Research: An Examination of Binary Methods in Advertising

Under the pretext of capitalism, a photograph is merely a scopic field for its object, manipulating the audience through repetitious positioning until the object-subject is completely commodified (Hein, 2006; Owens, 1994).  Is there something about the quantifiable that vilifies the material?  “The camera doesn’t rape, or even possess, though it may presume, intrude, trespass, distort, exploit and, at the farthest reach of metaphor, assassinate – all activities that, unlike the sexual push and shove, can be conducted from a distance, and with some detachment” (Sontag,  1977).

The trajectory of visual language that grooms the audience user, is so ingrained into societal accepted norms, it is difficult to see the mode of representation which forces the subject into action. The camera is not the depiction of the shot, but depicts the distortion of the image, therefore making the spectator aware of looking at the subject’s reciprocation of the spectator’s desire (McGowan, 2018).

Fig. 1 Williams, (2007) Obsession for Men / Obsession for Women.

This advertisement illustrates the commercialized sexualization of men and women using visual strategies intended to generate responses through psychological persuasion to encourage behaviors through the most sophisticated and intuitive media messages. It is a complex process blending visual components with persuasion strategies focused on the interpretation of the audience user and their mental capabilities to make meaning.

Visual response from the counter culture is appropriate to contradict the beauty industries advertising motives and illuminates key concepts that have been most influential in feminist theories questioning what motivates advertisers to position subjects in subjective or sexualized manners. Further advancing visual communication, this response provides the context for visual literacy and the relationship between visual and rational intelligence employing a binary retort to the gaze. This is a great illustration on how to use the angst of underground zines in a popular culture society and it is catching on in the fashion industry.

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Fig. 2 & 3 Buffalo Zine

The overall connotation of this publication is most inspiring. Calling itself an ‘object’ while maintaining the cutting edge of materiality and authenticity in a rebellious manner. Shocking at times, stylish and entertaining.

We could consider the illustrated binary methods of advertising examples in this study as current related problems, issues and debates within the graphic design industry and theoretically issues of society. While popular culture seemingly embraces what is repetitious, counter cultures embrace rebellious response to these issues until they too become commodified through trending design strategies and audience research. All you have to do is look back at Madison Square’s 7UP campaign in the late 60’s and ask the hippie culture what happened.


Hein, C. (2006) Laura Mulvey, Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema. Norderstedt. German National Library.

McGowan, T. (2018) Cinema after Lacan. In: Mukherjee, A. (ed.). After Lacan. Literature, Theory, and Psychoanalysis in the Twenty-First Century. Cambridge University Press. United Kingdom.

Owens, C. (1994) Beyond Recognition – Representation. Power, and Culture. Scott Bryson, Barbara Kruger, Lynne Tillman, Jane Weinstock (eds.) Berkeley, Los Angeles and London: University California Press.

Sontag, S. (1977) On Photography. Picador. New York.


Header. Shappee, M. (2019) No Title. Mixed Media Collage.

Fig. 1 Williams, R. and Newton, J. (2007) Visual Communication: Integrating Media, Art and Science. Pg. 176. New York. Routledge

Fig. 2 Corporate (2019) Buffalo Zine [online] available at: [accessed 02-22-2019]






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