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Textual Analysis of British Army Recruitment Adverts

3583 words (14 pages) Essay in English Language

08/02/20 English Language Reference this

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I have chosen to use a text to analyse for this essay. The text chosen is a recent advertisement for the recruitment of the British Army. This advertising poster uses social labelling from a negative stand point and draws out the positive traits of said person’s personality to make them feel needed and perhaps valuable to the British Army. Texts can be anything written which conveys a message (for example a shopping list) and can also be multimodal (for example a sign post or a poster). A Literacy practice is the result of interaction and creation with a text for a set of purposes and expectations surrounding the event. For example texting, you are exchanging messages with someone for a form of engagement and conventions and social norms. Creativity often starts from you, the level of which one may find a text or practice creative is dependent upon many different factors including the purpose of the text/practice, the meaning behind the text/practice (political), the history surrounding the matter, the social background, the culture etc., thus meaning creativity to be context based.

The reason I have chosen this text is because it is multimodal, it has political motivations, there are cultural and historical meanings behind the image used with inspiration for the advertisement taken from the Lord Kitchener Wants You is a 1914 advertisement created by Alfred Leete, During World War I. The language that is used in this particular advertisement is context based, it targets a specific audience, in this case millennials and generation Z.As previously mentioned, this text is an advertisement for recruitment for the British Army, however it can also be considered a literacy practice in that the British Army have created this advertising poster to recruit members of the public to perform a public service for the country. It is with expectations that a return response from the public will be received that they have published this advertisement and not just to look at as a ‘thing’. Therefore this is a good example of how a text and a literacy practice are closely related and the line between them is more often than not theoretically blurred.

First things first, in order to analyse the creativity used in this chosen text, I must outline the definition of creativity itself put forward by Kaufman and Sternberg (2010) which is as follows “Something is creative if it is novel, of high quality and appropriate to the task at hand”, however they do not outline explicitly on what basis one should decide a text or practice meets those criteria, as previously mentioned this starts with the reader/observer, it is the reader/observer who decides what fits those criteria based on their knowledge and background. Firstly, a stylistics analysis will allow the discussion of how creative techniques and features have been used in the chosen text, secondly using a social analysis to discuss the creative results and aspects of the chosen text focusing on the social effects it could have in its context; thirdly a political analysis on the chosen text will reveal some reasons as to perhaps why the text was created and the social effects it has had in its context and last but not least a conclusion drawing upon important points that have been discussed and how creativity can be context bound, specifically relating to the chosen text.

Exploring linguistic creativity is the first analysis of creativity being context bound, Jeffries and McIntye (2010) suggest three lenses which explore linguistic creativity, these three lenses being the textual lens, contextual lens and the critical lens. Many creative techniques can be used in linguistic creativity which can be applied to the textual lens, a few examples involve defamiliarisation (Jeffries and McIntyre, 2010), foregrounding, (Mukarovsky, 2000[1932]) which contributes to defamiliarisation and can be achieved in two ways, by deviation and parallelism (Leech and Short, 2007). Parallelism is an unexpected repetition achieved through one or more sentences or clauses which have the same grammatical structure. Deviation consists of different linguistic techniques such as phonetics and phonology, syntax and grammar, lexis, semantic and meaning and pragmatics. In the chosen text, one could argue that defamiliarisation has been used as this advertisement is in part a recreation of the ‘Kitchener Wants You’ poster, at first glance it seems very similar to the original poster however when you read the text on the advertisement, the choice of words used prolongs the time it takes to fully understand the meaning and the message behind the advertisement. Foregrounding is also used on this text, with the white background anything that is used will stand out, in this case the use of bold red font for the ‘social label’ and the personal strengths that accompany these stereotypes will stand out to the desired target audience (typography and orthology) immediatley. The black and white image of the person could either be a vision of the target audience in the future or a member of the British Army asking the audience directly for them to join, as ‘they need you’ for X reason. As for the choice of words used in this text, there is a form of parallelism, morphology and syntax with the repetition of the word ‘you’ or ‘your’ being used three times throughout. Pragmatics, an employer may not usually word a job advertisement/description so directly and perhaps so controversially, this advertisement is short, direct and it leaves an impression with the reader with the choice of stereotypical labelling.

