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March 19, 2008

Glossary of Magazine Terms

Glossary of Magazine Terms


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Ad-get Features: These are closely linked to advertorials. This involves a special theme being proposed in order to sell advertising space in the magazine. This is a slightly murky field. For example the Times Higher Educational supplement might tell publishers when it is going to carry features and revews on a particular subject area such as ‘Media’ for example. Obviously this is likely to attract more buyers than usual from University media departments. But the publishers of Media textbooks will have no say in exactly what is written in the features or the reviews. With ‘lifestyle’ magazines this relationship breaks down rapidly and there is likely to be close collaboration between advertisers and the magazine.

Advertorials: sometimes known as ‘special features’ these are pages for which the advertiser pays but the pages are designed and written in the style of the magazine’s editorial. They are either done by the magazine’s own staff or else they are freelance writers working to the magazines style sheets. They help to ‘deliver the reader to the advertisers’ by deliberately blurring the difference between the editorial content and the adverts. In many ways they can be seen as an attempt to fool readers into thinking that the content is in some way ‘objective’. Certainly the net effect is - except to the exceptionally alert reader - to provide an underpinning of the product concerned. Researching 1966 for IPC (a magazine company) showed that readers assume that the editor has in some way been involved in the selection of the product shown in the advertisement feature. The closer the match between the advertisement feature and the editorial style of the magazine the more readers are likely to believe that the editor is endorsing the product. The brand values of the magazine will feed into the product being featured. The December 2004 GQ ‘GQ Promotion’ of a Volvo 4 wheel drive estate which lends an air of excitement to the product is effectively part of a campaign to reposition in the car market as something more ‘lifestyle’ linked to adrenalin rather than as in Britain an image of staidness and safety features. Clearly primarily aimed at younger men. These features are meant to carry a truth ‘warning’ indicating that it is some kind of advertisement.

AIDA. Advertisers have worked for many years trying develop models of consumer behaviour. Many work to a behavioural model called AIDA = Awareness, Interest, Desire, Action. In this model the purpose of advertising is to raise awareness, then stimulate interest which leads to the creation of desire and subsequently action. Action wouldn’t necessarily take place for some time especially in the case of something big like car adverts for example. This meant that advertisers had to multiply the number of messages to reinforce their sales force. This model is dependent upon a ‘rational’ consumer acting in a linear way. Also many adverts failed to stimulate action or desire. Now most advertising strategies rely upon 2 main behavioural responses: raising awareness and stimulating interest.

AIR: see Average Issue Readership.

Average Issue Readership

Burst Advertising (also see Drip Advertising). Burst advertising concentrates on a range of vehicles with high frequency. This can be targeted at crucial times of year. For example the expensive Swiss watches advertised before Xmas (Cartier / Breitling) in GQ will also be present in the quality Newspapers (Financial Times, Independent, Telegraph, Times, Sunday Times etc). They will also be in magazines such as The Economist. GQ is the sort of magazine often consumed whilst waiting for business meetings or travelling to them and can be bought more for the adverts than the editorial content.

Circulation: Circulation differs from readership. A magazine will almost certainly have more readers than it has buyers. Each magazine generates figures which suggest the actual multiple involved. In other words whether it is 2 or 10 times the number of readers to buyers. Let us take GQ. It has a circulation of around 100,000 if its index comes out as 10 then it will have 1 million people reading it.

Consumer Magazines: These aim at leisure interest giving readers , advice information and entertainment relating to the reader’s leisure time. Magazines on cars, boats, bycycles, windsurfing, cinema etc. The actual quality of the writing and the target audience will of course vary. What links all these magazines is the fact that they will carry adverts to encourage the reader to consume relevant products in some way. Buying a car or a DVD or going to a film.

Coverage (Advertising). Coverage is the number of the target market reached. Coverage is usually measured in Average Issue Readership (AIR) for print media.

Cover lines : Information about major articles given on the front page of a magazine

Drip Advertising. (also see Burst Advertising). Drip advertising tends to focus on keeping up an awareness of a brand. You might see a a body product being advertised in a drip way after an initial Burst campaign to create awareness. Because perfumes etc are relatively cheap and regularly consumed it is important to keep brand awareness up. Buyers are likely to consume several times a year so it is important to try and maintain brand loyalty.

