Puppy Love: Playing with Perceptions

By Drew Conger

10.19.17

 

I have been, and always will be, a dog person. From childhood, I begged my parents for a dog, a puppy, a playmate. My father–who, I should point out, is not a dog person–told me that when I was 10, he would get me a dog. Little did he know that I, a dedicated nine-year-old, would hold him to his promise. The December before my tenth birthday, a young puppy entered our home, and entered my heart. He never left.

Thus, you can imagine the emotions running through my heart–and the tears running down my face–when the following advertisement aired during the Super Bowl in February of 2014.

You can also probably imagine the confusion and disappointment I felt at the conclusion of the advertisement. I have never and will never purchase beer, from Budweiser or any other similar company. I couldn’t help but laugh, exasperated by the lengths to which Budweiser was going to secure my purchase and dependability.

However, I have to admit that this advertisement, Puppy Love, was incredibly influential and effective. It might not have secured my money, but it likely secured the funds of many other Americans. Budweiser was successful with this advertisement, and they used framing to accomplish that success. Framing, according to John Pavlik and Shawn McIntosh, is “the presentation and communication of a message in a particular way that influences our [the viewer’s] perception of it” (Pavlik & McIntosh, 42).

In the first ten seconds of the advertisement, several different things happen.

First, a popular and heartfelt song plays in the background, immediately setting the stage for a heartfelt and tear-jerking story. The song alone attracts the attention of all who love the song and, perhaps, many who don’t like it–people who watch the advertisement to see how it plays out or to figure out how to mock it later.

Second, a sign appears with the words “Warm Springs” and “Puppy Adoption” in front of a cozy looking farmhouse and estate. And suddenly, the advertisement has the attention of everyone who has ever lived on or dreamed of owning a farm, as well as everyone who has considered or carried out pet adoption.

Third, several puppies are present in those first–crucial–moments of the advertisement, thus attracting the attention of every dog person in the room. The words ‘puppies’ and ‘adoption’ just bring warm feelings to the hearts of all animal enthusiasts.

Fourth, one of these astronomically adorable puppies sneaks his way from the main happenings–something dog people find both endearing and infuriating. Now everyone who has ever had to chase after a puppy or go through ‘puppy-proofing’ procedures is paying close attention to this advertisement.

Fifth, an unexpected element enters the scene–a horse. This attracts the attention of every retired rancher with fond memories of his horses, every middle-aged farmer hanging up the saddle, and every young child who dreams of the freedom and love brought by horses.

Thus, in the first ten seconds, and only in the first ten seconds, the advertisement now has the strict and enthusiastic attention of almost every person watching the Super Bowl. Fans of the band Passenger and their song “Let Her Go,” farmers and ranchers (and all those who dream of such a life), dog owners and puppy lovers, and horse enthusiasts are all now enthralled with the story presented in this advertisement. That’s a pretty good chunk of people.

The rapt attention of all of these people is due to the way the producers–Budweiser and company–framed Puppy Love. Because of their understanding of who would pay attention and how viewers would react to stimuli, Budweiser was successful in accomplishing the purpose of the advertisement–to sell more beer.

Additionally, Budweiser cultivated certain feelings (nostalgia, love, ‘the feels,’ friendship, attachment, etc.) and then connected those feelings to their brand. Therefore, over the weeks, months, and years following the Super Bowl in which Puppy Love aired, when people saw or thought of Budweiser–or, more generally, beer in and of itself–they recalled these emotions and were thus more inclined to purchase their products.

 

Pavlik, John V., and Shawn McIntosh. “Chapter 2: Media Literacy in the Digital Age.”Converging Media: a New Introduction to Mass Communication, Fifth ed., Oxford University Press, 2017, p. 42.

