‘Hard Earned’: the not so hidden message of ‘Bowtime’

Essay, 2009

17 Seiten



Promoting a Reward

Preventing Misunderstanding

How genre and narrative sells cider – codes and conventions

Humour in genre clash

Hybrid genre presentational rhetoric

Patterns and their Functions





The media is an agency of power; it makes people powerful through the power it has itself. McCullugh (2002, pp 14-5) highlights that the media is a selective ‘window to the world’ which can ‘control and shape the understanding that we, their audience, develop about the world.’ This can be observed in the new advertising campaign for the popular cider brand, Strongbow. A survey was carried out by the company to discover the brand’s main consumers. It resulted in an advertising campaign targeted directly at working class males, ranging from twenty-two years of age to retirement age. The artefacts I will be looking at are short television advertisements, focusing on exactly how the celebration of the UK’s unsung ‘grafter’s’ sells cider.

Promoting a Reward

Combinations of signs portray a desired image in seconds. The men are all holding their equipment and presented as grimy and tired. Through our own sociocultural knowledge we know that this signals the middle of the working day, as they have not yet abandoned their tools, and look apprehensive of the ‘graft’ of the afternoon. However, these signifieds can be further analysed. The workmen are posed and presented to communicate their working lifestyle to the audience, but the deep structure of the hillside location, situation standing together as if in a meeting, and lack of interaction with each other are signifiers contradicting one another. The semantic meaning denoted is that the culture’s regular social and work routine has been disrupted. The audience are engaged in this disruption through the photographic rhetoric. For example, the advertisement is shot at eye-level, close up to the workmen, bringing the audience inside the crowd as a participant. This engagement is a subtly engages the consumer with the characters in the campaign, so they will agree with the advertisement’s promotional angle of the pint of Strongbow as a reward.

Discourse analysis is concerned with the form, construction, distribution and consumption of a media text, and its use in social context (Smith and Bell, 2007, p1). Firstly, a masculine discourse features predominantly throughout the campaign. Immediately the viewer faces the iconic image of thousands of dusty, subdued workmen being addressed by a fellow worker. This presents the initial ideology of the advertisement; men are supposed to work. Trade tools, as well as the dull grey sky and sounds of the wind are symbolic of the cold, setting up the atmosphere and conditions that the men must endure because of their work. This creates the adverts’ desired representation of the working class male stereotype, emphasising determination and under appreciation.

The stereotype is further promoted by the advertisement’s verbal rhetoric, for example, the speaker addresses the bakers; ‘you toil in furnaces to provide our families with bread’ demonstrating how linguistic choices in discourse can often reflect ideological forces (Fowler et al, 1987). The verb, implying danger, combined with the inclusive ‘our’ can be seen as promoting the traditional ideology that the male of the family is the ‘breadwinner’, providing for the wife and children.

This selection and combination of symbols and dialogue within the promotional discourse result in the idea that the pint of Strongbow at the end of the working day is a reward for ‘hard graft’. Therefore, the deep structure almost proves to the audience that they deserve the beverage. As a result, whenever they see the strap line, ‘Hard Earned’ they might associate the emotion, and may be persuaded to buy a pint of Strongbow.

Preventing Misunderstanding

The advert reconstructs the reality of the current cultural situation in the UK - in particular fears for jobs, homes, families and savings due to the grip of the recession, and anger at ‘stealing’ bankers and MP’s.

Victims are primarily the country’s ‘real grafters’, who may feel alone and in a helpless position. The producers of the advertisements are aware of these sociocultural practices and use it to their advantage. In a 53 second spin off, only shown in cinemas, bankers are told by the large crowd to “sod off”. The contrast between the clean, smartly dressed bankers brandishing briefcases and umbrellas to the grimy workers bearing meter rulers and roof insulation may not be enough for a viewer without the target audiences’ sociocultural knowledge to understand, and could even be mistaken for discrimination. However, the target consumer’s interpretation is anchored by the cultural context. This idea was suggested by Widdowson (1995) who outlined that a text is interpreted differently by what a person brings to it from their own knowledge and culture. In the case of the Strongbow campaign, the cultural context is used to ‘direct the [consumer] through the signifieds of the image’ (Barthes, 1977, p39). The key signifieds are the demographic of the working class, and the power they have by uniting in a common interest. Here, the common interest is to drink Strongbow, as the sings and sociocultural context direct. Therefore other possible signifieds are dismissed, thus the brand is promoted and polysemia prevented.

How genre and narrative sells cider – codes and conventions

Propp’s (1928) idea that ‘all fairytales are of one type in regard to their structure’ (Berger, 1998, p17) can be applied widely to media texts. Furthermore, he said that all stories have ‘recurring, repeatable and constant elements’. The variations of this have become known as ‘genre’. In the Strongbow campaign, we can see that the ‘structure, or ‘narrative’ follows the codes and conventions of the television advertising genre. For example, there are usually characters, a persuasive discourse in the form of dialogue or text, and an image of the product; in this case a pint of bubbling Strongbow. Additionally a strap line often features, such as Mars ‘work – rest – play’ and McDonald’s ‘I’m lovin’ it’, serving to enhance promotion of the logo. In the case of Strongbow, the traditional image of a medieval working man with a bow and arrow is played on with graphic arrows and the slogan ‘bowtime’ promoting the myth of ‘Englishness’.

Genres can be divided into subgenres. The purpose of a genre is for the reader to associate meaning with a media text, and depict more from the advert about the promoted product. Immediately we, as consumers, are able to decide whether the genre is appealing, and consequently whether to consume or not. For example, in the case of an action film, the trailer may be loud and dramatic, with a stormy atmosphere. The audience are able to identify this and associate the advert with a possibly brutal film. Bordwell (date) built on Propp’s pioneering work, claiming that ‘media texts are roughly all the same.’ The structuralist pattern of order, disruption, solving of enigma, reverting back to a normal - but changed - world, are present within all fairytales and media texts. A subgenre goes into further detail. Many beer and cider television adverts share the convention of comedy. This may be to create a positive impression on the consumer, or even to formulate a point of social discussion, which would continue the discursive practice of advertising via word of mouth. In this way, producers are able to target their advertisements at a group of people who both the genre appeals to, and are likely to buy the product. For example, a majority of males in the UK enjoy the comedy genre, possibly more than most other genres, and are more likely to discuss the advert than women, who are typically more drawn towards romantic genres. This is central to many advertising campaigns, and is the probable reason why the codes and conventions of the beer and cider television advertising genre are often comical.

Humour in genre clash

Comedy is created in the Strongbow campaign through its form as a parody of a scene in the action film ‘Braveheart’. Its components adhere to consumer preferences. For example, the orchestra music as the speaker is walking through the crowd sounds at first quiet and sinister, then anxious, before becoming more high pitched and ‘hopeful’, finally reaching a dramatic climax as the action begins. This is a powerful feature used in films to build tension. Its use in an advert recreates this tension, providing the paradox of a tense soundtrack in the context of a light-hearted cider advert.

By combining two well known genres, an action film and a cider advertisement, an appealing new hybrid genre is created. The innovation is interesting to the consumer as they can engage with the new form due to their familiarity with the previously separate genres, whilst the advert is not a repeat of a previous artefact.


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‘Hard Earned’: the not so hidden message of ‘Bowtime’
University of Birmingham
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Buch)
455 KB
Strongbow, advert, media power, Marx
Arbeit zitieren
Samantha Brough (Autor), 2009, ‘Hard Earned’: the not so hidden message of ‘Bowtime’, München, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/182409


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