As I picked through some old Sports Illustrated magazines I encountered an advertisement featuring a Ford Explorer SUV. Ford is an icon of American culture, so I decided to take a closer look.
The advertisement features a couple in their thirties or early forties driving the car through a fantasy-like countryside. The blonde woman is looking at the driver (presumably the husband) with a smile on her face. The advertisement is accentuating the luxurious features of the Ford Explorer. The text of the ad reads, “This is cloud ten. Ford Expedition.” This play on words implies the vehicle can make the consumer the happiest they have ever been, even happier than being “on cloud nine.” Therefore the ad is attempting to associate romance and happiness to the Ford Explorer.
The advertisement does not feature children or safety, however I do believe the ad targets parents. First off, many people get Sport Utility Vehicles because they have children and need the extra space. Next, there is text that states, “Ford Expedition will quickly transport you to inner peace.” I cannot help but think the couple in the ad is away from their children, and this freedom is the reason why the woman is smiling. So, the ad is attempting to separate the parents from the reality of their normal life—driving their kids around town—to driving with their loved one through a fantasy-like and peaceful countryside. Now, lets look at some of the more ideological aspects of advertisement.
The ad clearly depicts two white adults traveling down a country road. However, their clothes and skin color suggest they are a suburban couple (opposed to rural or urban) and do not actually live in the country. Also, the man is looking at the GPS which also suggests they are traveling away from home. Although this does not create a negative idea of suburban couples it may create the ideology that suburban couples enjoy luxury vehicles and peaceful landscapes or in other words—to escape.
This is where a definition of ideology comes into play. In it’s simplest form “Ideologies are systems of belief that exist within all cultures (Cartwright 22).” However I believe Storey has a more interesting definition that relates to this advertisement. He references Hall, “social understandings are created’: a terrain on which ‘the politics of signification’ are played out in attempts to win people to particular ways of seeing the world (4).” So, suburban couples may look at the ad and be envious that they do not enjoy the same pleasures. Ford hopes suburban couples will “see the world” of the advertisement and realize they do not fit the criteria. If the ad is effective then couples will buy the car in order to achieve this level of happiness and fit the suburban mold.
This advertisement and assignment is very interesting to me because I grew up in suburbia. The interesting thing is, when I first looked at the ad, I thought everything looked “normal.” It wasn’t until I started thinking about the perspectives of other ethnicities and subcultures that I realized who the ad was targeting and how. The advertisement plays on an ideology that I personally ‘belong’ to. Although there is no negative connotation, my belonging to white suburban culture did affect they way I looked at the advertisement initially.