This It performs as ‘the primary means of

This essay proposes to differentiate visual advertising from
propaganda, through comparing and contrasting the strategies evident in each example.
They both influence and inform the audience, forming symbols of communication
and manipulation. Analysing the techniques used and understanding the purpose
and effects of both visual forms will be the central discussion of this essay. Using
examples from different periods of time will help develop an understanding of them.


Advertising is a series of appeals, symbols, and statements
deliberately designed to influence the audience towards a desired point of
view, to act in some specific way, whether it be to purchase, vote, hold
positive or negative views, or merely to maintain a memory. (1) It performs as
‘the primary means of stimulating the sales of the products of our
consumer-oriented society, and as such has a direct influence in the economy’. (2)
The two examples that will be discussed, illustrates the influence of consumer
spending by presenting what is ‘desired’ through different techniques. Advertising
as propaganda has been largely responsible for the creation of the massive
consumer culture in the twentieth century. (3)


To support this, the Apple 1984 Super Bowl commercial introducing
Macintosh Computer demonstrates the power of advertising to persuade consumer
behaviour, making a huge impact. ‘The company represented an individualistic,
anti-establishment approach to computer technology’. The Macintosh computer
would be a new product that would change the world, giving individuals access
to information. (4) The commercial ‘shows the Thought Police pursuing the girl
into a great hall full of transfixed automatons listening to Big Brother on a
huge screen. The woman ‘swings the sledgehammer over her head and hurls it at
the video image which explodes. Over a picture of the stunned audience are
printed the words: “On January 24th Apple Computer will introduce
Macintosh. And you’ll see why 1984 won’t be like 1984’. (5) The concept was to
show the fight for the control of computers technology, Apple’s competitors,
IBM PC came to dominate the home and office computer market. Therefore, the
company wanted to reassure viewers that the new technology would be used for
freedom, not control.


One of the techniques used to achieve this was fear. The fear
about Big Brother, the idea of conformity was a fundamental subject that targeted
everyday people. The objective was to scare the consumers into believing they
must buy a Macintosh in order to have control over their lives otherwise they
won’t know “why 1984 won’t be like 1984”. Furthermore, the fear of living
in a society with no control persuaded consumers to purchase the Macintosh in
order to achieve freedom. The idea that personal computers were available and
simple enough for those who were not technical meant that it was accessible to
purchase and use. The ad ‘inspired a generation of young people to go into a
technology field that appeared more than ever to hold key to solving problems
and making the world a better place’. (6) Simultaneously, another technique
used is rebellion. The dark, dull and drab colours of the many innocent bystanders
evoke a fearful and uneasy feeling for the viewers. The only bright aspect is
when the woman appears throwing the sledgehammer at the screen emphasising the
notion of rebellion. The Macintosh was for the young and innovative individuals
to break free and start something different, this is implied from what the she
is wearing and also going against authority and control by breaking the screen.

The use of suggestive images and captions in visual
advertising is also another method to encourage the viewers desire for consumer
goods. An example of a commercial advertisement that displays this is the
Haagen-Dazs 1991 ‘Lose Control’ campaign. It deformalized the image of ice
cream, targeting adults explicitly and changing people’s preconceptions. This
was achieved by demonstrating the act of ‘eating it as
an experience, all the more attractive when sharing it with another in a mood
of sensual intimacy’.


Haagen-Dazs uses sexual imagery as a technique to sell and
allure customers, exaggerating the products purpose. The idea is that the
product provides an unforgettable experience, a luxury adult treat,
‘associating the eating of Haagen-Dazs with “a moment of intense sensual and
intimate pleasure”‘. (7) The advertisement composes of a sexual image, showing
a black-white photograph of a partially dressed couple in an intimate position
sharing a tub of ice cream, with “Lose Control” concept. The man is lifting the
woman up as she holds the tub of ice cream above his mouth, ‘feeding him’ with
his eyes closed while she looks down and smiles. The “Lose Control” concept is
juxtaposed to the photograph, emphasising the sensual experience, creating
desire and excitement for the viewers. The placement of the letters reinforces
the sense of ‘Lose Control’ as the letters is fluid and big, dominating the
space in contrast to the phrase ‘smoothness’ and ‘temperature and humidity’. The
man is perceived to quite happily allow the woman to pour the ice cream into
his mouth, so in effect he’s losing control. The use of the words, smoothness,
temperature and humidity is associated with skin, which is clearly highlighted
in the image, again provoking a sensual link to Haagen-Dazs, persuading viewers
to buy the product. The ice cream is a luxury, and also gives the consumers
hope, the phrase ‘Dedicated to Pleasure’ implies relationships, and the image
depicts a couple having a pleasurable time.