Frequency (advertising) is the number of times the target market is reached.

Left-side third: A lot of important information designed to attract potential readers is placed in the left-hand side vertical third of the front cover page. This is in case the magazine is displayed in a horizontal shelving system rather than a vertical one.

Lifestyle Magazines: a sub-genre of consumer magazines. Where titles are not clearly about one activity or interest they are likely to be about lifestyle. Most of these are for women and girls but since the 1990s several new ones have been aimed at men such as FHM, Loaded, Front and GQ. These have so far been very successful. A critic Cynthia White as far back as the 1970s asked of women’s magazines how far they supported acquisition as a primary goal of life thereby relegating or downgrading other goals in life. This can now be asked of men’s ‘Lifestyle Magazines’.

Magazines / Technology and Ads: For many years magazines benefited from having full colour reproduction. This kept key advertisers such as food, drinks, fashion and cosmetics. As technologies changed and colour became more available for newspapers so magazines had to develop new arguments. They have to convince Media Buyers that it is ‘common sense’ that women’s monthlies have more loyal readers than say newspaper colour supplements. They convince media buyers by going out and doing ‘qualitative research’.

Market Penetration: This term refers to the % of potential readers who actually buy the publication.

GQ would be looking at all males in the UK between say 18-30.

Masthead: The title of the magazine or newspaper. It is usually placed at the top of the front cover for display purposes

Media Planner (Advertising). Media plans are usually constructed to cover a year-long campaign. They are made with the client to discuss timing (Xmas for perfumes Feb/ Mar for new fashions etc). The planner makes sure that the campaign fits in with the rest of the marketing mix. It is important to ensure that outlets have sufficient stocks. Media planner is given information on who uses the brand, who uses competitors brands, who buys it who influences the purchasing decision. (Parents / Friends / work colleagues / experts etc. This influences the ‘creative’ brief. The media planner then draws a map of media audiences which would achieve the greatest coverage of the advertising target at the lowest price based upon media research. Usually several different plans are drawn up. Contingencies are also built in. If an economic recession takes places then sometimes one area of media will be dropped. This is often newspapers and magazines as for many (not al products TV exposure is more important). Please note for a magazine like GQ for example this might affect car and perfume ads but not high fashion which doesn’t tend to use TV precisely because they are targeting exclusivity and status not mass markets. Media planning has to create a balance in each plan between the number and frequency of the target audience reached set against the budget. Media planners traditionally compare the relative costs of delivering audience on the basis of its cost per thousand members of the target audience. This approach works best where delivering the greatest volume of the target market is important. It is calculated on the basis of the Rate Card price divided by projected numbers, divided by 1000. In 1992 the cost in women’s lifestyle magazines varied between £7.93 for Cosmopolitan to £18.67 for Harpers and Queen. This isn’t the real cost and is also based upon the readership rather than the precise target audience (that would differ considerably between Harpers and Cosmopolitan for example). Harpers is aimed at the A/B income level whilst Cosmopolitan is primarily C1 /B / A .

Advertising planners also build in other factors such as quality of editorial content. All these extra values are when factored in to produce a Valued Impressions per Pound (VIP) rating. Quality f editorial, production etc is multiplied by the audience and divided by the cost. On this basis the Financial Times is ahead of the Sun.

With magazines the editorial will be made to fit the space created by the adverts. Ads pay for more pages to be printed.

Plug: Information about the contents of a magazine or newspaper given on the front cover

Puff: Words or phrases on the cover of a magazine used to boost status

Product / Brand Awareness. ( Analysing the Adverts)

Raising Awareness. Adverts have to compete with other adverts, often with editorial content and with general consumer resistance. Because of the this the ‘creatives’ see the most important job of an advert as grabbing the reader’s attention. Some make assumptions that because interests and social life are so heavily gendered the best way to reach the attention of women is to use animals, royalty, weddings, babies fashion and astrology. For men it’s sports, sex, cars, politics, wars and disasters. In this way advertisers can help to create gendered stereotyping for example. Involving readers or providing shocks are common ways of raising awareness.