A creative text relies upon the social, cultural and historical contexts of language and how it might be adapted to different situations or for what particular reasons. There are many different versions of this advertisement out there, each with a different ‘label’ to target different types of people, members of the public who may feel undervalued in their current jobs or in society, here the British Army are aiming to make them feel very much needed for specific traits within their personality. These labels are used amongst the public to describe different kinds of people (stereotypically), however they mainly apply to millennials and generation Z, the target audience being between 16 and 25 years old. Any one over this age group may be more heavily involved with the naming and labelling that have been used towards this generation, thus the reasoning the Army may be aiming to make the target audience feel more welcome with them. Anyone who lives abroad or who is not heavily involved with social media may not understand this advertisement due to the language that has been used and therefore may not find it creative, nevertheless many would be familiar with the original ‘Kitchener Wants You’ poster and may consider this advertisement creative from that point of view as it is something ‘new’ (Kaufman and Sternberg, 2010). There are many different contributing factors which alter ones views and thought process of creativity. From another prospective, Cook (2000) and Carter (2004) suggest that creativity is not just the transfer of information but the building and maintaining of a relationship that it provides as it is the interaction between context and language which helps to question their effectiveness and the value of the linguistic creativity.

In relation to the above discussion, the social context is also an important approach to consider for creativity. Beginning with Seaman and Smith (2012), whom suggest that history is what contributes to groups and individuals identities. Businesses tell their story through a narrative (identity construction) and continue to control what is said about them in the media by controlling any damage that has been made and rectifying the situation with the ‘correct’ truth. It is through these stories that the public can relate to said business and perhaps will further wish to be employed by them. In this text, there is not much ‘storytelling’ going on, however the message on the advertisement is as follows: ‘Snow Flakes, your army needs you and your compassion’, this appears to signify ‘you’ would just be one part of a team, ‘you’ have an important position amongst the business no matter who ‘you’ are. This text, as previously discussed is ‘recycled’, this shows a history of the British Army, how times have changed, a forever changing environment with the use of linguistic features such as the new labelling, nonetheless the longing to be part of a group and something bigger remains the same throughout time. We can be labelled as many different people/characters in a life time, for example at work one might be known as a hard worker/doctor but at home, one might be known as a father or perhaps as a lazy person. One’s identity is made up of many different layers (hybrid) and will change with the circumstances we are faced with daily and the people who surround us. Goffman (1990 [1959]) researched a performative quality of identity, this enabled the concept of a more post-modern concept of identity, whereby identity performance is based on conversational ‘positions’, which is not necessarily a conscious decision of conversers but more often than not it is. For example, people take on the role of these labels and don’t actually interpret the meaning to their own personality. Applying this to the text at hand, a person could be labelled as an ‘Army’ man, to which there are a lot of associated rumours and thoughts on military men including how they behave and said person will accept this as who they are and behave in such mannerisms. Millennials and generation Z are frequent users of social media and with that comes a lot of different versions and opinions of stories. Henry Jenkins (2006) proposed a term called convergence culture which is used to describe the way in which social media brings together individuals, groups and genres that were once separate. This text has appeared online over social media; there is no evidence to show how the public reacted over this particular method of advertisement; however one could begin to imagine the different outcomes, the good and the bad.

 A character from The Leopard, a novel written by Giuseppe di Lampedusa says “If we want things to stay the same, things have to change”, Brown et al, (2009, p.328). On one hand, a narrative is a story that can be told differently each time dependent upon the audience and the circumstances at hand, a story can be told in a personal or impersonal manner, these are known as narrative genres, Todorov, (1990). In this text the narrative is in a personal manner as the message is directed to ‘you’. On the other hand, the narrative can also be interpreted differently each time dependant on the individual who is reading and their knowledge, cultural background and understanding of the story being told. For this text, as previously discussed, if someone who does not fit into the category who is being targeted, either by label, age group or culture, one may not be able to relate to the British Army and their chosen recruitment style and may consider a text like this to be insulting or perhaps controversial.

