Assignment 5

For the « Television commercials in the 1950’s and 1960’s assignment », I have chosen to interest myself to an ad from 1953. The brand Ketchup Del Monte made popular this image to promote his Ketchup product :


We will apply to this very specific case an analysis method inspired by Machin : we will analyze the gaze of the image, that is to say to what extent the receptor is encouraged to buy and by what means. The angle will be studied as well in order to provide us with further information regarding the communication strategy embedded in this advertisement. The distance of the representation, its nature and its agency dimension will be studied, as well as what is not represented, to try and decode the message behind this advertising campaign.

First we can see that the woman who is the main character of the picture is directly looking at ourselves with both her eyes and her mouth wide open. We are the direct destination of the message that is carried out, that is to say the feeling of surprise. The consumer’s attention is captivated : one has to ask himself why this woman looks so astonished.

The explanation lies behind the picture in bold black letters : « You mean a woman can open it ? »

The consumer understand here, and thanks to the underlined word « woman » that the woman pictured is surprised that the Ketchup bottle be that easy to open, even for her, that is to say a woman. The connotation here is clear : a woman is weak, therefore if even a weak person can open this bottle of Ketchup, everyone can. This is the association of femininity and strenght, traditionnally stereotyped as a male value, that is indeed surprising and used in this ad.

Since it is a widespread stereotype, and since the woman is directly looking at the consumer, the goal is clearly to trigger surprise for the consumer. The focus only shows the woman astonished, the top of the bottle that is so easy to open, and the woman’s hand delicately positionned as if it the action of opening the bottle only required such a stereotypically feminine and delicate investment : that is to say no effort at all. Her agency is very ambiguous, since she seems barely moving, once again to express how easy it should be to open this bottle of Ketchup.

The woman is shown alone in the picture, and the background is fully yellow in order to focus the attention to this very point and nothing else. The woman is also very typical of the US standards during the 50’s 60’s, perfectly hairdressed, white with red lips and nails, in order to the women watching the ad to easily associate themselves with her. She is at the same time individualized as the only object of the picture, and collectivized and categorized as every american woman.

During those years, the rôle of the woman relied in majority on a very tradition vision of the conition of women, that is to say homecare and cooking. Since cooking is woman’s business, this advertisement target the very core of the consumer that are interested in food, cooking… in Ketchup. The true proximity of the woman in the focus of the image is of course crafted to ensure the way women could associate and recognize themselves with the ad.

Finally we can see that the product is almost secondary in the picture : only one dimension of it is used and exploited through social creations and stereotypes, that were commonly conveyed through ads from this time.

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