Puppy Love advertisement video embedded from YouTube. Accessed on 10.19.17

Golden Retriever Puppies photograph accesses through Google Images on 10.19.17

Something Just Like This

By Drew Conger

9.21.17

Coldplay, a popular rock band from the 90’s, teamed up with rising stars The Chainsmokers, an American EMP/pop duo, in February 2017 to record their new song Something Just Like This. The song quickly rose to popularity and was listed in July as number 8 in Official Charts’ list of 2017’s top 40 songs (Copsey, 2017). But why is this song so popular? Why does Something Just Like This frequent dances, parties, and road trips? And what is it communicating to us as listeners? How is the music we listen to every day a form of communication?

If we read more deeply into this song, we can see that not only do The Chainsmokers and Coldplay use wildly popular musical techniques, they also understand the way that music is a form of communication.

An astronomical number of today’s popular songs “drop the bass,” a phrase referring to a rise and then dramatic fall in pitch. Something Just Like This utilizes a similar technique, using a slow increase in pitch followed by a popular and intriguing techno rhythm to 1). build suspense in listeners and 2). draw said listener into the music, provide a certain “natural high” that only music produces, and perhaps even invoke dancing or, at the very least, some form of movement.

Something Just Like This is full of change. Lyrical and symbolical change-not so much. But rhythm, volume, tempo, musical change-absolutely. And it’s this change that keeps listeners listening. It’s this change that keeps the song fresh and new and intriguing. It’s this change that makes listeners press the repeat button as soon as four minutes have passed by.

The Chainsmokers and Coldplay understood communication, understood their listeners, and understood how to make said listeners feel something. Music is a powerful medium, and can be very influential. All forms of communication are very influential, if they weren’t, nothing would get done in human society. We rely on communication, and we rely on mass media. Music, being mass media, is a form of communication, and like all communication, has been studied.

 

In 1949, Shannon and Weaver published their model of how they believed communication worked. This model, however, only operates in one direction, and does not apply to human-to-human communication. But it could apply to music-to-human communication, as listeners don’t have an effective way to immediately respond to Coldplay and The Chainsmokers. Such communication is possible today, with the technology people have access to, but nevertheless, music-to-human communication is largely one sided.

In 1954, Schramm and Osgood published their model of communication, which added to the understanding of how communication functioned but did not complete it. This model shows that communication is an endless process, which is true of human-to-human communication, but is less accurate for music-to-human communication. Like I have mentioned before, music is fairly one-sided because it is not always a simple process for listeners to respond to producers.

Both of the above models were applied directly to communication; the creators likely did not have music in mind when publishing their models. Music, because it varies-arguably more than other forms of communication do-is hard to pinpoint or generalize, and thus hard to generate a model for.

In 2006, Steven Brown published his model on music as a form of communication (Brown, 2006). As you can see, this model has a few more steps than the Shannon and Weaver model, and is much more complex than the Schramm and Osgood model. If we break this model down a little further, it’s noticeable that Brown sees music as general persuader of the masses. I can attest to this, I have been persuaded by The Chainsmokers and Coldplay to purchase Something Just Like This, to listen to the song frequently, to urge my peers to listen to the song as well, and, above all else, support and promote The Chainsmokers and Coldplay and the music they produce.

Music is an incredibly powerful tool, both of persuasion, as Brown argued, and as a means of communication, as is seen in popular culture. Looking deeper into the songs we listen to every day not only cultivates our critical thinking skills, but also hones in our music tastes and our ability to interpret the media we encounter every day.

 

Copsey, R. (2017) The Official Top 40 Biggest Songs of 2017 so far. Official Charts. Retrieved from http://www.officialcharts.com/chart-news/the-official-top-40-biggest-songs-of-2017-so-far__18652/

Brown, S. (2006) Introduction: “How Does Music Work?” in Music and Manipulation: On the Social Uses and Social Control or Music. Retrieved from http://www.neuroarts.org/pdf/M&M_Chapter_1.pdf

Schramm & Osgood and Shannon & Weaver models pictures acquired from google searches. 

Something Just Like This video embedded from YouTube.

Both accessed 9.21.17