Visual Literacy

Archive for August 2009


DDB Paris-VW

The visual elements are very strong in this ad. Bright colors and strong type are used, ensuring that it will catch the attention of anyone who sees it. The simplicity allows for a clear understanding of what exactly is being marketed to consumers. For the 60th anniversary of the VW van, Volkswagen tried to portray a sense of timelessness. Although much has changed in our nation’s culture throughout the last 60 years, America still “depends” on this one aspect of popular culture. This ties in with the Seventh Principle of Visual Literacy.

This visual triggers a strong and immediate emotional response, especially in children from that generation. The ad illicits feelings of nostalgia for anyone whose parents drove the van. The type acknowledges that many children were even conceived in those vans, and it can even be argued that the van itself is safe as well as spacious. That strong, emotional response would occur for anyone who remembers their parents driving the van: the warm childhood memories of road trips, singing along with the radio, playing with siblings in the backseat.

While it is a good example of effective advertising, it does rely on some knowledge on the viewer’s part. The VW van is symbolic of the 60s. People painted their vans with flowers and peace signs in psychodelic colors, advocating love and harmony. However, this “peace and love” movement also translated into lots of sex, which is accounted for in the ad’s message. The VW van was an iconic part of that time period, and it seems that Volkswagen used this particular form of advertisement to ensure that this aspect of pop culture stood the test of time.

Volkswagen is famous for its crisp, simple ads. They are bold, colorful, and minimalistic, relying more on the good reputation of the brand than anything else. DDB Paris created this ad, and has created Volkswagen ads for years.



With this advertisement, Volkswagen is marketing primarily to anyone who either was born during the time the van came out, or remembers their parents owning a Volkswagen van. The ad’s success is based on both its simplicity and its message. A consumer immediately knows what is being sold with one glance at the ad, and the van becomes a way for children of that generation to feel connected to their parents. The van essentially comes full circle for anyone who chooses to buy it.




The visual elements in the Pepsi ad are strong in that they make an impact on the viewer. However, I think that the ad presents a negative connotation for Pepsi’s product; I’m not sure exactly what the ad is trying to indicate, other than new cans that are are very small.

Principle number two, which states that visuals are carefully arranged views of reality and not reality itself, relates very well to this ad. In order to clearly get the message across that its new cans are smaller, Pepsi shows a glass of soda so small that it can easily be held by the fingertips. The cans themselves are not that small,  but the company tries to portray a reality that none of us are used to.

I can’t say that the advertisement honestly conjures any emotional response from the viewer other than maybe fascination. That fascination lasts all of a minute because the image doesn’t portray an idea that the viewer can strongly identify with. Obviously the product in mind isn’t at all controversial or sentimental, but the ad still fails to really connect with the consumer. The ad does not rely on any background knowledge from the viewer, which most likely would have further deducted from its effectiveness.

Pepsi’s commercials and advertisements typically showcase its well-known rivalry with Coca Cola. Blue is frequently used as a link to the packaging and logo. Very recently, Pepsi has updated its logo in favor of a more simplistic look. BBDO Canada, the ad agency responsible for the Pepsi Mini advertisement, put out two other ads to compliment the one above.


bbdo canadaimages-4

The target consumers for this product drink soda frequently, and are perhaps looking for a more convenient sized can; either they feel that a normal-sized can is too bulky to carry around, or they have trouble finishing the soda in an average can or bottle. While it is visually appealing, the ad makes me think that the cans are so small that you would need several to satisfy your thirst.



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