Disguised Television Commercial: A Semiotic Approach

Abstract

This research paper applies the practical approach of semiotics for the study of television commercial of Titan. The researcher tried to understand the language used in the advertising in terms of sign, symbol, visual, spoken words, color scheme presented in television commercial. (Mcquarrie, E. F., and Mick, D. G. 1999)The researcher took the campaign of brand Titan in two different ads to understand the ideology of the advertiser and the creative director towards the brand. The researcher tried to understand the factors used in the commercial for catching attention of the target audience. The researcher used the semantics for understanding the approach and language used in the advertising commercials, the mental framework and pictures formed with the use of selective language, chosen visuals and signals used in the advertising commercial. (Correa, D. M. 2011)The researcher tried to draw conclusion on the basis of analysis of the effectiveness of the advertisement. The researcher tried to establish a relationship between the signifier and the signified and interpreted the entire analysis in terms of iconic, referential, emotive and conative values the researcher observed in the entire commercial.  

Introduction

Advertising is a broad area for study. There are multiple dimensions to understand the advertisement in depth .The advertisers try to create an effective ad and they use various techniques to make it more effective in terms of copy , visuals, creative style, structure and  elements used in the commercial. The most important part of the commercial is to use the sign, symbol, design, images, dialogue and the idea of the product or services offered to the customer. (Adham & Randall, 2012) The semiotics used in the advertising helps to interpret the real meaning of advertisement. (Amin & Mahasan, 2014) The study attempts to understand the relationships, bonding, social interactions used in the commercial. The researcher tried to decipher the meaning of brand communication and how they are targeting the customer to make him purchase it. What it portrays in terms of the kind of value they can get from the brand, including emotional value, functional value or social value. What kind of emotion is attached to the commercial and the memories which touch the heart of the customer? (Hajimohammadi, A. 2011). Could the brand succeed in winning the intended customer with the attributes and features shown in the advertising commercials? Were the symbols used in the commercial able to decipher the meaning creatively or not?

The advertising effectiveness lies on the chosen words for the commercial and the visuals. (Amin, S., and Mahasan, S. S. 2014). It has an impact on the target audience and conveys certain meanings. There are two types of denotative and connotative meanings. Denotative stands for the common meaning, the literal meaning, where we evaluate the words and try to understand the meaning we express emotionally. (Mick, D. G., Burroughs, J. E., Hetzel, P., and Brannen, M. Y. 2004) The aim of the advertiser is to use denotative meaning of the advertising commercial creatively. The analysis of advertisement helps the researcher to understand the denotative as well as the connotative meaning and the persuasive appeals used in the advertisements. The researcher can draw some general principles for effectiveness of the advertisement.

In this research study the researcher selected the brand “Titan – Joy of Gifting”. The researcher used semiotic analysis as a qualitative approach to analyze two commercials of the same campaign to understand the emotional appeal and the hidden meaning of the commercial. In both the campaigns the youth was made the target in two very interesting ways. The first ad expresses the ‘joy of gifting’ to the elder as a symbol of respect, love and admiration. The gift is for those we care about and with whom we have shared some beautiful moments. The person is respectable and important in our life. In the second advertisement again the ad targets the youth. In this advertisement the gift is for those with whom we wish to spend beautiful moments ahead. The boy gifts his watch to the girl while proposing her for marriage. The gift is for the life partner, one who is the most important person in our life. The campaign used the emotional appeal beautifully to express the joy of gifting.

Brand Introduction

Tata is India’s one of the leading brand and Titan is the sub brand of Tata.  Titan is the leading producer and retailer of watches, jewellery and eyewear having more than 60% market share in the watch segment of Indian market. Titan had monopoly in the market before entering foreign brands in Indian market. Still Titan is maintaining it’s number one position in the market in watch segment.

Titan has created various campaigns such as ‘Be More’, ‘Break the Bias’, ‘Her choice’. In 2013, Titan decided to bring back and come back to its signature tune bringing back the nostalgia and connecting various generations together. They decided to extend the brand preposition and start a campaign ‘The joy of gifting’ to strengthen the brand’s association with gifting. This particular ad was first featured during the holidays and gifting season and the tagline was apt for the season. This particular ad also stirred up emotions in the audience and connected to the audience on a personal level reminding them of their school days. Titan wanted to come out of its image of Luxury brand, and give it a more common man’s touch. The joy of gifting and farewell during school or college is common to every person, and hence wanted to touch a wide audience with this ad 

OBJECTIVES

  • To know the ideology of the advertiser behind the commercial.
  • To gain knowledge of inherent and hidden idea of the commercial.
  • To study about the deep aspects of the ad using emotional appeal in the commercial.
  • To comprehend the effectiveness of advertisement.

Semiotic Analysis of Titan Advertising Campaign

Brand – Titan Watches,
Tagline – “The joy of Gifting”,
Ad – Farewell to Professor (year – 2013),
Creative Agency – Ogilvy & Mather,
Director – Prakash Verma,
Media Agency – Maxus India

Advertisement I

Ad Description –

The advertisement conceptualized by- Ogilvy and Mather displays the emotional value of gifting.

