Dave Soltysik, Head of Media Studies and A Level Examiner
In the first of a series of blog posts looking at the new A Level Media Studies set products, I explore the two new set adverts for River Island and Dove. I’ll share some key approaches to the new set adverts and identify useful starting points.
The new set advert for River Island is part of their #LABELSAREFORCLOTHES campaign which was intended to promote inclusivity and diversity in the fashion industry. The campaign aims to challenge stereotypes and prejudices that are often associated with people based on their appearance, gender, race, or abilities, hence the slogan.
A page on the River Island website provides simple and straightforward insight into the campaign. This article in Marketing Communication News is also useful in exploring the purpose behind the campaign and understanding the construction of representations.
The campaign has been lauded for its focus on inclusivity and diversity, specifically for its representation of models and actors with different abilities, body types, and skin colours. The campaign represents a diverse range of people and effectively challenges stereotypes around disability.
The #LABELSAREFORCLOTHES campaign also reflects the growing trend of social activism advertising, which aims to promote social causes and raise awareness about important issues. This movement is a response to audiences becoming increasingly socially conscious and concerned about social issues.
For brands, it is a straightforward win as it allows them to connect with audiences who share their values and beliefs, build brand loyalty, and stand out from competitors. A good activity to explore with your students is to look at other brand activism campaigns – this page from Don’t Panic is a good starting point.
The advert features Jordan Luce, a wheelchair basketball player who represents the French national team. Luce is known as a disability rights advocate. Students might consider the purpose of featuring Luce in the advert, his personal values and ideologies and how these might align with the River Island brand.
The media language used in the advert appears conventional and minimalistic. This deliberate approach draws attention to the core message of the campaign and the featured model. This effectively portrays the brand as both fashionable and inclusive.
The stripped back look is not a new concept in advertising; its effectiveness has been recognised by advertisers for decades. One of the most notable campaigns that employed this approach was Apple’s Think Different campaign launched in 1997. The use of the tagline “Smooth Moves Only” is also noteworthy, as it employs irony and may evoke certain associations or perceptions in audiences.
The Beautifully Real Moms campaign, which is part of the wider Real Beauty campaign launched in 2004, reflects Dove’s long-term brand messaging that focuses on promoting natural beauty and self-confidence among women. The campaign aims to challenge traditional beauty standards and inspire women to embrace their unique qualities and imperfections by featuring real mothers with diverse body types, skin tones, and experiences, simultaneously marketing their new ‘Baby Dove’ brand.
This page from the WPP Group offers a good starting point for considering the context in which the campaign was produced. This section of the Dove website offers further insights into the stereotypes around motherhood and discusses one of Dove’s earlier campaigns.
The campaign featured a unique method of distribution, targeting ‘millennial moms’ with babies aged 0-2 years focusing on online channels to reach them where they were most active. Dove created a series of images and short films that showcased the real stories and experiences of mothers, which were shared across their social media channels and on YouTube, generating an online discussion around the campaign and the stereotypes surrounding motherhood. This Vimeo video offers a good insight into the digital side of the campaign.
The set advert’s use of an action shot of a busy mother within a realistic mise-en-scene that showcases the imperfect side of motherhood is distinctive. It celebrates and promotes a pluralistic image of motherhood, emphasising unfiltered beauty and rejecting artificial and manufactured beauty standards.
The campaign aims to celebrate authenticity and individuality, offering a more realistic and genuine portrayal of motherhood, as opposed to the idealised representations often perpetuated by the media.
The mother's absorbed yet concentrated facial expression and busy paralanguage convey her attempt to manage the situation, which can suggest a sense of the challenges and joys that come with motherhood. This soft-sell strategy may prompt audiences to choose Dove over their competitors, such as Johnson and Johnson.
I hope this post offers you some interesting approaches to begin teaching the set products from September 2023. These adverts are textually rich, and I can definitely see students engaging with them in lots of detail. If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions for teaching the new set adverts do let me know in the comments below.
OCR’s advertising factsheet has more suggestions on key content to cover for the new adverts.
For more information about the set product changes and the support available visit the Media Studies set products page on our website.
Share your thoughts in the comments below. If you have any questions, you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, call us on 01223 553998 or tweet us @OCR_Media_Film. You can also sign up to subject updates to keep up-to-date with the latest news, updates and resources.
Dave Soltysik is Head of Media Studies in a large comprehensive secondary school and sixth form in Hertfordshire. He is an A Level and GCSE examiner and moderator. Dave is passionate about exploring innovative, fresh and relevant approaches to teaching Media Studies and ensuring that it remains a vital part of the curriculum.