Stranded on a desert island
In the desert
How beer ads position their audience.
Carling beer has a major part of the UK lager market share and it has a distinctly macho appeal. Its major selling proposition is that ‘Carling confirms me as one of the lads’
Male targeted beers are aimed primarily at a ‘macho’ audience. They are also well established brands within the UK beer industry. As such, they could be said to have played a major part in shaping the ideology of beer as a masculine drink.
An analysis of these advertisements will allow us an insight into the way in which this ideology has been created. It can reveal those ideologies within advertisements which are realized in connection with the readers’ understanding of the wider context of society.
When we buy consumer items it is arguable that we are actively constructing a sense of identity. We may be buying into a preconceived idea of belonging to a certain group. Consumers have a desire to belong to certain social groups and detach themselves from others. Buying certain consumer items and choosing not to buy others allows them to do this.
The beer industry relies on stereotypes of the man’s appeal to a mainstream, predominantly male target audience. The advertisers of beers attempt to shape and position the target audience through the use of linguistic techniques – advertising texts promote and naturalise their ideological message and hail the identity of the reader into a relationship of commodification.
The advertising text will be more likely to succeed in persuading the consumer if the consumer is able to relate its message to their sense of self identity. The male beer drinker may also like to think of himself partaking in activities which confirm his masculine status. The beer accompanies men as they partake in essentially masculine pursuits. The link between male targeted beer and traditional masculine activities is maintained in the advertising for Carling.
They are sponsors of the Carling football cup, as well as various Football Clubs. The Carling beer drinker, as a man, is considered likely to enjoy football. It is also presupposed that the Carling drinker will enjoy drinking beer with other men. You could argue that Carling beer acts as a facilitator of male bonding. When one man gives a beer to another it is a sign of acceptance, friendship or gratitude. This suggests that men may be restrained in their relationship with one another. Beer may act as a substitute for a more overt symbol of giving which could otherwise indicate weakness. The beer is aimed at those who belong or want to belong to this laddish group. It is obvious that if we drink Carling, we come to subscribe to the values of the brand and become a ‘Carling man’.
The imperative is perhaps supposed to give us a sense of being wanted, both by the brand and by other people who drink it. It may also be intended to capture the consumer’s sense of loyalty at the expense of other brands.
The theme of male bonding is maintained in the Carling advertisements. The closely grouped, silhouetted figures in each of these images are ambiguous. We cannot see their faces. However, in line with the masculine appeal of the brand, we may expect them to be men. Thus, on the connoted level we find the link between beer and male friendship. We may also perceive these images to be symbols of masculine exploration as one group appears to be in outer space and the other in a barren wasteland – leisure isolation and adventure mark the masculinised environment.
There is perhaps, no better exemplification of this point than in the male exploration of uninhabited environments. The male targeted beers also play upon the perceived benefits which the drink may provide. As was mentioned previously, the figures in the Carling advertisement are ambiguous in terms of who they represent. When we are told that, ‘you know who your mates are’, we have to imagine ourselves as one of the figures in the images.
Furthermore, we have to imagine the other figures as our ‘mates’. What brings us all together, is of course, Carling beer, as is articulated in the imperative instructing us to ‘belong’. So close is the friendship of the explorers, the figures almost blur into each other. The Carling advertisements also take place within stereotypically masculine environments. These advertisements, as the Carling poster advertisements, present environments in which men demonstrate their dominance and control.
In the Carling ‘rescue’ advertisement we see a group of cowboys riding horses across the rugged western countryside to ‘save’ their friend. In the Carling ‘explorer’ advertisement we find a group of men preparing to venture outside their tent into the ‘freezing wastes’ to celebrate their friend’s birthday. The extreme nature of these environments reflects the strength of the men featured. We may also buy Carling in order to indicate that we are just like the men in the advertisements. At the end of the explorer advertisement, we see a pint of Carling with the word ‘belong’ written across the front of it. We can imagine ourselves in the role of rugged explorer when we buy a pint of Carling. In the Carling ‘rescue’ advertisement, the man who is saved wears Black and White clothing, the same colours used in the Carling logo. He is rescued from a quiet town in which he is presumably leading a boring existence.
Perhaps drinking Carling will allow members of the male audience to ‘escape’ in a similar way.
In the Carling advertisements women hardly feature. The advertiser may be attempting to play to the male ego. Only men would be able to survive in the harsh environments shown. The men in these advertisements do not need female company, such is the strength of their solidarity. This point is emphasized by the use of inclusive pronouns as in, ‘of course we’re going out’. The drinker of Carling can expect to be accepted into a community of like minded male drinkers.
The coyboy rescue ad:
The explores ad