Semiotics Analysis of Lego Advert

Lego targets parents, offering an alternative to television! From the first glance, it is immediately noticeable that this controversial advertisement is clearly very different from the traditional advertisements one would expect from Lego. It definitely has the parents as the target audience and is focusing on the parent’s fear of bad influences on their children. When one considers who the preferred, negotiated and oppositional readers would be as defined by Stuart Hall (Hall et al. 980), it becomes noticeable that the preferred reading for this advertisement would be that of wealthy young parents that can still relate to playing with Lego when they too were children. Even more so would be the parents that are influenced by the mainstream media effects model that tries to portray that children’s minds are like a sponge and that they will absorb everything they see on television. However it was probably not considered, or given less importance to, is the fact that the children who actually play with the Lego blocks that they are trying to sell, might also enjoy watching television as well.

With that being said, the children might find it a bad advertisement and might even build resentment towards the brand as the brand is giving their parents a reason for them not to watch their favourite television programs. If any of the audience agrees with the opinion and research of David Gauntlett they would be considered an oppositional reading of the advertisement. Gauntlett makes it clear in his “Ten things wrong with the media model” that children are often treated as inadequate, along with being treated as if they cannot think for themselves and that they will mimic the behaviour they see on television without question. This situation is clearly exposed by research which seeks to establish what children can and do understand about and from the mass media. ”( theory. org. uk, 2012, online) For the advertisement to be effective, it also requires that the audience be from a conservative nature and ideology. They are relying on the conservative cultural upbringing and ideologies, to see the drug user as a person with bad moral choices, not the disease of addiction. This is in direct opposition with modern medical definitions, such as the American Society of addiction medicine; “The disease is about brains, not about drug.

It is about underlying neurology, not outward actions. ” (ASAM, 2013, online) Similar deductions can also be made about depression and suicide being a medical illness rather than a bad moral choice. The same can be said about polygamy and sex before marriage, which is only seen as a bad thing in some western culture’s ideology. The advertisements makes good use of trying to access the parent’s worst fear of how their children might end up if they do not play with Lego rather then watch television.

Where in fact, all the scenarios provided are just as likely and possible with a child that played with Lego rather than watched television The overall advertisement consists of three frames, depicting different situations that the advertisers would like you to believe would be the result of how your child will end up if they watch too much television rather than play with toys such as Lego blocks. The first frame in the advertisement can be denoted as a woman sitting on a bed visible through an open door. In the left of the frame there is an unknown male figure that is only partly visible.

And on the right of the frame we see the door handle and door. The bed and walls are very clean white whites and light colours of shading. These signs are used and linked to create a coded message of signifiers from which the audience viewing this advertisement can derive meaning. The fact that she is sitting on a bed, in a relaxed, yet luring and inviting pose creates the sexual reference, and the room being empty and clean anchors the thought by making the audience think it might be a hotel room. It should also be noted that the area around the woman’s breasts has been censored out.

However, with the clever use of Lego blocks to replace the normal pixelated censoring that would happen in film and video games. The target audience of the advertisement can easily make a connotation with the signs given in the first frame that this woman is about to have an intimate and maybe even sexual encounter. Her partner being unknown to the audience does signify that he is likely unknown to her as well. The door in the right of the image serves as a great use of an anchor to confirm to the audience that these two are about to have a monument in private behind a closed door.

The signs in the second frame of the advert can be denoted as a young male sitting on a white sofa holding an object to his head. The audience cannot see the object his holding as it has been censored out with Lego blocks. There is also a bottle of orange liquid with black labels. The room the man is sitting in is very sterile and empty and the only other known items visible is a newspaper, knocked over drinking glass and a chest of draws in the background. As with the first frame, the creators of the advert, DDB advertising agency (Best-ad, 2009, online), were relying on semiotics.

They were trusting that in our modern culture the audience would be able to see the censored shape and colours of the Lego-pixelated object and use it as an indexed sign to derive the meaning that the man is in fact holding a gun against his head. This notion is anchored by the man’s facial expression. The clever use of semiotics tool of intertextuality, which is the “process of knowingly, borrowing and referring to other texts”(O’Shaughnessy & Stadler, 2008: 146), makes that the audience will also recognise the item on the table as a branded bottle of Johnny Walker brandy.

Even though the logo and name is not visible, the very iconic bottle and labelling become a synecdoche making it recognisable to the audience. Again the adverting agency is trusting that the wealthy parents that they are trying to target would already know the brand and product. The use of alcohol on the table also anchors the idea of depression and violence as alcohol is often referred to as “depression in a bottle” and is a known depressing agent. It is known to make people more violent and careless, often leaving them doing things they regret the next day.

