Exercise: deconstruction


Rip out an advertising image from a newspaper supplement and circle and write on as many parts of the image as you can. Comment on what it is, what it says about the product and why you think it’s there. You could use this as the basis for your assignment if you feel it’s taking you somewhere interesting. Or you could adopt this method for your assignment preparation.


Glenfiddich advertising from Cigar Aficionado magazine

The image I selected was from an eMagazine that I subscribe to. This particular magazine has a strong “lifestyle” orientation in its advertising, so this seemed to be a good approach.

In terms of overall context, the image is full-page, on the right-hand side of a standard double-page spread. The right-hand side is generally preferable for western audiences due to our left–to-right writing system, which generally means that we “pick up” more quickly on images on the right-hand side (see here). This kind of premium placement also suggests a premium product because advertising costs are considerably higher on this side.

The colours used are eye-catching with a strong emphasis on the bottle, and with complementary colours all around. The largest, dark-golden, text has a colour very similar to many India Pale Ales (more on this later).

There is a great deal of text on the page, mostly acting as anchor-text, describing various aspects of the preparation. The product is plainly a whisky, however the process used was a little unusual – apparently the company brewed their own “craft” beer to season the oak casks used to mature the whisky. The text supports the beer connection with images of hops and labels such as “zesty and hoppy”. On the bottle itself, there is also quite a lot of text, but the message is a little mixed. In the centre of the bottle, right where we’d expect to see a label describing the contents, we see not the brand name, nor even that it’s a whisky, but the text “Finished in India Pale Ale Casks”.  It’s not until we look towards the bottom of the bottle that we decide that it is in fact a whisky from the Glenfiddich company.

On the lower-left side, we see the text “Experiment #01” which is echoed further down in the text which reassures us that the this is the first release in the Glenfiddich Experimental Series, however the implication of “Experiment #01” is “we got it right first time” and now as consumers, it’s up to us to enjoy the result. It would be an entirely different interpretation if it was “Experiment #2403”.

On the lower-right side we see the text “Craft Brewer” along with an image of a bottle cap typically found on a beer bottle. The craft beer industry in the United States (the primary audience for this particular magazine) has exploded over recent decades and is now estimated as having a retail worth of approximately $23bn (see here). The growth of this market sector is potentially an interesting “hook” for new products by association. We have no idea of whether the Glenfiddich beer used to season the casks was actually very good, but just by association we (or at least American audiences) may assume that any product associated with the craft beer industry must also be good.

In conclusion, although it becomes clear that we’re talking about a whisky, the message is confused about the linkage between the two products (beer and whisky). Many whisky producers age their premium products in barrels from other regions – sherry being a common example, and even bourbon on occasion. However, the association with beer is much less common and perhaps even innovative. The strap-line at the bottom of the page says that the product is “designed to push boundaries and create the unexpected”. This may be true, but I suggest that the overall effect is one of confusion.




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