Ad Hoc

Welcome to Ad Hoc, our newest feature on the art of advertising. We are proud to welcome Dr. Richard Zakia as the author of this page each month.

Funny About Faces

In the Eileen Fisher June Ad Hoc, I quoted Dr. John Liggett regarding the human face; the image of the human face seems to take precedence over all others when the visual scene is at all unclear. He goes on to say, "We can see faces in the fire, faces in rocks, faces in clouds". And I would add that we can see faces in advertisements.

To follow up on this, look at these three recent ads. The center one is fun, a playful way of advertising crackers as faces. The two on either side, however, are not. Both are ads for the familiar classic drama, Phantom of the Opera. Look closely at the one on the right and you will discover an echo of the white mask to the middle left. Since the drama is one of romance you probably noticed the red rose as being appropriate. Did you happen to notice the prominent green leaf? The shape of the leaf exhibits the symbol of love.

The ad to the left also has an embedded face or two or three. You can find them in the swirling and flowing bundle of hair the woman wears. A close look reveals that the hair stylist must have had a fetish for faces.

So what? So, why, you might ask, is the reason for all of this facial stuff? My speculation and hypothesis is that we are imprinted to respond to faces. How so? As infants, and as our mother held us to her breast, we constantly gazed at her face for reassurance and communication. Our vision at that time was fuzzy as are the embedded faces in ads, the flame of a fire, rocks, clouds, etc. Is it possible that these embedded faces in ads grab our unconscious attention at our infantile stage? If so, it is an advertiser's dream.

Richard D. Zakia is Professor Emeritus, Rochester Institute of Technology and author/coauthor of several books on photography, perception, semiotics and advertising.

c. Corinne Whitaker 2009

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