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Friday, 21 March 2014

Advertising For and With Doctor Who

Allow me a preface: as a student at a liberal arts college, I have to write many papers, etc. that aren't exactly what I'd like to write about. For instance, this is something that I wrote for my Psychological Science class. Our unit for this was Social Psychology (I happen to know that the professor is a huge Tolkien fan, so he probably understands how obsession works...) and the module was persuasion techniques. There is some technical vocab in the piece, so here are some definitions that you might like to know:
When I say that an ad uses central processing, what I mean is that it tells you facts about why you should buy (etc.) a certain thing, and tries to use logos to convince you. Ie, "this new Maserati can travel through space and time!" When I say that an ad uses peripheral processing, it means that the ad creates a distraction of sorts to advertise to you. Ie, perfume/cologne ads with two sexy people about to make out. I kid you not when I say that that is the example the professor gave in class. Hey, its college: we're all adults here, right??

BBC America’s MetroNorth Advert Campaign

These ads are on train in NYC. They are simplistic, which grabs attention because it contrasts with most other Metro North ads. If that’s not the only thing that grabs the attention, “TARDIS and “Time Lord” are not in the vernacular for most New Yorkers (although the number is certainly on the rise!) Since the TARDIS is a space/time transportation apparatus, it actually could get you home 700 years ago, although if you live in NYC where these trains run, you home was marsh land 700 years ago. The new vocabulary sparks curiosity—“what the hell is a TARDIS?” New Yorkers are always looking for the newest, shiniest thing, so maybe a TARDIS is that new Maserati? (I wish) 
These ads are peripheral. Nothing really generally has happened any time I was on a Metro North train (I live just outside NYC). Most ads have interesting pictures and the very small text that is simply not legible from more than maybe four feet away. In a train, you are certainly not running between cars to find a poster that best explains why you should purchase a car, and this is the same. Most (emphasis on the “most”) people just kind of find what television shows they watch, and don’t actively search for it (most of us who watch Doctor Who would actively search for a new series, but then these ads are wasted on us because we don’t need to be advertised to in order for us to watch it; we already do in a quasi-religious manner).

BBC America’s Use of Online Meme Theory

This ad is also peripheral processing. It is meant for to be seen via social media. The official Doctor Who page shared it, and then it counts on people who “like” that page would “like” it  or share it with their friends so It gets more publicity simply because they know the awesomeness that is Doctor Who. The image started on Facebook and also ended up on Twitter and Tumblr. Also I believe I used it for something on my site as well. As an online ad, it plays with the concept of “going viral”. Putting it in the news feeds also is subliminal messaging, as an uninterested person might just scroll by, but still they saw the ad and it reached their processing, making them more likely to notice more Doctor Who ads in the future. If they, the next day, happen to be in a Metro North train and notice more prominently the afore mentioned ads, Doctor Who has successfully entered their minds, and I wish them luck purging it from there—but than again, I don’t suffer from an obsession to Doctor Who. I rather enjoy it.

These last three ads all play on commonly known expression. “My Other Ride is a ________________”,  “If You Lived Here, You’d be Home by Now” and “Trust Your Doctor” are generally not new phrases for people. They take the attention from a known phrase to get your attention and deviate from it to make their advertising point

Using Doctor Who’s Popularity in Other Businesses

This ad is different from the rest yet still refers to Doctor Who. It is a magazine advert for the University of East Anglia, where Eleventh Doctor, Matt Smith got his degree in acting. Although UEA has “university” right in the name, it is a business: their product is education. All schools that charge tuition are businesses. This ad could be more for central processing. In general, one does not decide to go to college on a whim, and looks for a good school. It appeals to logos. It states that many well-educated people have gone there, and even one huge actor. Then, it appeals a combination of pathos and logos with the happy, hopeful student, proud to share his place of higher education with 826 distinguished people. There is a major downfall to the ad: if you prefer Tenth Doctor David Tennant over Matt Smith.

Usually, on this package, there would be the Birds Eye fisherman, a figure much like the fisherman on Gorton’s fish products in the US. Here is the joke: In Matt Smith’s first episode, “The Eleventh Hour,” he is having an insatiable craving, ultimately fulfilled by a midnight-snack of fish fingers (basically the UK’s equivalent of fish sticks, but rectangular) accompanied by custard (think vanilla pudding but a little more liquidy). Ever since then, fans have loved to eat the unlikely pairing of food. And I will say from personal experience that it is also quite good. This isn’t quite an ad, but it actually uses a bit of central processing. I know if I were looking for fish fingers and couldn’t decide on which brand, the Eleventh Doctor in the corner would most definitely persuade me to choose that brand. It is also peripheral processing because his being there has undoubtedly grabbed the attention of some fangirl who bought the fish fingers simply because Matt is on them.  As a side note, the people at Birds Eye were a little amusing—they gifted Matt a year’s supply of fish fingers for being on the box, which is extra silly because he’s said in interviews that he really doesn’t care for fish fingers and custard.

All these ads work together: ads like the first three point people in the direction of Doctor Who and then campaigns like the last two use that interest to promote their business.

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