Visual have been widely used in communication to convey messages to the public, as well as in propaganda posters and advertising. During the Great War, communication played an important role in shaping the public’s mind set, even until today.
The aim of this essay is to distinguished propaganda from advertising and which strategies evident that could be used effectively in conveying ideas or messages. This paper will analyze the key features and also design elements and/or principles, as well as the way propaganda and advertisement change over the time. The subject of analysis will be visual propaganda and advertising that comes from different period of time, which is the Second World War and the 21st century, yet they came from the same origin which is the United States of America.
The objective of this paper is to state which strategies would work best in both propaganda and advertising, since type of strategies that they use changes over time and always re-adjusting according to the periodical timeline.
2.0 Brief definition of Visual Propaganda and Visual Advertising
Propaganda and advertising have always been around us for a long time. It is hard to distinguished the line between propaganda and the act of persuasion, because propaganda utilizes some of persuasion strategies but, propaganda is different from advertising; as a specific form of communication that uses persuasive strategies, in its purposes and approaches when it comes to convey the messages to the public (Jowett ; O’Donnell, 2012).
The definition of propaganda doesn’t necessarily translates to a bad thing, it is used in both positive and negative manner, to influence the public opinion by spreading the information whether they are facts, an opinion, or lies (Smith, n.d.), especially during the Great War where propaganda is a common form of communication that was used. According to Smith (2017), propaganda is often used to manipulate other people’s beliefs or actions and it can be done easily, because of the variety of the media that can be used in propaganda such as things like posters, films, even things like hairstyles, clothing, music, etc. Propagandist would use every range of possible and effective media to achieve a certain goal that they have already set and trying to influence the mass opinion with it.
Advertising Association of UK (2017) defined that advertisement is specifically intended form of communication where its goal is to inform and/or influence one or more people (Bullmore, n.d. https://www.adassoc.org.uk/about-us/ ), while Jowett and O’Donnell (2012), argued that persuasion is a form of communication that is interactive and attempts to satisfy both persuader and the target audiences. But, both of the argument stated that advertising is somewhat a form of persuasion which is always used to influence or persuade a certain group or a larger range of people. Just like propaganda, advertisement uses various range of media to convey certain messages to the public. It is not unusual to see advertisement all around us, especially in this modern era, where the range of media has broaden up and the access to the media became much more easier.
2.1 Types of strategies of visual propaganda and visual advertising
There are many ways that can be used in conveying ideas or messages to the public. In this case, types of technique that can be applied when using propaganda or advertisement as the communication form.
Delwiche (2011) mentioned several techniques of propaganda that have been identified by the Institute for Propaganda Analysis; IPA in short, which are separated to 8 types. Listed down below:
This technique was first identified by IPA in 1938, where this technique tends to tying the audiences into believing a negative aspects about an idea or a person without even looking at the available evidences. With this techniques, the propagandist’s goal is to make the audiences reject that certain idea or someone in the same way they do. A few examples like: Fascist, Queer, Terrorist, etc.
2. Glittering generalities
While name-calling is presenting an idea or someone negatively, Glittering generalities do the opposite thing. It aims to influence the audiences into believing that particular idea or person without even needing to look after the evidences themselves. Some of the examples are things like: Family, Friends, Heroes, etc.
This technique makes an unpleasant reality to something more acceptable, by using bland and euphemistic words, such as what America did back in the war by changing the name of the Department of War to “The Department of Defense”, calling the MX-Missile as “The Peacekeeper”, and also using terms like “collateral damage” for civilian casualties and “liquidation” was used instead of “murder.”
Transfer as a technique that uses something or someone that the audiences respect in a way to gain their trusts, otherwise they would reject that particular person or idea. As an example, using the status of science or medical field in society into a belief, like the way TV commercials using actors in lab coats to tell what is best.
A technique to gain the trust of the audience by using other people’s testimonials, especially by using famous people’s testimonials because people become less critical when it came to their idols. This technique often used wrongly, even though they don’t have to be bad, and sometimes these testimonials are made up, unfair, even misleading, but the most common mistake is citing people that are not qualified to judge.
6. Plain Folks
The plain folks technique is a technique where the propagandist’s aim is to convince the audience that they, and their ideas are “of the people.” Take America’s recent presidents as examples, even though most of them are millionaires but they still try to show to the people that they are equal and represent themselves as someone that is recognizable and relatable.
Bandwagon is a technique where it is based on a fact that people tend to follow the crowd, because it is easier to gain the audience’s trust by targeting a large group with the same ideas not individuals. This technique could be effective, because no one wants to be outdated or left behind. The basic idea of this techniques is, “everyone else is doing it, so should you.”
