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Cultural Studies

In todays, consumer centric market, advertising is seen as medium for the propagation
of advertisers messages which are often ingrained with cultural and political ideologies.
However, as society becomes more complex, consumers begin to become more socially
aware and tend to be less tolerant towards content that is not within the bounds of what is
deemed to be socially acceptable (Waller, 1999). The chosen Sony advertisement depicts a
white model, grabbing the face of a black model, with the phrase ‘PSP white is coming’ at
the bottom. This advertisement ran only in the Netherlands in 2006 and was meant to
highlight the launch of the new white coloured Playstation Portable gaming console in
addition to the already present black coloured model of the console (Engadget, 2006).
Throughout the circulation of the advertisement, it was largely received negatively and Sony
was forced to pull the advertisement from print and issue a statement on the matter (Polygon,
2017). The negative reactions towards this advertisement can be traced to the fact that many
consumers believed it to be insensitive, as the depiction of the white model grabbing the
black model by the face can be construed as associating black with being inferior to white
and could be seen as promoting interracial fighting (MTV, 2006). However, Sony defended
the advertisement by saying that it was only meant to highlight the contrast between the white
and black model of the Playstation Portable and that no racial undertones that are apparent in
the advertisement were done intentionally (Engadget, 2006). The objective of this essay will
be to break up the hidden messages placed in the advertisement and to provide a detailed
analysis with the ideas brought forward through semiology and discourse.

Firstly, the messages presented in the advertisement must be analysed using

semiology. When looking at the advertisement at first glance, the most striking part of the
advert is the dominant pose of the white model over the black model. While the producers of
the advertisement intended for it to denote the superiority of the new white console that was
being released over the current black console, the connotation that white people are superior
to black people was missed out. Although the main supposed purpose of the advertisement
was to promote the launch of a new colour of a gaming console, the main focus in the
advertisement was instead placed on the models, while the actual mentioning of the game
console is relegated to a small corner of the advertisement. This could signify that the
producers of the content intended for the racial connotations to be decoded by consumers and
thus provide more publicity for the console. Due to the consumer uproar over the
advertisement, it was circulated online and thus provided more attention for the
advertisement than was originally received due its limited release only in the Netherlands.
However, it can be argued that the negative reactions towards the advertisement, can be
attributed to the construction of meaning by the consumers as being racially motivated. Due
to being socially conditioned into looking for underlying meanings in media content, the
consumers come to the conclusion that the advertisement is playing into stereotypes and
portraying black people in a negative light. Although the producers might not intend for the
signified in the advertisement to be racially charged, the consumers through semiotics, come
to the conclusion that the advertisement is racially insensitive (Borgerson and Schroeder,
Reference List
Borgerson, J. and Schroeder, J. (2002). Ethical issues of global marketing: avoiding bad faith
in visual representation. European Journal of Marketing, [online] 36(5/6), pp.570-594.
Available at: https://www.emeraldinsight.com/doi/pdfplus/10.1108/03090560210422399
[Accessed 21 Oct. 2018].