Three Dimensions of Myth in Post Advertising: A Case of an Advertising Spot of the Reserved Brand

Three Dimensions of Myth in Post Advertising: A Case of an Advertising Spot of the Reserved Brand

Marcin Laberschek (Jagiellonian University, Poland) and Malwina Popiołek (Jagiellonian University, Poland)
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 28
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-9100-9.ch009


This chapter addresses the issue of the myth in contemporary advertising. An example here is the campaign called “#polishboy” made by the Polish clothing company Reserved. The authors examine the various elements of the ad: “Help! Help! Polish boy wanted!:)” (here considered as a post ad), which appeared in social media in 2017, and caused a lot of emotional reactions among the internet users. Trying to analyze and explicate what influenced the fact that this controversial advertisement gained such popularity, the authors conducted a qualitative analysis pointing the different dimensions of the myth in the ad.
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In March 2017 a short film was published in the social media entitled: Help! Help! Polish Boy Wanted!:). In the film one could see a girl appealing to the Internet users for help in finding a boy met at the concert. As it turned out later, a film was in fact an advertisement of a fashion chain Reserved (whose owner is the LPP company). Within a few days since the first release of an advertisement in the social media it was viewed circa two million times (Goczał, 2017a).

The aim of the following article is to analyze and explicate what influenced the fact that this controversial advertisement (here considered as a post ad) gained such popularity. As a consequence, an attempt has been made to answer the following research questions: which elements included in the advertisement determined the recipients to act, that is to share it with other Internet users?; what meaning in this context was contained in its form and structure?; and finally, to what extent the social conditioning of whether something is considered true or untrue conveyed the meaning?

To answer the aforementioned research questions, a comprehensive qualitative analysis of the aforementioned advertisement has been made and a social mechanism of giving the status of truth to some false information, including the above-mentioned advertisement, has been explicated. Therefore, an appropriate methodological apparatus has been created and three mythical dimensions in a post ad Help! Help! Polish Boy Wanted!:) have been determined, taking into account its social context. Each dimension referred to a different, socially fixed import of myth.

The first dimension pertains to a narrative form of an advertisement. It constitutes a contemporary tale, based on classical, almost fairy motifs of an unhappy girl in love, who cannot contact her beloved one in any way. Hence, the above-mentioned tale should be comprehended in the categories of the traditionally understood myth, since it includes a characteristic archetypal semantic layer. Consequently, a content analysis of this advertisement has been conducted in order to determine the archetypes contained (the universal patterns of culture), which could in a sense “beguile” and convince the recipients to share it with other Internet users.

The next dimension is the cultural stratification hidden in the advertisement. Roland Barthes claimed that we live in the world in which everything that surrounds us contains an additional cultural layer of meaning, through which we offer appropriate interpretations. Champagne is not just a common sparkling wine, McDonald’s is not an “ordinary” bar, and Mount Everest is something more than the highest mountain on Earth. Each of these elements contains additional cultural meaning, that is Barthes’ mythology. Therefore, an attempt has been made to semiotically explore a post ad Help! Help! Polish Boy Wanted!:) in order to find and determine appropriate categories of myths, to understand what their reception was, what meaning they carried for the recipients and why they were not indifferent to them. In so doing, the authors followed John Fiske’s approach: “Rather than being concerned with what people read, we should concentrate on how they read” (Fiske, 2010, p. 147; translation from the Polish language).

The third type of myth does not pertain directly to the content of the advertisement. There exists such a type of information which, despite its dubious and mysterious nature, functions in the social sphere as true. We call it myth. It takes the form of a gossip, rumor, joke, fake news, quasi theory, post-truth, etc. The post ad of the Reserved brand also functioned as myth rapidly spreading amongst the virtual community, even if for a short time. An appropriate analysis of this phenomenon has been conducted in order to explicate why the recipients of such content do not verify it and deem it true instantly, and why it spreads so dynamically.

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