This technique is just based as what it is called, by using intimidation and fear to gain trust from the audience. It aims to redirect the audience’s attention to stepping towards the action that they should do or behave to reduce the fear itself. For example,
“The streets of our country are in turmoil. The universities are filled with students rebelling and rioting. Communists are seeking to destroy our country. Russia is threatening us with her might, and the Republic is in danger. Yes – danger from within and without. We need law and order! Without it our nation cannot survive.” – Adolf Hitler, 1932
This technique can be very effective if it contains these 4 key elements to achieve a successful fear appeal, which are:
A specific recommendation of actions on how the audience should behave
Perspective of the audience whether the recommendation will be successful in addressing the threat
The audience’s perception of their capability of performing the specific actions or behaviour.
There are many other terms that have been identified by other experts as well, some of them are card-stacking, demonizing the enemy, flag waving, etc. One of the other related technique that this paper is going to discuss is demonizing the enemy, as Smith mentioned that according to Conserva (2003), the definition of demonizing the enemy is a technique to influence the audience into believing that the other opposite party is a threat (n.d.).
Same goes for advertising, there are several techniques that need to be applied when advertising is used as the communication form. Some of the techniques that advertisers use might be sharing the same aspect with the propagandas’ technique, since both are a persuasive form of communication. According to NCTE/IRA; short for National Council of Teacher Education/International Reading Association (2009), there are several types of techniques that advertisers use, such as:
A technique where advertisers tend to create a suggestion where a certain product always put the user ahead or as priority. Like. a toy manufacturer that always suggests children to be the first for having a new toy.
2. Weasel Words
Is a technique where advertisers usually suggest a positive meaning without making any guarantee. For example, like when a scientists says that a certain diet product might help for losing weight like what it did to him.
3. Magic Ingredients
A suggestion where the advertisers make a product looks exceptionally effective. As an example, a pharmacy describes a special coating of a certain medicine that highlight the certain aspect of the product and make it looks better than the competitor’s.
This techniques suggests that by purchasing a certain product shows a patriotic value and the love for the country.
5. Snob Appeal
This techniques sells the product along with the lifestyles, suggesting the customers that by purchasing this product they become part of an elite group with luxurious or glamorous lifestyle. As an example, where an advertising of a coffee brand with actors that wears formal gowns or tuxedos drinking their brand at the gallery.
Is a technique that quite common in advertising, where it offers the customers of gaining something “extra” for purchasing a certain product. For example, buy burger and get free fries.
There are some similar technique of advertisement that crossover with the propaganda techniques, such as Transfer, Plain Folks, and Bandwagon. Both opinion from Delwiche (2011) and NCTE/IRA (2009) stated a similar characteristic of these three techniques.
2.2 Brief History of Mass Communication in World War II and 21st Century
Mass communication, especially in a form of propaganda and advertising has already existed for a long time and even could be tracked down until the times of Greek and Roman (Fang, 1997, p. 61) (Jowett & O’Donnell, 2012, p. 51). Mass communication has always plays an important role in the society in conveying a certain idea or message to influence the public opinion and could be supported with the right amount and effective media to create an effective strategy.
According to Jowett ; O’Donnell, 19th century and 20th century is the expansion of the history of communication and transportation and it continues to expand until 21st century. They noted that the circulation of the information is hard to control and there are limitations of media in the early 19th century, they believe that there have to be a new form of communication with a greater aspect of information’s control and circulation for the target audience. This lead to the information revolution in the 19th century and 20th century where propaganda became increasingly sophisticated, widely accepted and practiced as part of the mass society (2012, p. 97 – 98). As well as propaganda, advertising has become increasingly active in the beginning 20th century, where advertisers also start to make a better creative effort in making advertisements (Sloan, 1991), and still expands until today.
3.0 Analysis of Visual Propaganda and Advertising in World War II
As it was mentioned by Fang and Jowett ; O’Donnell, propaganda has expanded from the time of Greek and Roman, where there are still a limitation on the circulation and controlling the flow of information, and how it was spread was through the word of mouth. Until propaganda became widely expanded in the 19th and 20th century as the key period where propaganda have been widely accepted and practiced even until now. (1997, 2012).
Propaganda has always been tied to a political manner in the society. One of the reason is because propagandists have a certain goal to achieve, and there will be a large number of people in the society to convince. That is why propaganda became one of the sophisticated way of conveying ideas to the mass audience, especially during the war. United States is well known with its military engagements and warfare, especially in the 20th century where United States involved in a lot of the military conflicts, such as World War I, World War II, the Vietnam War, and other several unofficial engagements. This is why United States is globally known as a country that has militaristic power, until this present day (Foley, 2015).
