Nike s print ads depicts the silhouette of a runner under a dark, nighttime background. Surrounded by a light haze and outlined by the white clouds in the sky, the runner demonstrates the ideal of dedication. This image is then overlaid with the words test your faith daily. Although a red swoosh is centered on the runner, this ad lacks the very thing it promotes. The name Nike nor its shoes are not displayed anywhere in the ad. This type of advertising relates many signals to the reader based on the assumption that the reader identifies with the ad. It works much like the images of prominent sports figures dressed in a company s product. The emotional appeal that this ad draws on asks the reader, who is that person running? Left in the imagination of the reader, the ad begins to associate itself to some ambiguous superstar. Then it connects the reader to the ad through the text, your faith. Finally the link is made by a further jump of logic by connecting the reader to the superstar. Marketing strategies like this one are subtle but very real. Having a symbol to relate to a product is a very important ingredient in advertising. It allows a vast array of definitions to be spoken with only a glimpse of an image. The swoosh has acquired meaning and value through repeated association with other culturally meaningful symbols (Nike Culture, p. 17). Many other companies it is difficult to compete with a company whose reputation and recognition are so prominent that only a symbol, the Nike swoosh, is needed to identify the product of such an ambiguous advertisement. According to Fig 2, 93 percent of the people surveyed had been exposed to more Nike ads than New Balance
Nike Television Advertising:
Today many television advertisements are designed like mini-movies, all with character and plot development. Our favorite sports heroes are often the stars in these commercials, such as the Marion Jones series during the olympics. With a bill of $978.2 million last year for advertising expense, it is easy to see that Nike takes its commercials seriously. This effort received an award and added more recognition to the company at this year s Emmy awards. Nike won the award for outstanding commercial--still a relatively new category for the Emmys--with a spot titled The Morning After . (Los Angeles Times) Nike TV commercials often are filled with the same glamour and ambiguity as their print ads. Though Nike Has climbed to the top of the industry in advertising, it still makes mistakes, such as a recent commercial being pulled from networks because it involved a woman being chased by a masked man with a chainsaw.
New Balance Print Ad:
The New Balance print ad takes a much more business like approach to running. By using this format, it connects with the serious runner. The ad itself is divided into two sections. The top picture displays the feet of someone running down a road in the rain. The larger picture below it shows the New Balance shoes and clothing draped across a porch with water still dripping from the rain, the sun now shining across the lawn from behind a blurb that says We make tools for runners. From this the reader is driven to the conclusion that buying these shoes won t make the reader a superstar (like the Nike ad), and it won t make running conditions any better. But the sunshine symbolizes the reward and victory that comes with the hard work and dedication of running. The New Balance brand has grown in recognition rapidly over the past couple of years, and this ad puts the brand and the product s purpose where the reader can clearly see it.
New Balance Television Advertising:
After an intensive search effort, three commercials were able to be located on the Internet for New Balance. Following the same example as the print ad, the TV ads are targeted at someone who esteems running very highly in life. Each ad of the series showed an athlete putting her training above everyday tasks of answering the phone, checking email, or receiving a fax. According to the New Balance web site, the company has spent $13 Million on print and television advertising. Obviously their effort has not been as effective as Nike, but the company relies more on the grassroots advertising and product quality.