This is a poster for the second season of popular political drama series ‘House of Cards’. The entire first series premiered on February 1st, 2013 on the successful film streaming-service Netflix. Taking a denotative look at the poster we can see a man and a woman, sat back to back on either side of a blood stained chair. There are a few lines of text, including the title at the top. Next to it a mirrored USA flag with the stars missing.
The image is very low lit, and so as a whole looks very dark. This creates a very ominous or ‘moody’ overall feel. The people and the chair in the middle of the poster are also in black and white, making the atmosphere appear serious. The red blood and the flag are the only things in colour, meaning they stand out a lot. The seriousness exemplified by the serious look on the mans face. His face is also totally central in the poster, meaning your eyes and attention naturally gravitate towards it.
I think from this overall feel of seriousness and tension, we can estimate the target audience this poster and show have. I feel it targets an age range of about 18-50, and especially those with any political interest. It is also very clear I think that it is a drama, so those who like slower moving, but more dramatic and intense viewing. Clearly, even despite the blood, we can tell this isn’t an ‘action packed’ or explosive or energetic series, but one that’s meant to have characters with depth and well thought out plots. So these genre conventions, combined with the fact that there is a lot of technical politics, sociology and psychology involves, I think at the least it is aimed at 18 year olds, and is suitable for anyone above that right up to maybe 50s or 60s, it could be called ‘sophisticated’ and will certainly be called clever. I think if you think there’s a stereotype that males are more into political themed creations, then it will be more for males, but I don’t think this is actually the case. The tall, short haired (to me short hair on a woman can sometimes indicate a certain ambitiousness and not wanting to loom ‘made up’ or trying to be simply considered pretty) successful looking woman may give an extra appeal to a female audience.
The chair that the man (who is actually the main character, Francis Underwood, a power hungry politician and possible anti-hero) is sitting in a very wide and chunky armchair. This set-up makes him look big, important and powerful. He is in a smart, posh looking suit, with a chunky watch on his wrist, these things also connotate success and importance.
The woman (who is actually his wife) is dressed in an elegant dress, possibly a ball gown. She looks attractive and slender. The dress only covers one shoulder, leaving the other and a lot of her back exposed, and to me this could imply she may be wanting to look some what voluptuous. I also think it is interesting she is sat facing away from him. She is also actually higher up, which kind of provides a visual juxtaposition, as when you first see Francis in the middle on his great armchair, you think he looks like the dominant powerful one. THough when I looked up to her, I thought maybe she (perhaps more subtly) is actually the one in the position of power. She is facing away from the camera, so maybe this could also insinuate she is less direct with her controlling behaviour, and, with the possible help of her sex appeal, actually likes to manipulate passively rather than dominate openly. I think this is a very clever set up, and at the very least it creates an air of mystery and intensity.
So the representation of both these people are high-flying, high achieving, glamorous, sophisticated people. And we can get all of this from just the dimly lit picture of them both. It is certainly glamorized, as it is generally the sort of lifestyle many people wish to have, especially the sort of audience this poster and the show will appeal to.
I think the blood on the chair connotates that Frank’s ‘hands are dirty’. He is possibly willing to commit malicious acts to get his way. It could allude to actual blood getting split in the storyline, it’s something we won’t know as a viewer of this poster, until we watch the show. This is therefore effective because such a simple bloodstain draws us in, makes us want to know the depths of the darkness and sin these characters produce. It also combines effectively with the villainous set up of Francis in the chair, and the black and white. I am entirely sure what is supposed to be symbolised by the mirrored, starless USA flag, but it works well visually and once again creates an enigma.
The tagline to the left of the two characters reads ‘There are two kinds of pain.’ This immediately gets us speculating as to what is meant by this, what are the two kinds of pain? Again this fuses very well and amplifies the mysteriousness of the blood on the armchair. The text at the bottom of the screen lets us know when the show will be airing, and reminds us it is ‘only available on Netflix’. This is a good marketing ploy for a streaming service, to have exclusive and original shows. With all the intrigue bolstered into this poster, it is very likely people are going to want to at least try out watching the show, which to do you have to sign up for Netflix’s monthly subscription. I also expect what they hope happens is people sign up with only the intention of watching this show and then canceling, but when they are drawn in by all the other great content on the site, they just continue subscribing forever.