Propaganda is a form of communication that promote
particular ideas and practices to an audience with a related objective, that
often uses manipulative persuasion, intimidation and deception. (8) The purpose
is to influence public opinion and attitude change through emotions, the effectiveness
of propaganda must be seen, remembered, understood, and acted upon. (9) ‘The
use of propaganda as a means of controlling information flow, managing public
opinion, or manipulating behaviour’ (10) was greatly used in the early
twentieth century during the First World War which will be explored. Propaganda
serves an informative function in that it tells people how to behave. People
turn into the media when there’s an uncertainty in society in order to
understand events and what to do. (11)


‘Wartime propaganda attempts to make people to adjust to
abnormal conditions, and adapt their priorities and moral standards to
accommodate the needs of war’. (12) The development of advanced military
technology led to large numbers of death, which meant ‘traditional methods of
recruitment were no longer adequate to replace them’. (13) Consequently,
‘recruitment posters have often been designed to look like advertisements or
movie posters’ (14) for instance, the 1915 poster “Daddy, what did YOU do in
the Great War?”. Guilt was a common strategy used in war propaganda to
galvanize people into action. The poster ‘was designed to shame eligible but
reluctant men into doing the “right thing”‘. (15) It urged men who were not
enlisted at the beginning of the war, to enlist and join the fray. The poster
pictures a middle-aged British father and his two children, in a comfortable
home. The son is playing with toy soldiers on the floor, while the daughter sits
on his lap reading a book where she asks him, “Daddy, what did YOU do in the
Great War?”. The father fails to come up with an answer and stares blankly at
the audience as his reasoning was that he had not volunteered to fight in the
war, showing the sense of shame. This makes men feel embarrassed and guilty, especially
to fathers, who can associate the feeling if they were asked the same question
by their own children. The poster is a charge to men to do the “right thing”, it
challenges British fathers to protect their families and country. This is
achieved by promoting the war in an active manner, the chance for them to be
truly masculine and be heroes and serve their country with dignity. This goes
in line with reputation, the poster threatens the audience reputation by implying
that fathers who do not go to war will have a bad reputation, and will be bad role
models for their children. The poster also speaks out to women, to convince
their husband to go to war to protect them from danger. The 1915 propaganda war
poster is an effective means of recruitment for the war, in its use of emotions
to persuade the audience and influence attitude change.


Contrary, the 2008 Barack Obama HOPE poster is an example of
a political symbolism and contemporary propaganda that also used emotions to
persuade the public’s view. Designed by Shepard Fairey, an American street
artist, he transmitted his beliefs to the public through this poster which is
what propaganda aims to do. He quoted ‘in 2008, I viewed Obama as an inspiring
speaker and leader but also someone who would potentially hep push progress on
a number of issues that I care about. Many of those issue were about basic
human dignity and fairness’. (16) The 2008 poster depicts a stylized stencil of
Obama in red, blue and beige, with the word ‘Hope’ beneath it. It has become a
lasting success of the Obama campaign as well as an iconic symbol of history.
‘The purpose of the poster is to provoke thought in the American electorate,
and in doing so encourage the concept of hope to be almost subconsciously
associated with the image of Obama’. (17) The use of colours is intentional and
significant to make the audience feel hope and optimistic about the situation.
The red, blue and beige represent the American flag and the concept of unity,
by believing that Obama can take America from its current state of despair, and
to a state of success, emphasising his power and ability. ‘Obama has the
distant, upward gaze of a visionary leader’, perceived to be looking away from
the viewer into the distance, the idea of an optimistic future and hope. He is
confident of change and progress and he wants the audience to feel the same, to
share his vision of a better future for America. The term ‘Hope’ beneath the image
reinforce the idea of the attitude the audience should have and invites them to
make a connection to Obama with the rhetoric of “hope” for America.


As a whole, visual advertising and propaganda share similarities,
as discussed, they both use emotions as a touchpoint to persuade the audience in
one way or another. Additionally, they are both symbols of communication and manipulation
that inform and influence the audience, often used as a tool by the dominant
class by which their ideology is perpetuated. To some extent, it can be argued
that visual advertising and propaganda also serve a purpose for consumerism. This
is because they both attract a mass audience. Although advertisements emphases are
the individual, and encourage a certain lifestyle to adopt. It is the most ubiquitous
form of propaganda. ‘It is found everywhere we look, almost
everywhere we listen, and its pressure is felt in every commercial transaction
we make.’ ‘Adverting’s “central function is
to create desires – to bring into being wants that previously did not existed”.’
This means advertising creates unnecessary “wants” that wasn’t desired. Whereas,
propaganda as mass culture is disseminated as ideas and practices in the
culture, as supported by the 2008 Barack Obama ‘Hope’ poster. Posters are the
primary medium of mass communication. Nevertheless, there is significant
differences between visual advertising and propaganda. The first point being
their target audience, as explained, advertisements focuses on the individual. They
try to create an experience where the audience can become emotionally invested
in the brand, deepening brand affiliation which in turn leads to becoming loyal
customers. Through exaggeration, the audience is persuaded to adopt a certain lifestyle
that is perceived as ‘desired’. In comparison, propaganda promotes an ideology
that is favoured by the propagandist, which is often bias at it looks at one
view. This can be positive or negative as displayed in the examples discussed. Propaganda
targets a mass audience with the expectations of attitude change by influencing
the audience through emotions. The idea of joining up to a bigger and moral cause,
and doing the “right thing” is a persuasive method often used.


In conclusion, propaganda and visual adverting are both
powerful and influential tools that are often hard to differentiate. The two
concepts are inter-related and advertising is considered as commercial
propaganda to some extent. This is because the intention is to persuade the
audience to think and behave in a certain manner, thus motivation to buy what
is advertised stems from the belief promoted by what propaganda is. Though
there are significant differences between the two as discussed, they both aim
to persuade the public to take action, stimulating the audience thoughts and
behaviour. The target audience and techniques used are significant in
differentiating propaganda from visual advertising as it dictates how a certain
viewpoint is communicated.