       News’ stories become a powerful advertising discourse. Constant product modifications, re-launches and redesigns reflect a need to be constantly be seen to be modern. ‘New improved’ maintains brand loyalty. Features on luxury cars are introduced lower down the market range. By revamping a product it also allows the possibility of creating more editorial comment in reviews / interviews etc.

       Prominence involves using a personality, event or object that the target market collectively recognises and understands. It is part of a shared cultural knowledge. (Madonna in Versace spring 2005 GQ) for example.

       Co-option an advertiser uses a major news or media event or other advertising campaigns for their own advertising. With food for example a government health recommendation of five pieces of fruit and veg per day can be used in diet adverts for example. Pollution can get body product makers inventing new protective creams etc.

       Arousing curiosity. Ask the question ‘Why’. For example ‘Why our moisturiser has red hot chillies in it ‘. In women’s magazines especially the ‘how to...’ Construction. - How to get a boyfriend / Lose weight while eating even more ice cream / how to find out if he’s cheating on you.

       Showmanship. When you have nothing to say use showmanship. Is there anything new to say about shampoos for example? The brand therefore needs high production values to give a sense of something ‘added value’ elevating the product.

       Sustaining Interest. The existence of editorial content is paradoxical because although mass media provide coverage it is difficult to grab interest and attention for products. Advertisers believe hat the consumers are often in the wrong frame of mind to receive advertising messages. ‘Creatives’ therefore try and make ads stand out by having better production values than the editorial. Sometimes humour and other devices can be used to break down consumer resistance.

       Getting around the media-wise consumer. The use of parody is becoming common to try and get around the sceptical consumer. The point is often not to be appearing to sell at all. The point being to allow the consume space to make up their own mind rather than feel that they are being manipulated. This leads to try it out , make up your own mind, we think you’ll agree with us ,if you do be careful! you might be seriously tempted.... type of advert.

       Distraction. This is used to break down the resistance of the consumer. Look for strong visuals and graphics in the magazines. Haagen Daas co-opted greater discussion in the media about ‘adventurous sex’ as a way to keep your partner suddenly linking ice-cream to sex. Erotic imagery distracted the consumer as well as being suggestive.

       Creating Consumer Pride. Much advertising is meant to assure existing users that they have made a wise choice encouraging to return to that brand which is still the best.

       Fear, Guilt and Insecurity. Problems with spots, keeping boyfriend / girlfriend, career failure, not fitting in, loss of status and esteem, loss of face, loss of wealth. Creatives create the fear and then answer these with ads such as tension - relax with our ...., distrust of business - caring capitalism / corporate charity.

       Fantasy and escapism. The Bounty Bar on a tropical island is to associate myths, metaphors and associations with a Brand.

       Consistency, familiarity and authority. People like to do business with people they know so advertisers try to establish their brands as trustworthy and familiar. How do advertisers make their claims credible? One way is by sheer dominance of the market-place. Getting a famous / neutral person to endorse the product. Science especially with body products for example. Words such as ‘Hydra Renewal’ (there is water content in the product)give an air of a laboratory. Use of ‘Experts’.

       Memory and action. Much of the advertising in lifestyle magazines such as GQ uses an indirect form of selling associated with an emotional experience or a value ‘ Pernod :Free the Spirit’ for example. ‘Carlsberg. The best lager in the world, probably’. There is a positive emotional response. When it comes to buying this is likely to differentiate the brand from say 5 other different lagers at the bar. Nike’s ‘ Just do it ‘ ads.

‘Surrogate’ Advertising. Traditional media such as radio, TV newspapers generally consume these media for the editorial content. For this reason the media audience for these surrogate media will always be distinct from the brand’s target audience. This will give an advantage to the specialist magazine.

Time of Consumption. Monthly magazines consumed over a month give a more protracted exposure than a daily paper.



April 09, 2007

Mise en scene: how for does style determine meaning?

