1960’s TV Commercial
Coca Cola keeps you thin!
Summary of commercial
In 1961, Coca Cola released a commercial featuring Connie Clausen. At the time, she was a relatively well known actress and writer, and is a clear promoter of Coke. She is seen looking at a mannequin wearing a dress while she states, “this was me 5 years ago, and it’s still me”. She continuous to talk to the camera, explaining why Coca Cola is the drink to drink. She rattles off the advantages and states that Coca Cola is “healthy for the waistline” and mentions that its low in calories. The commercial ends with her picking up the bottle and taking a swig, telling the mannequin, “don’t get any thinner now”.
Machin discusses a method to analyze video footage in terms of filming techniques and how this relates to a certain cultural context. He describes three different sections and methods of analyzing different film aspects. The first section focusses on the interaction between the actor (participants) and audience. The second examines how the actors are portrayed and how they can potentially be categorized into certain cultural stereotypes. Lastly, the third section describes the action of the actors and how these work with the other sections and the cultural context of the commercial (Machin, 2007). Using Machin’s method, the next sections analyze how the 1961 Coca Cola commercial embodies several cultural and gender stereotypes of the time.
“Aligning the viewer with the experiences of the participants”, that’s how Machin explains the first section of his method (Machin, 2007). With this he means to what extent there is a immediate and clear connection between the audience and the actor. A way this can be done is through an aspect called the ‘gaze’, which implies whether the participant is looking at the camera (the audience) directly or whether they are demonstrated from another angle like the profile. ‘The angle of interaction’ is another of these techniques that can also change the angle of the camera which can alter the ‘power relations’ between the actors on the screen as well as between the actor and the audience. Distance also plays a part with this, as closer shots to the actor create a different effect than shots from farther away. In the commercial, several of these techniques are used to portray Connie Clausen in a particular fashion. She is seen in one setting, with the camera continuously at the same angle and distance. Sitting in front of the camera, Clausen directly faces the audience and talks to them straightforward, an action reinforced by the camera’s steadiness. The camera movement perhaps suggests steadiness and creates a connection between Clausen and the viewer as she looks directly at them, which uses two of Machin’s techniques; ‘the gaze’ and ‘the angle of interaction’. This camera movement enforces the message of the commercial which is that people should drink Coke, since Clausen likes it as well, the audience should too. The distance Clausen is from the camera does not communicate intimacy bus also does not resemble distance and remoteness. Perhaps she is meant to be in between the two; she is still a celebrity, not an average person, but she also relates with the audience, hence the mid proximity.
Machin’s second section of the method, how actors are categorized, denotes stereotypes that the commercial employs to connect the audience with the product. ‘Visual Individualism’ often focusses on one specific person, aiming to connect the viewer with a specific interest or experience that the actor is speaking about in the commercial (Machin, 2007). This technique is employed in Coca Cola’s 1961 commercial. Connie Clausen, who as mentioned before, was famous at the time and symbolized success and beauty. She is sat in a living room and posed as a classic housewife at the time. The audience aim is clear: young housewives and women of the time. From her makeup to her dress to what exactly she is saying, the commercial clearly encourages women to drink Coke as it makes them “thinner” and it has “less calories than half a grapefruit”. Many of these women were concerned with their looks and weight, something Coke took advantage off by selling their product as something that will not give you those extra pounds.
(cultural categorization and biological categorization)**
This ties into the last section that Machin mentions; agency and actions of the participants (Machin, 2007). It focusses on the action in the commercial and what exactly their agency is in the advert. The action is what happens in the commercial and the agency refers to who does what (Machin, 2007). In the 1961 commercial, Clausen plays an essential role in both of those techniques. She is the action as well as the agency; she talks and performs the action in the commercial and she is also the one who says the information in the commercial. Perhaps this makes her more believable to the audience and causes her to connect more with the viewers. A famous person is saying all this information, therefore it must be true, it enforces the quality of the commercial and perhaps makes more housewives buy Coca Cola.
Machin, D. (2007). Introduction to multimodal analysis. London: Hodder Arnold. (chapter 6: “Representation of social actors in the image”)