When we watch any television program, we are being sent advertising messages on a constant basis. Sometimes we are being advertised to without even realizing that is the case. Because product placement is continuing to seep out of the commercial breaks and find their way into the programs we are watching, they are becoming harder and harder to tune out. You cannot use your TiVo to skip past the ads when they are a part of your show. Every day it seems we are being bombarded by more companies using varied techniques and ideologies to create a “need” in us to buy their product. It is because of these varied ideologies that it is important for us to be able see past the surface message of the advertisement and see what the company is really trying to say.
The text under analysis here is the Dodge Charger commercial that was played on the most recent Super Bowl Sunday. In this commercial, a few different men stare blankly into the camera, one at a time. A voice is played overhead saying things like, “I will get up and walk the dog at six thirty in the morning,” and, “I will say ‘yes’ when you want me to say ‘yes’ and be quiet when you don’t want to hear me say ‘no.’” These thing are meant to make you see these men as emasculated by their significant others. Near the end of the commercial and after a good number of these comments, the voice says, “and because I do this, I will drive the car I want to drive.” The screen simultaneously switches from the men’s faces to a high-revving Dodge Charger. The ad ends by putting the words “Men’s. Last. Stand.” over separate images of the car.
The underlying ideology of this text mostly involves the car being a source of freedom from whatever is making the common man feel like less of a man. Whether it’s a job or a relationship they feel is taking away their manhood, Dodge is presenting the Charger as a means of escape. They are trying to send the message that no matter how masculine or emasculated one feels in their daily life, the Charger is the way to rebuild or increase that feeling in your daily life.
Another theme present in this commercial is power. When the car is shown, is always revving loudly, smoking the tires, or screeching past the camera. This is done to instill in the viewer a sense of how much power this car has and, by extension, will give him when he is behind the wheel. It is very clear, given the title of the ad, “Men’s Last Stand,” the images of men staring into the camera and the fact that it was first aired during the Super Bowl, that this is being aimed toward men. It is especially aimed at men who feel they have little to no power in their life.
Lastly, as is common in almost every advertisement for a car, the images of the Charger are of it being on the road alone. No other vehicle can be seen in any shot. The roads being driven are typical city roads with what looks like a country road in the last shot. These are not roads that you would expect to ever be on alone, especially during the daytime in which this ad is shot. This is done to give the viewer a sense that this car provides independence, not only from their job, relationship or other commitments, but also from the hassle of traffic congestion. While this is a nice thought, it is completely illogical as buying another car would only add to the already congested roadways we see in every metropolitan area in America.
This advertisement embodies the second definition of ideology put forth in Cultural Theory and Popular Culture where it is used to distort the viewer’s perception of what the car will actually bring them. It is presented that the car brings solely positive things: freedom, power, independence. In reality, it brings things much less appealing: high insurance payments, low gas mileage, adding to the already congested roadways. This fits in perfectly with the reading’s second definition of ideology and serves as a good reason to be wary of all messages sent to us in advertisements. A vast majority of them fall into this definition in seeking to distort what we see and feel in order to get us to buy their supposedly life-improving product.