How To Be a Critical Viewer | Artopia

How To Be a Critical Viewer activity

PLEASE NOTE: Flash Player is required. This interactive can be best viewed on a desktop computer.

1. All media messages are constructed.

Not much happens by accident in media production. Every shot, every piece of music, every edit is carefully selected for a particular purpose. Advertisements are constructed for the purpose of getting attention. The producers of this ad have chosen a young blonde woman playing pool to sell Camel cigarettes. She looks pretty but she also looks smart and hip. She is calculating her next shot, not smoking, but holding a burning Camel in the same hand as her cue. The cigarette is an essential prop for a sophisticated pool shark.

2. Each medium has its own codes and conventions

A code is something we all see and understand the same way. A convention is an element that is widely used and accepted in a certain medium. This Camel print ad uses many of the elements and principles of design, as well as advertising codes. A beautiful young woman in an ad is a code that tells us the product is sexy. The bold line of the pool cue adds strength to the picture. The diagonal tilt of the table adds drama - will the ball roll into the pocket? The deep green in the foreground is a soothing, healthy color.

3. Media convey values and points-of-view.

Advertisers use words and images to assure consumers that their products represent certain points-of-view and attitudes about life. They often use slogans, such as "Pleasure to Burn" in this Camel ad. Camel smokers, the RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company ad tells us through words and pictures, value fun, youth, sophistication and beauty. They like to do cool things like play pool. They are not concerned with the Surgeon General's warning about the negative health effects of tobacco. In fact, Camels have been around since 1913 - how bad could they be?

4. People understand media messages differently.

Every media production needs an audience and is created with a "target" audience in mind. The audience in turn brings its own perspective to the experience. From our perspective, this ad is geared to a young white audience who find playing pool stylish and enjoyable. It would probably not be placed in a magazine about skiing, however, because that audience might think it was more fun to be outside than in a smoky pool hall. How might you see this ad differently?

5. Most media production is a business

Most media production is expensive. Movies, television, radio, advertising - all cost a lot to produce but they also make money. Tobacco companies spend hundreds of millions of dollars a year on magazine ads so they want to be sure their ads sell their products. That's why producers construct their ads carefully and try to know as much as possible about their target audiences. If an ad fails to generate sales of the product, the product will disappear.