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Critical Analysis of a TV Commercial

Selected Ad

The selected ad for this analysis is “Pepsi” ad featuring Britney Spears.

Introduction to the Selected Ad

This particular ad was first telecasted in the earlier part of the decade, when Britney

had become the heartthrob of millions around the globe and an icon in the music industry.

The purpose was to use Britney’s persona and fan following to promote Pepsi and to hoist up

its sales along with leaving a long-lasting memory and impression in the minds of the

audiences. This particular ad is a good example of popular hip-hop culture in modern

America. The use of celebrities has become a much used idea in recent times. Though, the

notion is archetypical but it is actually the frequency and numbers of ads that are using

celebrities define the change in strategy of ad producers and marketers i.e. to increase the size

of their share in this consumer society.

Appeal Used

The appeal used in the ad is the testimonial appeal. The testimonial appeal can be

defined as an appeal in which some very renowned and popular celebrity or public figure(s)

is used to promote or endorse a certain idea, product or service. The purpose behind the use

of appeal is that it is believed that people like to follow in the footsteps of their favorite

celebrities and they associate themselves with whatever these celebrities are doing. In other

words we can hypothesize that people consider these celebrities as their role models, thus the

following.
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Analysis of the Ad

For the purpose of better understanding and comprehension of the ad and the

encrypted message we are conducting different types of analyses of the ad like Semiotic

analysis, Psychoanalytic analysis, Critical Discourse analysis and Paradigmatic and

Syntagmatic analysis.

A brief account of each of these analyses is presented below:

1. Semiotic Analysis

Semiotics is the science of signs. American philosopher Charles Sanders

Peirce (1839–1914) and Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure (1857–1913) are

credited with the development of the field.

The three aspects of signs are icons, index and symbols. The icons are the

visible things that convey the intended message to the selected group of audiences.

The index, which is more sublime and to some extent subjective in nature, is the

casual connection between two things. The probably most important part of the signs

science is the symbol; it is where learning step in. the symbols describes the

convention of the index.

In the particular ad we are discussing, the obvious icon is Britney herself, the

index (though there is none present, but an attempt for developing a relationship is

underway) is Britney along with Pepsi and the symbols are the can of Pepsi and

Britney’s apparel and her cap which are another attempt of reinforcing Pepsi’s name

and logo in the minds of archetypical and potential customers.

The signs are some sounds or images that symbolize any idea or concept. The

sound and images are known as signifier and the concept as signified. Like a hat not

brushed in weeks is an indication of the fact that probably the man’s wife does not
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love him anymore. In the ad under discussion the signs are Britney’s desire for Pepsi

that signifies her addiction with the product.

2. Psychoanalytic Analysis

According to Freud’s structural model of psychoanalysis Id, Ego and

Superego controls our every action and their consequences. The id is founded on

one’s pleasure principle, whereas, ego is based on principles of reality, and the

Superego is actually the moral part and develops gradually due to the ethical and

moral constraints placed on one by the society.

According to my analysis the ad is focusing on both the Id and the Superego

parts, very blatantly on the Id and very subtly and sublimely on the Superego part.

3. Critical Discourse Analysis

“Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) is a special type of discourse analytical

research that basically researches the way social powers of abuse, dominance and

inequality are enacted, reproduced, and resisted by text and talk in the social and

political context. With such rebellious research, critical discourse analysts take

explicit position, and thus want to understand, expose, and ultimately resist social

inequality.” (Van Dijk, Teun A. Critical Discourse Analysis. p. 352)

In the ad under discussion, none of the aforementioned areas are discussed or

hinted in anyway, thus again reemphasizing the fact that for MNCs and global

products like Pepsi, stereotype every customer and treat them as equal and they can

not try to win the hearts of one segment on the expense of any other. That is why no

indication of any type of class conflict can be detected in the ad.

4. Paradigmatic and Sytagmatic Analysis

Paradigmatic analysis is the analysis of paradigms embedded in the text or

other signs (pictures, jingle, taglines etc). This analysis frequently uses commutation
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tests, which is a method in which words are being substituted by those of same type or

class to regulate changes in connotation.

On the other hand, Syntagmatic analysis analyzes syntax (surface or

Syntagmatic structure). This analysis is also conducted by commutation tests.

Syntax, the word has Greek origins (syn, means "together" táxis, means

"arrangement"), can in linguistics be described as the study of the rules, or "patterned

relations" that govern the way the words in a sentence come together. It relates to how

different words can be combined together into clauses, which gives rise to sentences.

Syntagms can be defined as a coherent chain of signs. And Paradigms deals

with sets of signs and also their duality in meanings.

Fig. 1
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Fig. 2

The above presented both diagrams depicts the association of both the

concepts with each other.

In the ad under discussion, the settings of the store filled with the insignia of

Pepsi presents an example of syntax, whereas, the Britney’s presence along with

Pepsi Can is a manifestation of paradigm. The ad does not provide enough to analyze

it on the scales of this model.