The Jeep brand is one that we often associate with the outdoors, despite being owned and driven by people in all types of areas. In this new ad that they showed during the 2014 Superbowl, Jeep embraces the fact that their brand is attached to the idea of outdoors and nature. Going further than the brand, Jeep more importantly creates an attachment between the brand and a certain lifestyle, which is characteristic of ads after the creative revolution. By attaching the word “Restless” to the advertisement, the company doesn’t just say something about their product; they actually describe their consumers.
Consumers understand Jeep’s brand image partly through understanding their advertisements. One way of understanding their advertisements is through semiotic analysis. The whole advertisement is compiled of scenes from outside, with the only exception being when people are inside a Jeep. The commercial is comprised of different scenes of different people. The people and the things around them are all signifiers. For instance, the ocean, the trees, the mud, the rain, the sun, the rocks are all signifiers for nature. The non-natural structure seen in the commercial is what we know to be a car. The shape of the car and the letters saying “jeep” on it are also signifiers for a specific type of car. All these signifiers are read together as a sign of the signified, which is Jeep. From here, we can start a chain of signifiers. If the signified are nature and Jeep, then they are also signifiers for things like adventure and restlessness.
Part of the “Restless” commercial gives us an idea of freedom. One part of the advertisement features a human figure behind the wall of his balcony in the city. It then cuts to a man in the woods looking up at the sky tops of the trees in the sky. Between these scenes the narrator says, “When the walls close in, do you climb out?”. Being behind the wall signifies a feeling on entrapment in the city and conformity, while the outdoors represents total freedom. The rest of the ad combines images and the narration to emphasize this same point.
Along with the promotion of physical freedom, Jeep also gives us a sense of longing for personal freedom of individuality in this advertisement. The idea of individuality and lack of constraint was first embraced in popular culture around the 1960’s. During the time, there were movements like the anti-establishment movement and the mass culture critique. Advertisers knew this and used it for their advantage. Consumers were looking to stand out from the crowd and feel special based on who they wanted to be.
Advertisers addressed this new need for individualism by putting more emphasis on the creative people at the agency. One of the first people to incorporate this idea was Bill Bernbach, who decided to let the creative workers at an agency have most of the control in creating an ad. This led to the Creative Revolution where advertising companies started leaving it up to the creative employees to create ads that made customers feel like individuals.
As consumers watching this commercial, we are interpellated as “restless” individuals looking for freedom and adventure. This is what Jeep wants us to be, but there are some problems with this. Goldman and Papson introduce these problems in “Advertising in the Age of Accelerated Meaning”. This ad can be critiqued for producing all four of the “ideologies” that Goldman and Papson talk about, but the most problematic one for this ad is that it “disguise[s] and suppress[es] inequalities, injustices, irrationalities, and contradictions” (Goldman and Papson 95-96). The biggest problems are the contradictions this ad disguises.
The image of a car and nature is contradictory in itself. We are in an age where we are concerned about pollution and global warming in the environment. One of the main contributors to global warming is thought to come from cars. By promoting cars in a natural setting, the Jeep brand is contradicting itself. Not only does the car possibly contribute to the degradation of the environment, but the car is not natural itself. However, the advertisement suppresses these concerns and most consumers won’t acknowledge this contradiction of nature versus man-made material.
This advertisement gets to the cynical consumer by making them believe the people behind the advertisement are on their side, and are critical of consumerism as well. It seems to communicate that the people at Jeep feel our need for freedom, and want to encourage us to be outside away from any physical or mental constraints. This follows Frank’s theory of “Anti-establishment magic” where Corporate America or in this case Jeep, is a “sponsor” of the fun we could have outside (Frank 34).