Creating inspiring brands.

It’s between you and the ad

The term intertextuality introduced by Julia Kristeva referred to texts that refer to other texts. By understanding the point of reference or what the text you are reading is referring to, the reader understands the text better.

Intertextuality is not just referring to texts, but it is seen in advertising as well, where one advertisement is referring to another advertisement. Another type of advertising intertextuality, which is very common, occurs when advertisement refers to social or cultural contexts the ad is placed in. Therefore, the ad can be placed in various contexts, such as social, cultural or advertising contexts.

A famous intertextual example of placing the ad in the cultural and brand contexts is seen in the Absolut vodka ads. This one asks the viewer to use what they already know about the brand or based on their knowledge of Absolut vodka’s advertisements. The viewer is used to searching for the bottle somewhere in the ad. Juxtaposed to this is a culturally interwoven motive, such as Absolut Etiquette or Absolut Amsterdam or Absolut Bangkok.

When the viewer spots the bottle and understands the social or cultural contexts of the specific Absolut advertisement, he/she feels a certain sense of accomplishment for understanding the ad.

Not all intertextual advertisements are obvious to the viewer. They are not easy to comprehend, but sometimes people see an intertextual context even if it wasn’t planned to be intertextual. I don’t know for certain if the next example was planned to be intertextual, or in other words that the ad was referring to another ad in the same industry as part of the plan.

I am talking about the new ad for Southern Comfort entitled “Whatever’s Comfortable” and loved the simplicity of it. It doesn’t have a story, only a chunky character who is evidently comfortable in his own skin. He is an extremely likeable guy (at least to me), because he is not trying to be likeable, he is himself and liking it. I liked the message Southern Comfort was sending to the consumers. But I had a feeling I appreciated this sort of simplicity more than the ad deserved and that’s when I realized I was comparing it to Johnny Walker’s “The Man Who Walked Around The World.”

I was subconsciously comparing the two ads because they are both brands of whiskey and the male protagonists are walking and narrating the story (Johnny Walker) or the lack of it (Southern Comfort).

It is not critical for comprehending and enjoying the Southern Comfort ad, that you have seen the Johnny Walker ad, but it makes you smile even more at the simplicity and the lack of story.

While the Johnny Walker ad tells you the whole history of the brand in just 6 minutes through absolutely brilliant copy, starring Robert Carlyle, the Southern Comfort ad, on the other hand, doesn’t have such a brilliant copy and it doesn’t narrate anything about the brand verbally. Despite the lack of narrative, you get a very good feeling of the brand.

Intertextuality in Southern Comfort was maybe not intended or planned, but to me as a viewer it seemed to result in enjoying it even more. I actually grasped the differentiation between the two brands more than I would have if I didn’t feel the intertextual context. Personally, even though I love the simplicity of the Southern Comfort ad, I see myself more as the target customer of Johnny Walker. I loved the copy, Robert Carlyle, historical context and the story.

Advertisements that use intertextuality have a bigger impact on the consumer as they feel a sense of accomplishment for understanding or decoding the ad. However, it’s not just a sense of accomplishment, it is also the feeling that you understand the relevant social, cultural or advertising contexts and that perhaps not all people would understand this. This makes you feel like you belong to a certain group of people and thus the relationship with the brand that is advertised is enhanced.

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