In relation to this ongoing discussion, the political context can also be a central approach to context within creativity. Labelling has been around for a long time, as per this text there are ‘new’ labels which are dominantly featured on the advertisement, such as ‘snow flake’. These new terms and labels are mostly used today upon millennials and generation Z, Bakhtin (1981 [1935],pp.270-2) believes that each generation and age group has their own language and vocabulary system to which he applies the term ideology to define this variant in language. Bakhtin suggests that anything that is said by any member of the public has a power imbalance and is therefore potentially political. As per the text, one could argue that it is against social norms to advertise so ‘forcefully’ and with a controversial ideology to enable this action. Furthermore, this advertisement is based on a real life situation thus meaning that it has a political view as per Widdowson (2006), who differentiates literary text with non-literary texts, literary texts being based upon imagination and the latter is based on real life situations. As previously mentioned, the idea of this text has been reprocessed from the original the ‘Lord Kitchener Wants You’, if the two images were to be compared, they are visually similar, even with the colour placement on the advertisement, however the text is all new (Kaufman and Sternberg, 2010), thus meaning it qualifies to be creative. Bakhtin’s (1981 [1935]) research implies that any written text is dialogical in that it is responding to something that has already been written and it is now expecting a ‘new’ response. This method creates two methods, entextualisation and recontextualisation. This particular text encompasses entextualisation which is the inclusivity of some aspects of real life which include the cultural marking through a new text which includes spoken, written and multimodal.

Critical discourse analysis reveals hidden ideological meanings in texts; creativity interprets the possibility for discursive change which involves the transformation of ideologies and practices through the creation of replicating the reproduction of texts. Although not only text can reveal ideological meanings behind them, there can also be a social meaning between objects or phenomenon’s, indexical approach. This text shows an image of men in British Army uniform, this represents power to most of the public. The combination of the multimodality used in this text can be misleading and manipulating towards the audience, this form of persuasion is often used in propaganda, Jowett and O’Donnell (2006). The multimodality used in this text such as the choice of the colour red for some of the font, all upper case letters have been used, the contrast between the font, the language used and the image can portray this advertisement as intimidating. It is general knowledge that the British Army are heavily recruiting at this point in time due to low numbers of those currently serving. It could be a tactical method from them to require the image of the military personnel to look ‘fierce’ and ‘confident’ in hope this will inspire others that they too can be like them and that with the use of the text, this indicates that ‘anyone’ is able to become one of these men and women used in the advertisement. As a result of sharing content over the internet through the likes of social media (glocalisation), the advertisement may have been seen in other countries (globalisation), due to the language used, the advertisement may not be understood correctly as the meaning of the labels may be lost in translation. There have previously been a couple of different versions of this text across the globe, particularly by the Americans and from the Soviet Union (localisation) of which the advertisement may be better understood by their nationals – context.

In relation to the above discussion, some general conclusions can be drawn about the context of creativity; creativity can vary in different circumstances. In regards to the chosen text, the creative techniques that have been used have been directed to a specific target audience and those whom it is aimed at may or may not find the use of the creative techniques very direct. Context of creativity is highly dependent on social, cultural and historical contexts of language in the circumstances one may find themselves in, this involves background knowledge of British Army, being familiar with the social norms (labelling) of the country and their cultural background (ethnicity) can influence thoughts on creativity. Social context is equally important to context in creativity, such as each individual leads a life and each has a story, each story is unique to that person and their personnel experiences and this can affect the way in which the world is seen, this includes creativity. The way in which the world portrays individuals is equally important to the relationship that can be created with a business, for example the hybrid labelling and acting to that stereotype can influence thoughts towards a business advertisement, and in this text the level of relatability is primitive. Jenkins (2006) convergence culture equally plays a part in creating and maintaining a new relationship via social media that may not have been there beforehand if it weren’t for the advertisement. As suggested by Cook (2000) and Carter (2004) it is the maintaining and building of a relationship that is created from the context and the language used as opposed to creativity being only a transfer of information. Bakhtin (1981 [1935], pp.270-2) highlights the importance of each generation having their own language and vocabulary and from this point of view this gives context to each individual from that generation to believe the advertisement is ‘creative’ however it may alter to different generations who cannot relate to said terms that have been used. Bakhtin’s (1981 [1935], pp.270-2) entextualisation draws on the inclusivity of real life aspects which applies context to the advertisement as it becomes relatable in some manners. Bakhtin’s (1981) research has shown a correlation between text and the power of objects/images such as it is widely interpreted that an individual wearing a suit usually accompanies power. In this advertisement alongside the use of colours and font used in the advertisement, the individual in British Army uniform conveys power and as a result can manipulate the mind into persuasion which would result in context in creativity as seen in propaganda Jowett and O’Donnell (2006).