Does style determine meaning ? The scope and importance of Mise en scene criticism


Introduction

In the final paragraph of his recent review of mise-en-scene criticism John Gibbs comments:

..that style determines meaning, that how an event is portrayed on screen defines its significance, that single moments or images of films cannot be adequately considered when extracted from their context - then close study continues to be vital. My belief is that an understanding of mise-en-scene is a prerequisite for making other kinds of claims about film..... A sense of how style relates to meaning needs to be central to your enquiry.’ (My emphasis: Gibbs 2002, p 100)


Gibbs is concerned to point out that although it shouldn’t be the sort of thing that goes out of fashion the idea of mise en scene went out of fashion. The fact that in the question AS OCR Media Students will receive for AS textual analysis ‘Action - Adventure’ films the term mise en scene is relegated to bottom of the list shows that the examiners are yet to catch up with the latest thinking on the matter! The handout below will argue that the term mise en scene necessarily includes elements of film making such as camera angle, shot, movement and position.

Mise en scene criticism is particularly important to an understanding of Hollywood cinema because within the production system directors are frequently assigned to projects rather than originating them unlike European cinema. It is a cinema which is self-evidently not ‘art’ in terms of the stories that are chosen.

The development of mise en scene criticism has therefore been to discover how layers of meaning can be incorporated into films through stylistic devices of the director who is not in control of the overall project. It is possible for example that the style could subvert the intended meaning of a script which the producers have decided to turn into a film. Bearing this in mind John Orr has pointed out the changes in direction of European realist cinema which have taken mise en scene in new directions. See the blog posting on Lilya 4-Ever for more on this.


At its heart mise en scene criticism is a critical concept which draws attention to and makes easier to discuss all those elements of a film which communicate in a non-verbal fashion. It allows us to understand film as a visual and sensory experience rather than just a literary one.





A working definition of mise en scene


The term is based upon a French theatrical term and has been used in Britain since at least 1833. Mise en scene is the contents of the frame and the way that they are organised. In this argument Gibbs prioritises the work of Robin Wood and the French critic Doniol-Valcroze arguing that the tone and atmosphere is all mise en scene. Mise en scene is what people go to the cinema for as it transforms a dry script and gives a form of expression unique to cinema. This means that it is the realisation of the script organising all the cinematic elements into an organic whole which is mise-en-scene and is ultimately the responsibility of the director.

Historically within Hollywood the director has not always had total control of all the elements. The soundtrack for example has frequently been somebody else’s decision therefore some mise en scene criticism has ignored the importance of sound in their attempts to look for evidence of ‘authorship’ coming from a director. Consequently these critics have focused upon visual style alone.


It is essential to focus upon both parts of this working definition.

The expression ‘frame contents’ = The inclusion of lighting, decor, properties and the actors themselves.

The expression ‘frame organisation’ = The way the contents of the frame encompass:

  • Firstly : the relationship of the actors to one another and the decor
  • Secondly: the actors relationship to the camera therefore also to the audience’s view.

This means that in talking about mise en scene one is talking about framing, camera movement, the particular lens employed and other photographic decisions:

Mise en scene therefore encompasses both what the audience can see, and the way in which we are invited to see it. It refers to many major elements of communication in the cinema, and the combination through which they operate expressively. (Gibbs John, Mise en scene: Film Style and Interpretation, 2002).

Gibbs looks at a range of 9 elements which contribute towards the mise en scene and argues that how a particular film or part of a film depends for its effect on an interaction of elements including:

