menu

Unbranded: What Advertisements Really Say To A Target Audience

Unbranded: What Advertisements Really Say To A Target Audience
Advertising

In this series of advertising imagery by Hank Willis Thomas, all traces of logos, headlines and text have been removed, encouraging viewers to recognize that which has become second nature to our experience of life in the modern world.

Kyana Gordon
  • 20 april 2011

The Brooklyn Museum features the long-term exhibition, Unbranded: Reflections in Black by Corporate America 1968-2008, a collection of advertising images that target a black audience, but have been digitally altered and appropriated by artist Hank Willis Thomas. Each of the ads were found in popular magazines from the late 60s to present day yet all logos, headlines and copy have been removed in an attempt to challenge the viewer’s response and understanding of cultural identity. Untethered from their primary function of selling products, even the most familiar of these images invites new meanings as eyes are forced to look deeper at a photograph sans marketing jargon, drawing into question how the advertising industry (and popular culture) augment stereotypes about race and gender. What are these ads actually saying to their intended target audience?

In a recent interview with TIME, Hank Willis Thomas shares some insight, addressing why he selected the particular images in his series. He responded with:

“Most of the people making decisions in advertising then, and now, are white males.  I was interested in how white male interpretations of ‘black’ identity shaped aspects of African-American lives. The photographers of most of these images are unknown. I feel its integral to understand that these images are essentially created by our society, and that I did not contribute to, nor claim any authorship, of them.”

Each viewer will likely have his or her own perspective, but Hank Willis Thomas has crafted a way to get his message across. With the removal of the original text from the ads he has also added his own in the form of provocative titles. Take for instance the above image, a Scoop Away cat litter ad appearing in a 2005 copy of Ebony magazine has been renamed: “How to Market Kitty Litter to Black People: Found in Ebony Magazine.”

When asked which advertisements he was most drawn to, the artist said:

“I chose two ads for every year, trying to find as broad a range of ads as possible from films, foods, clothing, cigarettes and alcohol. What I’m most interested in these ads is not only how other people see black Americans, but also how we see ourselves. Part of advertising’s success is based on its ability to reinforce generalizations developed around race, gender and ethnicity which are generally false, but [these generalizations] can sometimes be entertaining, sometimes true, and sometimes horrifying.”

 

Hank Willis Thomas

TIME, Erasing Type: Hank Willis Thomas on What Advertisements Are Really Saying

Advertising
Trending

Retail Expert: What Sustainability Means To The Millennial Generation

Beauty
Media & Publishing Today

CNN Launched An Entire Drone Division Of Their News Network

CNN AIR incorporates aerial footage into the corporation's ongoing news coverage

Advertising Today

Uber’s Breathalyzer Cards Let You Know If You Are Sober Enough To Drive

A new campaign from the ride-sharing service raises awareness about the importance of a safe trip home

Trending

Get PSFK's Latest Report: Future of Retail: Technology Primer

See All
Design Today

Milk Proteins Could Be The Packaging Material Of The Future

A newly discovered casein-based alternative is biodegradable, sustainable and even edible

Technology Today

Intel’s New System Will Help Technology See And Understand The World

Joule is a tiny board for developers designed to bring powerful computer vision to cheap and easy-to-make prototypes

PURPLELIST EXPERTS

Alina Balean

Wearable Tech & UX/UI Designer

Design Today

This LA Hotel Is Designed Specifically For Cocktail Drinkers

The Walker Inn is a new Los Angeles "Bed and Beverage" experience that offers guests an intimate setting for their night cap

Education Today

Bringing Virtual Reality And Telepresence Robotics To E-Learning

This Learning Management System is embracing new technologies to reallocate teaching resources to where they should be going

Advertising Today

Interactive Art Exhibition For Dogs Provides Endless Fun

Installations created by artist Dominic Wilcox are based on activities loved by canines, such as fetching tennis balls and splashing in water

PSFK LABS REPORT

Future Of Work
Cultivating The Next Generation Of Leaders
NEW

PSFK Op-Ed Yesterday

Why Building Better Offices Is The Key To Employee Engagement

Interaction Designer and Audio-visual Technologist at ESI Design illustrates the value in creating environments filled with surprise and delight

PSFK Labs Today

PSFK’s Workplace Vision: How The Nurturing Of Seeds Will Come To Define The Onboarding Process

Our Future of Work vision is a service that allows companies to assemble and deliver welcome packets that are uniquely focused on the concept of growth

Beauty Today

Design Your Own Custom Watch Faces

Customize your wrist device with Garmin's new app that lets you display personalized images or patterns

Syndicated Today

How The Olympics Taught Us Lessons In Cloud Analytics

Dan Vesset, group VP for analytics and information management at IDC, tells how cloud-based business analytics support decision-making

Arts & Culture Today

Artist Shuts Down Sexist Comments By Turning Them Into Images

Rora Blue explores social stigma in a photo series titled 'Handle With Care'

Arts & Culture Today

Japanese Face Wash Creates A Perfect Rose Every Time

Kanebo's latest addition to the Evita line includes an application that dispenses cleanser in the shape of a flower

Mobile Today

Twitter Bot Will Warn You If You Are A Troll

An online tool developed out of Intel's Hack Harassment movement helps filter out or notify cyber bullies

PSFK LABS REPORT

Innovation Debrief: Boston
Business Concepts Born In 'The Hub'
AVAILABLE NOW

Retail Today

Passengers Can Now Earn Airline Miles For Sharing Their Location Data

The Frequent Flyer app measures background data and gives travelers points that can be exchanged for tickets with participating airlines

Advertising Today

The NBA Is Releasing Two Original Shows To Stream On Twitter

The sports league announced a deal that demonstrates an interesting expansion of its content strategy

Automotive Today

Cadillac Concept Shows A Future Design Direction

The flagship sedan reveals the brand is continuing to hone and refine its luxury aesthetic

No search results found.