Unseen Text: Uniqlo #3D Selfie Campaign
Text Type: Print Adverts
Guiding Question: How are formal features such as layout, fonts and visuals used to create an effect in these advertisements?
This particular text and guiding question was set by the IB as a specimen paper when the Lang and Lit curriculum was revised in 2019, so it’s a good one to have a go at. It continues a long tradition of presenting advertisement texts for analysis in Paper 1. Ads are great multi-modal texts with strong visuals as well as plenty of persuasive copy and tricky linguistic devices for you to unpick. My top tip: you might like to focus on visuals – but don’t ignore the copy, as analysing language claims and explaining the relationship between image and text can elevate your analysis from good to great. Notice that, in part at least, the sample response challenges and criticises the text. Of course you don’t have to be critical, but you might find some success if you approach mass media texts with a healthy dose of skepticism; the Paper 1 mark scheme asks for ‘evaluation’ and being prepared to challenge the text is a way of being evaluative. However, the answer below is just one possible response; alternative approaches can be equally valid.
The given text is a pair of adverts from Uniqlo, a clothing and lifestyle company originally from Japan. The origins of the company can be detected in the logo, which is presented in both English and Japanese, and the word ‘LifeWear’ that is positioned underneath the logo. ‘LifeWear’ is a neologism, a new word that the company has invented to differentiate it from other similar companies (Zara, H&M) in a crowded market. The text was produced in 2014, at the height of the selfie phenomenon. A selfie is a picture the photographer takes of themselves, usually their own face, in a variety of settings. Selfies are commonly uploaded onto social media and can themselves be interpreted as a kind of advertising by which the user creates a ‘brand’ for their own identity. Uniqlo is piggybacking on the selfie craze and hoping to associate their own company with a popular social phenomenon: the word ‘selfie’ is repeated FOURTEEN times in the two texts, sometimes by itself and sometimes as part of the phrase ‘#3DSelfie.’ Given that Selfies are a social media craze the text should particularly appeal to younger people. Colloquialisms such as ‘snap’ can be understood by a wide range of readers; but the concept of a ‘selfie’ may exclude some older people from this text. The ads are eye-catching in terms of design and it is likely that they would grab attention and create interest in the marketing campaign. However, on closer inspection, the adverts contain many examples of vague language and the advertising claim – that by taking a selfie we are ‘solving homelessness’ – is particularly weak.
Firstly, the ads are extremely well designed in terms of visuals and layout. The designers have chosen a red-on-white colour scheme. The contrast makes the logo, model and graphics stand out, immediately catching the eye of someone who might be flicking through a magazine or scrolling online. Red is a powerful colour and is also the primary colour of the Uniqlo brand. It might be hoped that shoppers recognise the logo in the high street or in online marketplaces through association with the colour red. The slogan is powerfully presented in bold, red, capitalised font that is certain to catch the eye. A clever pun (‘selfless selfie’) contains alliteration, which is catchy, and the campaign might appeal in terms of humour and irony – the whole point of a selfie is to position yourself in the centre of an image. Uniqlo hope to ‘rebrand’ what is basically a selfish act as something that can lead to a wider social benefit.
The second part of the slogan switches to the first person, as if it’s the model herself speaking: “I give my #3DSelfie to… solving homelessness”. The first half of this sentence is presented using standard black font. After the ellipsis the ad uses italic font. The two different fonts suggest that everybody who gets involved can ‘give’ and this particular person chose ‘solving homelessness’ as their pledge. The italic font is supposed to be handwriting; if you enter the competition you can dedicate your own pledge in place. Underneath this is a tagline (‘Give your selfie, impact lives & you could get a #3DSelfie’) containing standard features of persuasive language; for example, the use of imperative tense and the pattern of verbs is a tricolon: ‘give,’ ‘impact’ and ‘get.’
The top advert depicts a model (smiling happily and also wearing red) holding a small replica of herself which is intriguing. The photo is taken from a high angle, emphasising both the red colour and drawing attention to the 3D printed replica of herself that she is holding in front of her. She represents an ordinary person, one of the ‘lucky participants’ who posted a selfie to #UniqloCity and became ‘part of our 3D Selfless Selfie Exhibition in Berlin, New York, Paris, San Francisco and London.’ The top advert lists cities of global importance and renown in order to make the reader feel they too could be part of this special experience. Furthermore, the names of these cities are in bold and underlined, which draws attention in a printed text and signals a hyperlink in a digital text – no doubt viewers of this ad online can find images of the exhibitions should they wish to ‘click through’ the text.
The bottom advert features graphics which summarise the process of the competition: ‘snap, pledge, post, get, celebrate.’ The emphasis on single verbs encourages quick and simple actions that, when joined in a chain, can easily produce results. The process begins with taking a photo (‘snap’) and ends with ‘celebrate’ accompanied by the graphic of a cocktail glass complete with a tiny paper umbrella. The graphic is certainly designed to represent a common way of gaining satisfaction, kicking back at the end of the day with a drink – although the promised graphical reward is a long way from the suggestion in the top text that the activity can end with ‘solving homelessness.’ In fact, the design of the graphics and use of five single words reflects a common occurrence in mass media texts, which is the simplification of complex processes. In this case, the idea of a ‘pledge’ is represented by the symbol of a heart, suggesting devotion to a cause or an emotional investment in something. The problem of ‘solving homelessness’ is not really elaborated on or explained by the adverts; rather it is simplified into a heart symbol, as if homelessness can be simply wished away.
This tendency becomes even more apparent when aspects of the copy are analysed. The adverts are full of typical empty phrases, vague language and weasel words. An example from the top ad is: ‘aims to support everyday life in a positive way’. ‘Aims’ is a weasel words; the company is merely ‘aiming’ to act, not actually acting. ‘Everyday life’ and ‘positive way’ are both vague. In fact, after closely reading both texts, it is hard to discover how Uniqlo are possibly supporting a given charity in a meaningful way. The language of the bottom advert backs up this assertion. More vague language can be found in ‘Donate to your favourite cause’ and ‘you’ll do a little good.’ Both these phrases place the reader at the centre (‘your’) and it’s hard to escape the impression that the company doesn’t care what you do, even if your action is ultimately meaningless in terms of social benefit – ‘for whatever or whomever you want’ is the probably the most egregious example of vague language in this regard.
In conclusion, there is a huge contradiction in the text between the ideas of selflessness and selfishness. The whole point of the campaign seems to be to elevate the individual and the essential concept of the competition – getting a 3D printed model of yourself on display in a public exhibition – is self-centred. The actions the text encourages you to take are examples of false empowerment: ‘pledge, post, get, celebrate’ encourage actions that are ultimately meaningless and don’t really go beyond what people do anyway when they are taking selfies. The claims to uniqueness (‘one-of-a-kind’ and ‘make it unique’) are the real point of the text, designed to promote the Uniqlo brand above and beyond any other concern; but they seriously undermine the message of ‘selflessness’ that the advert hoped to convey. Therefore, while the advert is extremely successful at catching my attention, it is much less successful at keeping it.
Categories:Paper 1 Analysis