The format of the ad displays college classroom setup where the professor is writing something on the board and the students are taking notes. a scene of the class, where an old aged professor is referring to the book in his hand and writing something on board in order to teach the college students. Then suddenly, in the left hand corner start banging their desk in a rhythmic manner, few first row students start banging their desks and then the back benches. When the professor looks back they stop. Then the camera focuses on a smiling girl who first looks at the professor and then on those who were banging the desk. Professor then concentrates on his book and starts writing again on the board. The professor turns around to give a warning, and then some students started tapping on their calculators and started scratching their notebooks with pen. The professor turns around once more to see who is disturbing the class. The students started banging their desk again when the professor looks back. The professor doesn’t say anything but is rather confused by the students’ behavior. Then again few students make some sound in rhythm through their calculators. Professor ignores that sound. Then, another bunch of students makes sound by rubbing their pens against their files. Professor looks back again. Simultaneously, few students again bang the desks.

Students then keeps making the sound by sometimes banging the desks in rhythm, through their calculators, by rubbing their pens against their files. The professor keeps looking back.

Then few students from the back rows stand up and hums “boo”. Then the camera focuses on the students using the scissors to make some sound. Then another group stands up and starts making sound by mouth, scale, by banging their desks and rubbing their pens against their files. Eventually whole class stands up and starts making a rhythmic sound that surprisingly reveals the titan signature tune. Professor removes his spectacles and look at the students in surprise and confusion.

Suddenly, a group of students at the back stand up and start singing/humming. Another group of students stand up and start doing the same. Eventually, the whole class stands up and starts singing the ‘Titan Watch’ song (La Lala La). The professor is still trying to figure out what is happening, when a group of other professors enter the class and join the rhythmic procession.

We then see that few other professors enter the class and join the students in humming the titan signature tune. All of this surprises the professor and he watches everyone in bewilderment.

We then see a curly girl from the class comes to the professor with a smile on her face and a book in her hand which reads “farewell”. She hands it over to the professor. He opens the book and finds photos and written texts by all his beloved students and colleagues. He starts to get emotional seeing all the pictures and messages written for him by his students.

Camera focuses on his face where we find that he has a mixed expression of love, sadness and excitement on his face. He then starts reading the texts written on the farewell book. As he turns the page the students end their song, hence ending the background music. The professor reaches a cut out of a watch in the diary where a Titan watch is placed and ‘Thank You Sir’ is written on the bottom of the page. He picks up the watch and starts crying.  Meanwhile, in the background it became completely silent. Everyone started seeing his reaction. He then picks up the watch and becomes emotional. The camera then focuses on the watch where titan was written.

In the end, in the textual format the ad displays “Titan, The Joy of Gifting” and also its logo

The students also get emotional and the background instrumental music of Titan watches starts playing again and everything fades away, with the tagline ‘The Joy of Gifting’ along with the Titan logo comes on a blank screen.

Semiotic Analysis

The ad starts with a serious mood where the professor was teaching the students. Then we hear the thumping sound which signifies that few notorious college students were trying to disturb the class and the professor. This signifies that the students shares a close relationship with the professor and were not afraid of him that he will scold them. Then few other students also join their classmates who were making noise.

After few scenes in the ad it comes out that all the students and colleagues of professor had planned to give him a farewell surprise where they will gift him a titan watch.

This TVC shows that titan watches share a bond of respect and love among different relationships. By watching this TVC we also found out that gifting titan watches makes a long term relationship with people who you love and respect. This TVC also reflects that even the person who is gifting is full of joy and excitement to give the gift.

By looking at the nostalgic reaction of the professor it shows that he was really touched by the gift his students and colleagues gave him. We find that these so many students contributed to buy a single titan watch which depicts that the titan watches are a bit expensive and only the upper middle class or higher class people can afford them. Or like shown in this ad many people can contribute a little amount of money to buy a single watch.

The professor in the TVC is an aged person, which shows that the titan watch owner can be a senior citizen as well. The ad also depicts that you can gift this watch to a person who you share a close and respectful relationship with.

Through this ad, Titan wants to touch the audience emotionally. The respect and love given to the professor by his students just by giving him a Titan watch gives both the sides’ happiness and joy. It touches the target audience of teenagers, young adults and people in their 60’s – 70’s. The diary which was given to the professor along with the watch acts as a memento. With no dialogues, just the pleasant signature tune of Titan conveys the message of gifting and the joy we get out of it if we send or receive a gift, especially a Titan watch. You can see the emotions of both the students and the professor and we can relate to both the sides.   

The simple act of banging on their desk or humming a tune, or laughing can be related by every person as a reminder of their school/ college life and their act of disturbing the teacher/professor. It gives a nostalgic feeling to people. Also, a farewell is an emotional moment in the life of a professor who has dedicated his life to teaching, and receiving an emotional farewell with love and respect by his students along with a Titan watch completes the package.

Signifier

Signified

Professor

Respectable receiver of a gift like Titan Watch

Students

The audience who loves to gift someone whom they care.