United States of America utilized the power of propaganda in order to achieve a certain goal for a certain purposes during the war. There are various examples of propaganda that can be commonly found, and one of them is the World War II propaganda posters. Poster was a media that was commonly used back in the wartime. Foley agreed that posters were an effective form of media that was used in propaganda because of its versatility. Posters were effective because it could be hung anywhere, some of the posters would be having a different design to prevent the ideal message to become monotonous and how it could possesses a unique message for the effort in the war (2015). There are various categories of posters that revolved during that time, it all depends on the certain idea or message that they want to convey to the public. One of the example is Figure 1.
Figure 1: Don’t Let That Shadow touch Them. Buy War Bonds.
It was created by an artist that well-known for his litographs of children in 1942 for the Government Printing Office fo the U.S. Treasury NARA Still Picture Branch, titled “Don’t Let That Shadow Touch Them.” In Figure 1, the propagandist use a closest technique to Fear and Name-Calling, where they visually put the images of children as the main focus that represent the children of the American people. The expressions of the character is the expression of fear and unsafety of the enemy which is being represented by the shadow behind their figures, which is a symbol of the Nazi party. The propagandist’s goal is to imitate the feeling of fear of the opposite party, which is the Germans, by using the symbol and the technique of Name-Calling, bringing a negative aspect of the opposite party. According to Foley, the propagandist that use this technique of showing the enemy’s brutality, wants to imitate the feeling of fear and play with the audience’s emotions so it could motivate people to support the war effort in every way as possible (2015). According to Grinnell College, a study that was conducted by the U.S Government showed that by utilizing the image of women and children it could bring an emotional impact towards the audiences, and U.S Government was advised by the public relations experts that a poster that has an emotional values were much more successful in influencing the opinion of the viewers (2015). In this case, the poster has an emotional impact towards the viewers in order to persuade the viewers into an action to prevent an act of brutality from the enemy by buying the war bonds to provide the feeling of safety for the children or American’s family.
On the other hand, one of the example of advertising that was created during World War II is Figure 2. It was an advertisement by the Community Silverware in 1942, where the company produces silverware.
Figure 2: Community Silverware (1942)
In this advertising, the figures of the children and a pet are the main focus,a symbol of the young generations, where the expression that they show is the expression full of hope, joy, and confidence. This advertisement wants to portray an ideal condition after the war, where there will be no more fear, but only freedom and joy. It played with the viewer’s emotional state just like the way Figure 1 did. This advertisement uses the same technique as the propaganda in the Figure 1, which is bringing an emotional impact to the viewer’s to trigger a certain action that will end up supporting the war effort in any way, like buying war bonds, promoting efficiency in factories, carpooling, etc (Grinnell College, 2015). But in this case, to buy a certain product that related to the war production.
This advertisement using bright and soft colours in a harmonious way and also represent hope for a bright future for the children.This advertisement also aim to gain an emotional response from the viewers, suggesting them to protect the children from the enemy, as in quote, “…That our children may look in the skies in joy and confidence. . . and not on fear.” This quote suggests that by supporting the U.S Government with the war effort, the audience indirectly fighting for their children and for their well-being. This is one of the way of how an advertisement in World War II could influence the viewer’s emotion and also perspective.
3.1 Analysis of Visual Propaganda and Advertising in 21st Century
Starting from the expanding of propaganda in the 19th and 20th century, propaganda never stop evolving even until today. There are some significant changes towards propaganda over the time. Since mass media also keep expanding throughout the time, the range of media could be a very effective tool to make a successful propaganda. However, throughout the time it is hard to distinguished the line between propaganda and the act of persuasion as in advertisement, until today (Smith, n.d.). Because of the similar characteristics that both have, people tend to tell which is which because both are fall in the same category of communication with persuasive act, but different when it come to the purposes. Jowett & O’Donnell stated that propaganda has a purpose of fulfilling the propagandist’s desires, while advertisement attempts to achieve a mutual satisfaction for both persuader and the people that being persuaded (2012).
The technique that they applied is still pretty much the same with the posters that came from World War II, but probably with slightly different aspect regarding the content and the composition. One of the example of the propaganda poster in the 21st century is Figure 3.