The coded meaning created in this advert is that this man has become so desensitized by the violence on television that he thinks it is okay to take his own life. It can also be said that because he sees so much alcohol abuse on television, it has given him a warped perception of reality. He has accepted it as a normal practise and therefore does not realise that he might have a drinking problem, and that killing himself should not be an option for whatever problem he may have. In the last frame the signs can be described as a young male with messy and damaged clothing.

He is sitting on a dirty pavement corner with a belt around his arm and his other hand over his elbow. His hand and elbow have also been censored out as with the previous two frames, so that the pixelated effect looks like Lego blocks. The picture is coded in such a way so that the audience may receive the connotations that the man is injecting himself with a bad drug. The idea that it is a bad drug and not a good drug such as insulin is further anchored by the man’s facial expression of pain and discomfort.

The dark rings under his eyes also add to this connotation, making him look unhealthy and distressed like someone going into drug withdrawal. His torn jeans and dirty shirt are used to anchor the ideology that all drug users are bad people and have made bad moral choice based on their exposure drugs, violence and sex in the media. The negative signs in this frame, such as the torn clothing, dirty street, and facial expressions are used as to create paradigmatic relations between the signs so that the censored drug used also carries a negative meaning.

The irony being that the advertisement itself serves as one of the ways in which the media create a warped perception of the world, as addiction is not influence by the media in any way, but rather by the neurological patterning of the brain. In all three frames Lego uses the slogan “Kids shouldn’t watch too much TV. ” This slogan is used as an arbitrary index to the thought that if these three people did not watch as much television as children, their lives would have turned out differently and probably for the better.

While the company logo next to the slogan acts to inform the audience that Lego is a good, safe and entertaining alternative to television. Again the company trusts that their intended audience would know the logo of the brand and can associate it with the toy blocks that they likely played with themselves when they were children. They are clearly trying to create the perception that the slogan has a high modality, using the visual signs and symbols of people that would appear to have failed at life from “watching too much tv”.

Overall the advertisement would likely have been effective to its targeted audience, however in retrospect, it likely did more damage to the brand as a whole then it did good for the few that it was intended. The outcome of this advertisement is likely also the reason Lego distanced itself from the advert by trying to create the rumour and idea that it is a fake advert. The official response from the advertising agency behind its creation commented: “We developed a campaign, which showed scenes from television programmes that were not suitable for children, like drugs, sex and violence. Then, we used the Lego blocks to censor the subject. (asdlabs, 2009, online) The encoded message that they aimed to convey was: “The television, although a great source of entertainment, it is also known as the idiot box. And in recent years, its influence on children, due to the content, has become a growing concern among parents. However, as parents, we cannot stop children from watching television, but we can offer an alternative form of entertainment. One that builds their minds and imagination. ” (likecool. com, 2009, online) In the animal kingdom we often see parents sacrificing their own lives to protect their young, and as humans we also have this inherent need to protect our children.

This advert has cleverly used the media tools of semiotics to tap into that protective instinct of humans. The advert heavily relies on the connotations and myths that the audience had associated to the different signs used as many of the signs used were link to the audience’s culture and ideology. But, even with that being said, it is definitely an iconic and memorable advertisement that will be remember for different reasons by both those that liked it and hated it, which is the goal of the advertisers at the end of the day. As they say in marketing industry, any publicity is good publicity, as it gets people talking about your brand.

Words: 1906 REFERENCE LIST Stuart Hall, Dorothy Hobson, Andrew Lowe & Paul Willis, 1980, Culture, Media, Language, London: Hutchinson David Gauntlett. 2012. Ten things wrong with the media “effects”model (online). Available: http://www. theory. org. uk/david/effects. htm Accessed: 2 April 2013. ASAM. 2013. Addiction now defined as brain disorder, not behaviour problem (online). Available: http://www. livescience. com/15563-addiction-defined-brain-disease. html Accessed: 2 April 2013. best-ad. blogspot. com. 2009. Lego Ads (online). Available: http://best-ad. blogspot. com/2009/06/lego-ads. html Accessed: 31 March 2013.

O’Shaughnessy, M. & Stadler, J. 2008. Media and Society: An Introduction. (4th ed. ). Australia: Oxford University Press asd|labs. 2009. LEGO – Kids shouldn’t watch too much TV (online). Available: http://www. asdlabs. com/blog/2009/09/11/lego-kids-shouldnt-watch-too-much-tv/ Accessed: 3 April 2013 likecool. com, 2010. Lego – Kids shouldn’t watch too much TV (online). Available: http://www. likecool. com/Lego_Kids_shouldnt_watch_too_much_TV–AD–Gear. html Image reference: ntimm. ca. 2009. Kids shouldn’t watch too much TV (online). Available: http://www. ntimm. ca/_/kids-shouldnt-watch-too-much-tv/ Accessed: 31 March 2013


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