When considering this advertisement, the ideas of Goodwin & Whannel (2005) were particularly relevant when they suggest that ‘Messages are socially produced in particular circumstances and made culturally available as shared explanations of how the world works. In other words, they are ‘ideologies’, explanatory systems of belief’. In terms of the surface meaning the photograph denotes several elements including two males, football boots mountains, a green landscape and some flowers. The relationship between these elements may be unclear today. However the circumstances in which the image was produced was a time leading up to the football european championship which was held in England in 1996.
With this in mind, the audience would be able to appropriate these elements and create a preferred reading of an advert for the tournament and its context of a European competition. The elements may be further appropriated to the group of nations who were to be opponents of England. The mountains representing Switzerland, the green space representing Scotland with the flowers representing the Netherlands. The idea of a ‘shared explanation’ may support Goodwin & Whannel’s argument. The Euro 96 word stamp furthers this meaning in addition to providing anchorage to the advertisement and reasoning for the construction of the text which confirms the assumption that ‘captions further not only a gaze, but also an understanding’ (Barthes,1980). At this stage the signs all point to the impending European competition.
When addressing the meanings created by the two subjects within the text, the connotations of the image shift towards a more cultural level as we have the recognisable figure of Alan Shearer wearing a white England kit which is recognisable by the iconic three lions badge which provides the anchorage. However the other man in the image isn’t identifiable with a badge beyond the brand. As the colour of the kit is yellow, we could attempt to attach this colour to a specific country however this may be unstable considering the commercial nature of the photograph. Using my own cultural understanding of these elements the beginnings of a meaning of professional and amature are being formulated.
Moving on to the gestures of the subjects we see the subject in yellow addressing the camera directly with an inviting smile which may be more at home in a tourism photograph as opposed to the second subject (Alan Shearer) who is addressing the second subject with a gesture of bemusement which may suggest the player wearing the yellow strip is an imposter. The final element I will discuss is the advertised product which are the football boots. They are shown on either side by each subject to feed the viewers gaze and need for understanding of how the products look in an evidential nature.
To comment on the preferred meaning of the text, the audience is manipulated to the conclusion that the two subjects both play football although at differing levels of the game. This is a clever idea from the producer as the football boots are associated as a quality product as a result of the endorsement of Alan Shearer, England player. At the same time the presence of the amateur player represents the accessibility of the product to a mass audience.
The broader message that in purchasing the boots, the consumer may become a better football player is created and given substance as Sturgeon & Cartwright, highlight that ‘advertising isn’t situated in the present, rather an imagined future’. Creating agreement with the assumption that the advert suggests ideas about quality and the accessibility of the dream of a future as a good football player.
The secondary elements of the image as discussed earlier serve to place the text within a specific time which feeds in to the impending occurrence of the tournament. Hall (1999, p. 514) offers an appropriate conclusion to the assumptions made about this image in stating ‘By the word reading we mean not only the capacity to identify and decode a certain number of signs, but also the subjective capacity to put them into a creative relation between themselves and with other signs’. The European iconography of countries in the same qualifying group as England, the use of a professional England football player may work to provide the glamour of the product whilst the amateur player with his tourism style gesture creates disjuncture but positions the audience to be able to interpret the messages and produce a preferred reading.
Barthez, Roland (1980) Camera Lucida, London, Vintage.
Goodwin, A. & Whannel, G (2005) Understanding Television. London, Routledge.
Hall, Stuart (1999) ‘Encoding, Decoding’ in The Cultural Studies Reader. London, Routledge.