Background Music

Provides a nostalgic feeling

Titan Watch

A form of respect and a thank you gift

Calculator

Signifies that a class which includes calculation was going on. Maybe, math’s physics or accounts.

Casual Clothing

Shows that it was a college class scene.

Color of the farewell book

Brownish color gives the feel of royalty and seniority.

Tree made on the farewell book

Shows that it is an old tree which Signifies that the person for whom the book is made is also old in age.

Writing in the book

The italic writing shows the creativity and efforts put by the students.

Tagline, Company’s Name and logo

All these things were written in white color which shows that there is a sense of respect towards gifting this watch. This gift has elegance and royalty which is depicted by the background color on which the tagline and company’s name was written.

Advertisement II: Analysis of advertisement- “Titan-the joy of gifting”

Description of Advertisement

The ad starts with someone picking up the vegetables from a bowl and taking it to another table, followed by someone mixing something in a bowl. It is a girl who is mixing and another girl besides her asks her if that thing was fine to which the first girl replies “taste it”. Later someone’s hands are shown filling up a jar with juice and on revealing it is a guy who looks behind him. It is revealed that he is looking at the same girl mixing something in the bowl. The guy approaches her and they greet each other with a “HI”. The girl asks the guy “what’s up?” to which the guy replies “i have something to say.” To which girl confirms “is it a good thing or a bad thing” and the guy says “a good thing, i hope”. The girls approves him by saying “then say it”.

Nithiya, did you check the bread, right?

lets go and check on that, because it’s already done.”

Comes an interrupting voice and Nithiya follows that girl leaving the conversation in between. Then food being prepared is shown and everybody is busy doing something or anything. Then people sitting around the table are shown talking and chit chatting with each other and the camera shows Nithiya talking to someone and the guy who was talking to her earlier sees a vacant seat near her and sits besides her. She smiles looking at him and then asks him “so, what were you saying?” The guy looks at her and pops her the question “will you marry me?” shockingly surprised the girl asks “what?” to which guy again asks her “will you marry me?”.Nithiya smiles and puts her hand forward and the background music starts. The guy looks at her hand and then looks at her and takes off his wrist watch and ties it to her wrist and laughs. The ad ends with a tagline TITAN-THE JOY OF GIFTING

Semiotic Analysis

The commercial starts with everybody busy making dishes and it seems some get together has been arranged and everybody seems busy and it shows that all people there are independent and they all are just having a great time together, cooking, laughing and running here and there. In the middle of all this two people are able to grab attention of each other, which clearly gives an idea that they know each other already but because they are seeing each other after such a long time that they pass a smile to each other. At starting it seems that the guy is trying to introduce himself but their casual greetings give quite an idea that they both know each other very well.

So the guy continues talking to the girl and he tries to hold a conversation by saying that he has something to say, here it shows that he probably is about share his feeling with her but he is looking for the right time when she will be alone but both of them get interrupted by a third person and the girl goes away. It seems that he likes the girl. Later when everybody is sitting, seeing a vacant seat near her he sits beside her and the happiness of him being able to sit next to her can be seen very well. Meanwhile when the girl asks him again about what he was saying earlier, the guy hesitates first but then suddenly proposes her to which girl looks at him surprised which gave quite a clear idea that though she also liked him but she never expected this question. The girl when asks for the second time as to what he was saying for a confirmation, she forwards her hand in order to say yes and expects that he might give her a ring. To his surprise, he thinks for sometime as he might have thought that she would ask for some time but her instant reply made him think for some time, and then he takes off  his watch and ties it to her wrist, gifting her his watch instead of a ring, and in the last scene both are seen happy. Hence the advertisement justifies itself that titan means the joy of gifting as it ends with showing the happiness of the girl over this act of the guy and showing that whatever be the occasion or a situation there is nothing more better than a TITAN watch as a gift.

Signifier

Signified

People busy in cooking

Get together

Boy and girl smiling

Known to each other

Sitting next to her

Grabbing opportunity to share some beautiful moments.

Giving hand forward

Expectation for a ring

Titan watch

Emotional bonding, replacement of ring

Happy faces

Perfect gift for joy.

Conclusion

In this research study the brand Titan used the emotional coding for presenting brand to the customer. No luxury factor is associated with the brand as the brand is not shown as jewelry in the campaign. The brands focused on a quality approach a gift for someone who deserves the best. The expression in the commercial is based on value coding .A valuable gift for a significant person in life. The sign, symbol, visuals used in the commercial emphasizes on the royalty, quality, value, love and respect.  In this research study the researcher found that the focus is on both the gender male and female .The choice for both the same and there is no significant difference in it. The age group is also not limited. From youth to old age people the choice for gifting is same that is watch –Titan. There is no limitation to any ethnic group or language. The independence is shown in the commercial. The ad expressed that at any mood, emotion, time, ambience , environment , vibes, theme the brand can be selected as a very good option for gifting someone.

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Ms. Ruhi Lal
Asst. Prof. (G-III), Amity School of Communication,
Amity University, Noida.

Dr. Aman Vats
Associate Prof., Amity School of Communication,
Noida.

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