In Sturken and Cartwright’s chapter “Viewers Make Meaning,” they state meaning is constructed through at least three components not including the image itself or the producer of the image:
1.) the codes and conventions that structure the image and that cannot be separated from the content of the image
2.) the viewers and how they interpret or experience the image
3.) the contexts in which an image is exhibited and viewed
Sturken and Cartwright argue it is best to concentrate on the individual viewer rather than the audience to study “the activity of the individual as a social category that emerges through practices of looking” (49). Looking is influenced by a wide variety of things, including the context in which an image is displayed (such as images surrounding an image), “our bodies,” “other bodies,” “built and natural objects and entities,” and “institutions and social contexts in which we engage in looking.” (Sturken and Cartwright 49).
Interpellation, as Sturken and Cartwright discuss, occurs when images “call out to us” or connect with us as individuals (50). An image interpellates someone only if he or she is “a member of a group to whom its codes and conventions ‘speak'” regardless of the varied interpretations with which that image may be received from person to person (50).
Sturken and Cartwright use advertising to demonstrate this, stating it “strives to interpellate viewer consumers in constructing them within the ‘you’ of the ad” (51). This brought to mind several advertisements which achieved this effect with me as an individual as well as several which did not. Those which actually succeeded in deterring me from the products and establishments which they advertised included nearly every Hardee’s commercial I’ve ever seen, more specifically those showcasing women such as Nina Agdal and Paris Hilton in ways which suggest they are no more valuable than the pieces of meat they’re promoting.
Kate Upton, last year’s swimsuit cover model for Sport’s Illustrated, was one of Hardee’s most recent ‘burger girls’ in a commercial released in February 2012 advertising the restaurant’s spicy Southwest Patty Melt. The commercial was indeed spicy, exploiting Upton’s sexual appeal to capture or ‘hail’ the attention of viewers – more specifically that of the young, heterosexual male population, an objective made all the more evident by the commercial’s inclusion of a young man, awestricken by the model’s increased lack of clothing (and perhaps her lack of dining etiquette), sitting with his girlfriend in a car adjacent to Upton’s.
YouGov BrandIndex’s Impression score, which asks viewers they’re overall impression of a brand (whether positive or negative), measured Hardee’s before and after this commercial. Though there was considerable backlash regarding Upton’s performance across social media, the commercial’s impact on the brand’s impression score was, overall, pretty insignificant. The score has remained consistently at 9 for the general population since before and after the commercial’s release, while the score for the overall younger population (ages 18-34) increased only from -5 to 2 by early March. A real fluctuation, however, was seen in the impression score of the young male population (again ages 18-34), which increased dramatically from -20 in early February before the commercial’s release to positive 4 in early March.
It’s obvious Hardee’s works to target the young male population in nearly all of its advertisements, and the 24 point jump in its impression score within this population after the Upton commercial indicates Hardee’s is succeeding at this. While the commercial interpellates many viewers negatively, those who are most likely to eat at Hardee’s (i.e. young men) are typically, as the statistics would suggest, interpellated positively, unfortunately making Hardee’s questionable marketing techniques quite effective.