Radio Shack Super Bowl Commercial

This commercial begins with two employees in a Radio Shack store. One employee answers the phone and then says, “the 80’s called, they want their store back.” Then a deluge of 80’s celebrities raid the store, leaving it completely empty. The announcer then says, “it’s time for a new Radio Shack” and a shot of an entirely renovated Radio Shack appears on the screen.
This ad is very strong in terms of symbols. It interpolates the viewer as someone who is familiar with this “[blank] called, they want their [blank] back” joke, saying that something is stereotypical. This also shows that Radio Shack is familiar with their outdated image, hailing a viewer as someone familiar with this additional layer of the joke. It also relies on the fact that the audience is familiar with celebrities from the 80s. If someone were not familiar with the celebrities, they would not understand that they are recognized as representing the 80s. In other words, the viewer must be able to understand the signifier of a large blonde male in a wrestling outfit signifies Hulk Hogan.
The viewer would also have to understand that the DeLorean is a car from the 80s movie, Back To The Future. The DeLorean is the literal denotation that connotes time travel (so the 80s can take back Radio Shack). The DeLorean is part of a chain of signification, where it was first used in the movie because it was considered a luxury sports car, signifying coolness and high tech. After the movie, it was closely connected to time travel and therefore signified advancement and progress. Now, it signifies kitsch and 80s. This is all part of a cultural cannibalism that the 80s has endured. I personally only know a few of the characters in the commercial, but am familiar overall with the 80s aesthetic because of the cultural cannibalism the 80s have been subject to. There are so many media representations of how garish and over the top 80s pop culture is. However, this has caused a transformation in which the 80s joke was known by a select in-group (those who lived through the 80s), to pop culture at large. It used to be cool for those who lived through the 80s to be able to laugh about how over the top styles were, but now it is understood that the 80s produced big hair and bad movies by people who never lived through it.
This play on the 80s is part of the commercial’s ‘cool’ factor. It tries to use irony to point out that Radio Shack is in on the joke. They know that they have an image for being in the past and not updated, so the commercial uses that. They want to show the audience that they are self-aware and play on that fact. They openly point to their out of date image to catch the attention of a cynical audience and then quickly add at the end that they are updating. This is also part of the creative revolution in which advertisers recognized viewer’s skeptical perspective towards ads and incorporated that into the ads themselves. The ad also has a high production value, using many real celebrities to create a short story about the brand rather than just a descriptive ad.
This ad also uses intertextuality to create a synergy with the brand’s aesthetic. The viewer might notice that the store in the commercial looks like every Radio Shack store with it’s red and white design. The commercial is also inline with other Radio Shack commercials that have a very self-aware and witty tone. They also have a history of using 80s celebrities such as Alf.
This commercial fits the four ideological points. The first being that ads socially and culturally construct our world. This does this by showing viewers what they would expect when seeing a Radio Shack store. If they did not before, they would associate the old design of the store with 80s and the new design with innovation. Ads also disguise and suppress contradictions, etc. This does this by showing that Radio Shack is new and improved, however, this does not point out the fact that many of it’s stores are struggling or closing. Ads also promote a normative vision of our world. These ads do not show the other aspects of 80s culture, it does not show the underground or alternative characters from that era. Then ads reflect the logic of capital. This ad does this by putting together the Radio Shack brand and innovation, urging the customer to shop there because it is associated with progress and high tech.



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