Hellenic Associations of Blood Donors (2013)
This poster has a unique way into conveying a message. The composition of this poster is centralized and straight forward by the way that they use the illustration of a hand of “Spider-Man”, the superhero, but instead of releasing the spider web, the hand associated with the infuse hose that interconnected with a bag that contains blood, associating the act of blood donating. While, in the top right corner there is a quote that said, “You can be someone’s superhero!” which suggesting the act of kindness and strength. It is a creative way to persuade people into the act of blood donor, by using the technique of Glittering Generalities, which is associating the idea in a positive manner. This propaganda also has an emotional value, where it influenced the viewers to help someone that in need, to be their superhero, to relate to the part of the society who in need of this act, which brings an emotional impact for the viewers and as well as for the society itself.
However, advertisement has been evolving throughout the years, even until today. In this modern era, the availability of the media plays an important role in creating a successful act of persuasion. Because mass media could be used effectively to reach a large number of people or a specific group of people (Jowett & O’Donnell, 2012). But, throughout the time, the strategy that the advertisers use change. Advertisers must know how to utilize the opportunity of persuading the viewers into the act that benefits both side.
Figure 4: Dove Advertisement
For example, in the Figure 4. It is an advertisement of a hair shampoo product for women. The technique that used in this advertisement is called Bandwagon. A technique where it suggests the viewers to do the same as everyone else. This advertisement utilize the women empowerment movement, where women wants to be accepted as the way they are, where everyone has their own value in beauty. This advertisement highlighted that the models that they use in this advertisement are not even models, in fact they are just “normal” people, suggesting the same status quo with the viewers. It has a message-centralized composition, where it focuses on the message that the advertisers want to highlight to the viewers which is, “None of these women are hair models. After all, neither are you.” It tried to engage with the viewers and persuade them to be confident and at the same time promoting their product. This advertisement merged propaganda and advertising technique, where it uses the message to influence the viewers’ perspective while at the same time, promoting their products.
Throughout the time, propagandists and advertisers tend to learn and adapt to what is best to achieve the certain goal that they have already set. For instance, in World War II, propagandists and advertisers tend to observe the current situation at the time and take it as a context in their propaganda as well as their advertisements. Since, the principle goal of the wartime propaganda is control the public opinion and generate certain beneficial action at that time for the war support and etc. (Foley, 2015). As well as in the 21st century, where there are a lot of availability of the range of media and the context has also changes from what they have back in the World War II, but somehow the techniques that they used remain the same.
In this modern era, there are a lot of types of propaganda and/or advertising that can be found. They have been revolving around the society for quite sometime, and changes throughout the circumstances. Most of the type of strategy that probably been used will mostly be the merging of both categories, because of the expanding mass media and as well as the interrelation between both form of communication. Advertisers has also been adapting through the time, adjusting with the current situation and utilize the changes of the mass’ perspective.
Based on the analysis, the form of communication would be effective if the techniques that were applied is something that the viewers can relate to. Based on Uudelepp’s analysis, he found that wartime propaganda could be successful if they are not just using the traditional symbols with the meanings but also by identifying the party’s visual image with the target audience’s visual image (2008), just like how it was applied on Figure 1 (propaganda) and even Figure 2 (advertisement). Most of the World War II propaganda is an example of a successful propagandas’ poster because they tend to influence their viewers into taking an action that might be beneficial for the war effort. The propagandists tend to play with the viewer’s emotion, in order to get a certain reaction that might be helping them into achieving their goals (Grinnell College, 2015), just like what they did in the Figure 1.
The similar things happened to the moderns’ propaganda and advertising, they still used for similar purposes even until today, even though they were done with different techniques and different context. Propaganda still being used to influence the mass opinion while advertisements still used in gaining mutual satisfaction from both party. However, in this modern era people tend to think more rationally and have a larger range of perspectives, propagandists and advertisers in this era tend to merged the technique of propaganda and advertising in their way of communicating to the public, this makes it hard to distinguish the line between propaganda and advertisement, as in Figure 3 and Figure 4. The variation of media has help them in order to communicate with the public, they can spread the information quickly, efficiently, and without even gaining a challenge from countervailing sources (Jowett & O’Donnell, 2012)
Both forms of communication could be very effective depending on the usage of the right approaching techniques and also with the right context, as long as it can reach to the public efficiently. The efficiency of the communication depends on how versatile is the media that have been used and also the response from the viewers itself. And throughout the history, propaganda and advertising has changes in some significant circumstances according to the social situation on that time, resulting in the changes in the context manner. As well as the techniques that have been used, in the World War II, they like to use the spirit of Patriotism and as well as using the intimidation from the enemy, while in the 21st century, the chosen technique might be the same but differ in terms of approaches to the public, and they also tend to merged both propaganda technique and advertisement technique to get a much more effective result.