Narrative structure, is the way that a media product is ordered, the way the ‘story’ or sequence unfolds. Different mediums and genres will often use different narrative structures. Narrative structures can almost always be categorized into at least one of these groups:
open: Open narrative structures are ones that leave the story unresolved. Often it will indicate or mewan there is more content coming (the sequel, next episode etc.). The cliched open-ended narrative structure is called a ‘cliff-hanger’, meaning it leaves the characters suspended (like on the edge of a cliff) and we don’t know if they’re going to survive. It makes us want to come back to see it resolved.
closed: A closed narrative structure does just the opposite of open, it concludes the story. Closed will mean there are no longer any ‘loose ends’, everything has been resolved. News stories should always be aiming to be closed, unless more events take place that mean the story must be returned to. But generally they will want to wrap up all the details, and summarise all that has happened to conclude.
multistrand: multistrand narratives are ones with multiple storylines, possibly with no clear ‘main’ storyline. They overlap, cross over and interfere with one another. They are often seen in long running soap operas, as there is no clear end in sight so there constantly need to be new storylines starting up in order for it to be seamlessly and constantly kept running. Hollyoaks is an example of one that uses them.
alternative: Alternative narratives don’t fit in any of the other categories, as they don’t have a conventional structure. They may jump about in time or be ambiguous as to the order of the story. We may see parallel storylines but not know when abouts they fit with one another till the very end. A example of a film with an alternative storyline is thriller ‘Memento’, whose storyline is generally moves in reverse-chronology though also jumps about several times. It is a very unique structure and certainly would be classed as ‘alternative’.
investigative: Investigative narrative structures are used for products that don’t follow a chronology. They are for things you ‘dip’ in and out of. A perfect example of this is the dictionary, you simply look up the word you need, when you need it. They aren’t intended to be read from start to finnish. Also things like encyclopedias, recipe books, informational DVDs etc.
I have chosen these two movie posters to compare, action epic ‘300’ and romantic drama ‘P.S. I love You’. Even at the initial glance I think we can tell the ‘personality’ of both of these posters. For 300 We can get an immediate sense of energy and action. We can easily tell this film is going to be a tour-de-force. The poster is almost completely red and golden brown, and from that I feel like this is going to be a gritty, bloody film, but also maybe one with themes of glory and honour. ‘P.S…’ on the other hand has a much softer, calmer personality. It is very white, which gives us quite a pure sense from the poster. The lighting on the two characters is also very luxurious, soft and clear. So these posters have a big difference in colour and initial personality, one lusha and one gritty.
If we take a closer look at the characters in these posters, in 300, denotatively he is a warrior. He is clearly also a warrior from a historical period, which invites us to see the genre is specifically a historical-action film. Someone with a particular historical knowledge may be able to identify the period, but for the most of us he is just a historical warrior. We are slightly looking to (low shot) this character, who is muscular and roaring. All this tells us he is brave, very possibly the main character and maybe a leader of the army. His arms are out in the kind of ‘bring it on’ fashion’, again telling us he is a fearless type. We can see some of an army behind him, though it is not clear if they are friend or foe. They appear much smaller than him, again reinforcing his superiority. The entire poster is splattered with blood, the title seemingly written in blood. So this is clearly a more gory, hands on sort of action flick.
P.S. on the other hand has a close up of the two characters lying on their sides. This combined with the title is all we need to be able to assume this is some sort of love story. The woman has her back to the man, who is looking down at her. This could suggest that in the film he may be the one chasing her, or trying to win her back etc. She has a ‘cheeky’ smile (she actually looks like she might be about to laugh or giggle), does actually suggest to us that this will probably be a more light hearted romance, possibly even a rom-com.
The tagline for 300 is written in beg dark red letters above the character, and reads, ‘Tonight we dine in hell!’. This is a brutish, cool and powerful statement. It would excite the sort of person who is into these action films. Despite the probable 18 age rating (if not certainly 15) I believe this will appeal to a lot of youngsters, who will want to get their hands on a copy of the DVD (though that may not be possible or allowed by their parents). Though that’s not to say this is the primary target audience, basically any age, so long as they like action, strategy and gore. I believe this to also be a very male aimed poster, the man being exceedingly masculine, and action/ war are associated with males too.