As per the discussion above, context in creativity highlights the importance of the use of language and situational circumstances but also creativity is very much dependant on each individual and their backgrounds/knowledge and awareness. Context which can be directed at a target audience may not be interpreted the same for by other audiences therefore I do believe that creativity is context bound.

References:

  • Jeffries and McIntye (2010), ‘What is linguistic creativity’ in Demjen. Z and Seargeant. P. (eds), Creativity in Language: from everyday style to verbal art, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan / Milton Keynes, Open University.
  • Mukarovsky, 2000[1932]), ‘What is linguistic creativity’ in Demjen. Z and Seargeant. P. (eds), Creativity in Language: from everyday style to verbal art, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan / Milton Keynes, Open University.
  • (Leech and Short, 2007), ‘What is linguistic creativity’ in Demjen. Z and Seargeant. P. (eds), Creativity in Language: from everyday style to verbal art, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan / Milton Keynes, Open University.
  • (Kaufman and Sternberg, 2010), ‘What is linguistic creativity’ in Demjen. Z and Seargeant. P. (eds), Creativity in Language: from everyday style to verbal art, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan / Milton Keynes, Open University.
  • Cook (2000) and Carter (2004), ‘What is linguistic creativity’ in Demjen. Z and Seargeant. P. (eds), Creativity in Language: from everyday style to verbal art, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan / Milton Keynes, Open University.
  • Seaman and Smith (2012), ‘Narratives at work’ in Maybin, J. (eds) Narrative, language and creativity: contemporary approaches, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan / Milton Keynes, Open University.
  • Goffman (1990 [1959]), ’Narratives at work’ in Maybin, J. (eds) Narrative, language and creativity: contemporary approaches, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan / Milton Keynes, Open University.
  • Henry Jenkins (2006), ‘Story telling and identity performance through social media’ in Maybin, J. (eds) Narrative, language and creativity: contemporary approaches, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan / Milton Keynes, Open University.
  • Brown et al, (2009, p.328). ‘Narratives at work’ in Maybin, J. (eds) Narrative, language and creativity: contemporary approaches, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan / Milton Keynes, Open University.
  • Todorov, (1990). ‘Life stories:complex narratives and everyday truths’ in Maybin, J. (eds) Narrative, language and creativity: contemporary approaches, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan / Milton Keynes, Open University.
  • Bakhtin, M,. 1981 [1935],pp.270-2.’Politics, creativity and language: an intimate relationship’ in Hann, D and Lillis T (eds),. 2017 The Politics of Language and creativity in a globalised world, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan / Milton Keynes, Open University.
  • (Bakhtin 1981 [1935]; Kristeva, 1986) ‘Creativity in political discourse’ in Hann, D and Lillis T (eds),. 2017 The Politics of Language and creativity in a globalised world, Milton Keynes, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan / Milton Keynes, Open University.
  • Jenkins, H,. 2006. ’Politics, creativity and language: an intimate relationship’ in Hann, D and Lillis T (eds),. 2017 The Politics of Language and creativity in a globalised world, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan / Milton Keynes, Open University.
  • Jowett et O’Donnell,. 2006. ‘Creativity in political discourse’ in Hann, D and Lillis T (eds),. 2017 The Politics of Language and creativity in a globalised world, Milton Keynes, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan / Milton Keynes, Open University.
  • Kaufman and Sternberg,. 2010. ’Politics, creativity and language: an intimate relationship’ in Hann, D and Lillis T (eds),. 2017 The Politics of Language and creativity in a globalised world, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan / Milton Keynes, Open University.
  • Widdowson,. 2006 ’Politics, creativity and language: an intimate relationship’ in Hann, D and Lillis T (eds),. 2017 The Politics of Language and creativity in a globalised world, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan / Milton Keynes, Open University.

Appendix:

Sadler, C. (2019) ‘‘Your Army Needs You’: Army Unveils Latest Recruitment Campaign’ Forces Network, 3rd January [online]. Available at https://www.forces.net/news/your-army-needs-you-army-unveils-latest-recruitment-campaign [Accessed 6 May 2019].

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