  • Lighting: The organisation of light, actors and camera makes possible a series of suggestive readings.
  • Costume: clothing can be particularly significant. In films such as Thelma and Louise the clothing worn by the character changes gradually throughout the film signifying both internal and external changes in their condition.
  • Colour. Colour is an expressive element for filmmakers. It is often mobilised by means of costume, which has the advantage of a direct association with a particular character. It might however be a feature of the lighting, the set decoration or particular props. In Thelma and Louise the home of Thelma is very dark and gloomy. Shots of Thelma discussing going away for the weekend show the interior with a bluish-grey hue signifying boredom, imprisonment and enclosure. After the shooting their getaway is within a frame which is of a bluish hue. A colour commonly associated with neo-noir cinema.
  • Props. Props such as cars are usually associated with road movies, guns and other weapons with crime or crime thriller genres and various scary things with horror genres. The early slightly oblique shot of a gun making it difficult to recognise in Thelma and Louise gives the spectator an early inkling of something horrible to come. A few shots later a gun is clearly tossed nonchalantly into a bag. When Louise later sees the gun she asks why it was necessary. In case of a ‘psycho-killer’ replies Thelma in an ironical tone. The gun becomes an important element of the story.
  • Decor. Robin Wood has argued that ‘It is his business to place the actors significantly within the decor, so that the decor itself becomes an actor;’ (Wood cited Gibbs, 2002 p 57)
  • Action and Performance. It is important not to forget how much can be expressed through the direction of action and through skilful performance. A great deal of significance can be bound up in the way in which a line is delivered, or where an actor is looking at a particular moment. Critics have found writing about performance difficult but performance is central to our understanding of narrative film.
  • Space. Space is a vital expressive element which is at a filmmakers disposal. In thinking about space we might think about the personal space between performers and our own sense as an audience when it is impinged upon. There is also the issue of ‘blocking’ that is the relationships expressed and the patterns created in the positioning of the actors. Look out for groups of three actors which allow for a range of opportunities to express relations. Always remember to try and identify whose point of view (POV) is being represented through the camera within any given shot.
  • Position of the Camera. By thinking about space we necessarily think about the position of the camera. The position of the camera governs our access to the action. The same event filmed in a long shot is going to have a different effect upon the audience compared with shooting something close up. Decisions such as whether a character ‘leads’ the camera or whether the camera anticipates his / her arrival can give a different feel to a film: ‘...one of the instantly identifiable characteristics of Hitchcock’s mise-en-scene has been the subjective tracking shot, that places us in the actor’s position and gives us the sensation of moving with him; this usually alternated with backward tracking shots of the actor moving.’ (Gibbs 2002, p 20). Other directors such as Preminger in Laura the camera positioning has the opposite function. The camera tends to watch the character rather than implicate the audience in his movements. The critic Robin Wood has argued that camera movements connect whereas editing separates.
  • Framing. What is in the frame is only a selective view of a wider fictional world. In the act of framing an action a filmmaker is presented with a large range of choices including what to withhold and reveal to an audience.
  • Interaction of the elements. Gibbs proceeds to argue that it is the interplay of all the events that is significant. Any individual element only acquires its significance because of the context within which it is operating: in others words the world of the film itself. 



This is because any filmmaker will be developing accumulating strategies of creating layers of meaning within the film. Gibbs strongly makes the point that ‘...it is terribly difficult to make claims for an individual element or moment without considering it within the context provided by the rest of the film.’ (My emphasis: Gibbs, 2002, p 39). The reason for this is the importance of identifying two related ways in which a film makes meaning which are through coherence and complexity.


Coherence in a film

There are basically two ways in which a film is ‘coherent’.

Firstly there is the example of a visual motif. This would be an element which acquires significance through repetition. In Thelma and Louise for example being out on the road seems to offer freedom and hope.  As soon as they stop anywhere trouble not of their own making seems to occur. Out on the road they utilise the stereotypically sexist men such as the truck driver and the policemen to get a light-hearted revenge on a world of men which is oppressing them. When they do this it is only to take the mickey out of the men concerned. They don’t do any real harm.

The other way to consider the issue of coherence is of different elements of a single moment. Some argue therefore that the very form of the film is the content. The important thing to be considering is the question: Is everything within the frame pulling in the same direction developing the drama? Coherence isn’t everything. Something very simple and uninteresting can be coherent. What gains our attention is whether the coherence is combined with complexity or inner tensions which can bring a greater depth of meaning to the film. In Thelma and Louise for example the mise en scene which pictures Louise in the driver’s seat of the car soon after the killing breaks the image up by shooting her behind the edge of the windscreen. Shots like this give greater depth of meaning as they symbolises the deep rift in her mind as she struggles to decide what to do at that moment. The reasons for her decision unfold later in the drama but that moment is important and what is in the frame clearly marks this cinematically.

The overall coherence of Thelma and Louise finally is reached when it is understood that all the mise en scene aspects are also intertwined with generic conventions. This combination of mise en scene as a part of genre helps to lend this film extra subversive power. 




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