The tagline for P.S. is very small, and placed under the bigger red title. I think red (unlike for 300 where it meant blood and danger) in this case is used to suggest love and the heart. The small black tagline looks petite and maybe even cute, the exact opposite of 300s. It reads ‘sometimes there’s only one thing left to say’. I believe this simply alludes to the idea that love is both the most important thing in life and the main theme of the film. It takes an ;it all comes down to love attitude’, which I think appeals mostly to teenage girls. Possibly also girls in their twenty’s. As we saw it is the man who appears to be wanting the girls attention, and I think this theme plays on the idea that girls often want a man to love them/ give them attention/ ‘chase’ them. Though this is a very stereotypical approach, but I still believe that is the primary target audience, and the way this film is being marketed in this poster.
ASA: Advertising Standards Authority – The ASA is the organisation that ensures advertising in the UK complies with its specifically laid out advertising standard codes. It is self regulating, and ‘non-statutory’, meaning it cannot enforce legislation, though it’s codes comply almost interchangeably with statute law anyway. It is also not funded by the government but by a levy (tax) on the advertising industry. It’s main roles include investigating complaints about ads, sales promotions or direct marketing. Also (by it’s own words) make sure “no marketing communication should mislead, or be likely to mislead, by inaccuracy, ambiguity, exaggeration, omission or otherwise”.
Earl Grey is predominantly associated with an older age of consumers. To try and address a younger audience they would need to do some re-branding. The way to do this is through an advertising campaign of some sort. Especially in these postmodern times, there are an incredible number of diverse ways and mediums to take advantage of, so unique and clever campaigns can be thought up.
The main idea I have for the rebranding campaign, is to use product placement, in a music video. The use of product placement has become more and more popular within films and television. So to use it in a music video is a unique selling point, as it is almost a completely unexplored marketing tool. To access the vibe, and younger audience I am trying to target, I thought of using hugely famous and successful rapper and hip-hop artist Eminem. He and the genre/ style he represents have connotations of being ‘cool’, tough, and stylish. It would also be quite surprising and funny to see Eminem associated with Earl Grey, so it would certainly get peoples attention and draw them in.
In the music video, at the start before his song starts, we would see him and his friends hanging out, and doing the typical sort of thing we see Eminem doing in music videos. But then one of the gang would make them all a cup of Twinings Earl Grey, and we they would all compliment him on how much they enjoy it. Eminem is extremely popular among young people, especially the age group I’m targetting (16-24s). He is also see as very ‘G’ (cool), and so he would put a chic, trendy, gangster new vibe to the product. This vibe is somewhat a stereotype of rappers and hip-hop artists. Using this sought after image, we can encourage younger people that Earl Grey too is ‘cool’ to drink. Music videos are a huge, vastly popular medium, something I think marketing teams could take more advantage of.
To further this campaign, . I thought we could have a picture of Eminem, with all his ‘bling’ and tattoos and ‘dapper’ clothes, on each box of Twinings Earl Grey. We could also have a competition, explained on the back of the box. To win a signed copy of Eminem’s latest album, as well as Eminem merchandise, you have to tweet why you love Earl Grey so much with the hashtag #EmLovesEG (meaning Eminem loves Earl Grey). This works perfectly for the campaign, as twitter (which is a social network) is now a whole new medium we’re operating on. It is also a medium that our target audience is famous for using profusely. It also gives the campaign a chance to go viral, as twitter has a ‘trending’ hashtags section, meaning if enough people tweet with that hashtag, it will come up. This would mean other people could click the hashtag and find out about the competition and the fact that Eminem is sponsoring Earl Grey tea.
A possible third strand of the campaign, could be that every new Eminem album, has tucked inside a voucher to get one third off a box of Twining Earl Grey, at every major supermarket. This gives people an extra incentive to go and buy the product. It also informs people where exactly they can buy Twinings Earl Grey from (even though it is such a well-known brand). With this three part campaign, I think at the very least we would create some brand awareness in new areas, and get some attention and publicity for both the product and brand. I have specifically targeted things that are likely to be used by or appeal to the specific target audience, and spearheading it all is the catchy hashtag, #EmLovesEG.