1.1 Background to the Study
The post-modern era in the arts comes with varying degree of styles and objectives. These styles and objectives are adopted and utilized depending on the art/media genre that the artists feel is the most appropriate for, and best machinery towards driving home their messages. In order words, there is no watertight argument in favour of adaptation of different art forms, or dramatic genre or, documented advantages showcasing preferences for traditional or convergent forms, literary or visual arts, and print or motion pictures.
The world of arts has gone through many changes since it first represented itself on the walls of the caves in the Stone Age. Advertising has flourished through the time as art showed itself in populist and sociological forms. In one side, artists struggled to break down the walls of taboos, social impositions and questioned the political systems, on the other side artists worked hard to analyze the human psychological system to boost the consumption by advertising (Tunali 2).
The concept of advertising in line with varying principles of arts derives its existence and practices from different art forms, administering its intended messages through selected genres- most of the time chosen to bring fitting combinations of ideologies and end-result communication. Advertising has been adjudged to not only be the best customer mind-changer but most importantly, the assemblages of the most aesthetic art forms and proven potent tool for administering and ensuring the effectiveness of the basic communication model of sender-medium-receiver. Suffice this to say that advertising have become integral part programming in the electronic media (Betiang 442) and a major space-consumer in the print media.
While the effectiveness of advertisements may not necessarily be traced to the medium used, the latter surely play a vital role in attracting and engaging the audience. Without witling down the power of straight-to-the-meaning texts, the weight of influence that beyond the threshold images carry with them cannot be overemphasized. Pictures and images, without doubt, are core drivers of mediated channel. It is almost impossible these days to find media texts containing only written symbols without an attached illustrating picture. In order words, there has been a significant shift towards visual and subliminal forms of communication that our mass-mediated world and its consumers have seen themselves fall prey to their subconscious and subtle manipulation. While motion images are known for their effectiveness in boosting the make-believe pictures that are full of life and action in the audiences psyche, print media is adjudged as the most enabling method that allow for detailed appreciation in an audience-determined speed. Subliminal texts still find effective tools in the former and latter. The consumer of print media product benefits from the still nature of the medium which allows for a convenient evaluation and understanding of the information as intended or encoded by the sender. This allow for multi-viewing and interpretation of hidden contents. The rapturous movements of motion pictures deny the consumer/audience this advantage but are, however deployed to retained subconscious inter-play of the hidden subliminal contents. Having agreed that the efficacy of the audio-visual and print media texts lies in their flexible and dynamic nature, it is then ironic that the weaknesses of these media forms revolve around this established quality. Ignoring the details of inherent movements established in motion pictures will mean turning a blind eye to the obvious; movements most often bring straight interpretations and understanding of given narratives. On the contrary, the making of the print media/texts opens rooms for doubts and varying interpretations. It is also opens discriminatory spaces at the consumption and receiver level. In other words, the ability to interpret and understand such texts will be highly dependent on the receivers grasp of semantics, cultural alienation and level of media literacy.
At the point of encoding (i.e designing media texts), a great deal goes into ensuring the aesthetic aspects of the art receive maximum attention. Graphics and visual effects are chosen to provide the art with the primary show of beauty. It has, however, been observed that such concentration and emphasis on aesthetics ends up sacrificing the inner or connotative essence of the text.
The unique nature of advertisements is, therefore, inherent in its multiplicity of meanings that are only subject to interpretations point of view. While meanings are sometimes given, the ambiguity of non-verbal code and multi- cultural dimension in the cause of decoding intended meanings make images and lingual symbols somewhat complex and only subject to divergent meanings from the encoder to the decoder, and most importantly, from one philosophical bent to another. It then goes to point to the fact that adverts are bundles of complex and sophisticated art forms that go beyond the surface and straight-cut methods of other traditional forms. According to Campbell, credibility and questioning if advert images have erupted periodically in debates about, manipulation and post-processing of digitally produced photographs (3).
Non-motion adverts, therefore, have their complex nature imbedded in the adaptation of creative techniques which are personalized during encoding stage and are well-segmented and understood within a given context. While their decoding most of the time impose universal deconstruction and understanding, there seems to be intentional cultural-locks of some of the images that take a good understanding of values of the intended audience and cultural myths of the society to have proper decoding of the art in question.
While recent trends support the high influence of globalization, which have not only come with a more interactive global space but also a rapid assimilation and sharing of new cultural products and notions manifesting in diverse forms and perspectives (Andrew 148), the indigenization policies of developing c0ountries like Nigeria only mean that there is a continued fusion of universal and Nigerian construction of meanings.
The Nigeria Telecommunication industry is said to have taken advantage of subliminal embeds in advertisements to sell their products on the one hand, and on the other, create non-conventional but trending aesthetic points. These adverts now come with heavy dose of subliminal contents, colour play, colour blogging (and blocking) and the use of indexical and iconic symbols to universal appeal, while ensuring balance through indigenized contents. These then gives birth to a new world of experiment and interest.
Advertisements construct, form and manipulate the perception and the behavior of its consumers and the outside. All the symbols are paying an immeasurable service of presenting and apprehending the culture and the world. (Ranjan 8) In the context of use of visual in advertizing services, the advert designer is often compelled to use indexical and visual signs. This brings to mind semiotics which works based on socio-cultural context. Subliminal use of images in these adverts is so dominant, thereby bringing a lot of interpretation complexities at the decoding stage. Ertugrul Tunal?, analyzing the problems arising from subliminal impositions in advertising copies, states that
Advertisements bombard every minute of our lives. Anyone, however can find subliminal advertising photographs in every major advertisement and magazine cover. The advertising industry, applies deceptive subliminal advertising techniques which most us are unaware of. By using subliminal techniques, advertisers manipulate and control us in many ways. We may ignore ads as we see a billboard on the way to school or to work. But, most of us do not realize the mind games the advertisers has been playing on our subconscious minds. It is startling if realized the advertisers has gained control of our lives without us even knowing it (3).
1.2. Statement of the Problem
This study is anchored on the premise that subliminal advertising are deployed as a means of beating censorships and aiding the production and presentation of illicit contents by mobile telephone operators in Nigeria.
The NBC code is rooted on the pursuit for high value system and moral standard of the Nigerian society. Chapter 3.1.1 of the code stipulates that all programmes shall adhere to the general principles of legality, decency and truth. It goes on to place premium on humanity and frowns at any advertisement that disrespects human dignity, leads to disorder or paint offensive picture to the public with its provision in Chapter 7.0.8. The Code equally insist on adherence to professional ethics, especially as regards clarity and non-ambiguity of contents
However, there seems to be deliberate practices by mobile telecommunication advertisers, to not only go contrary to these laws but go a long way in evading censorship. Mobile telephone operator in Nigeria deploys subliminal contents to produce, for public consumption, advertisements with sexual connotative images and