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Media Studies A Level - Tide Cheat Sheet by

This is a simplified version of the exam board's Tide (1950's) information for Media Studies A Level (WJEC Exam board).

Tide (1950) Advert


P&G - Procter & Gamble (Tide's producers)
DMB&B - D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles (Tide's advert­isers)
Bold writing indicates an importance to the inform­ation, italics represents inform­ation that will likely gain you further marks but isn't necess­arily important inform­ation.
Supers­cript indicates a recap of a theory.

Prod­uction Context


P&G is one of the world's biggest companies & leading producers.
Designed specif­ically for heavy-­duty, machin­e-c­lea­ning, P&G launched Tide in 1946 and it quickly became the brand leader in America, a position it still maintains today.


Tide is still the highest selling detergent brand in the world, with 14.3% share of the global market.


DMB&B advert­ising agency handled P&G's accounts throughout the 1950s.
DMB&B's advert­ising campaigns for Tide had referred explicitly to P&G because their market reach showed that consumers had high levels of confidence in the company.
DMB&B used print and radio advert­ising campaigns concur­rently in order to quickly build audience famili­arity with the brand.
Both media forms (print & radio) used the housewife character and ideology that its customers "­lov­ed" and "­ado­red­" Tide.


Post-WW2 consumer boom of the 1950s - rapid develo­pment of new techno­logies for home, designed to make domestic chores easier (vacuum cleaners, fridge freezers, microwave ovens and washing machines all became desirable products for the 1950s consumer).
Products linked to these new techno­logies also developed during this time - for example, washing powder.

Examples of 1950's hair (2)

As seen on Veronica Lake

Media Language


Visual codes (what will be discussed later)
Persuasive language (use of hyperbole)
Soft-sell technique (selling a lifestyle- in this case, stereo­typical housewife charac­ter).
Hard-sell technique (aggre­ssive language, directly telling you to buy the product)
Demons­tration of product (product in action)
Logos and branding (famil­iarity)
Mode of address
Product endors­ement
Unique selling point


Print adverts from the 1950s conven­tio­nally used more copy than we're used to seeing today.
Consumer culture was in its early stages of develo­pment and, with so many 'new' brands and products entering markets, potential customers typically needed more inform­ation about them than a modern audience, used to more advert­ising, marketing and branding, might need.


Compos­ition uses Z-line and a rough rule of thirds- your eye is constantly looking at something.
Bright, primary colours connote the positive associ­ations the producers want the audience to make with the product.
Headings, subhea­dings and slogans are written in sans-serif font, connot­ating an informal mode of address. This is reinforced with the 'comic strip'­-style image in the bottom right-hand corner with two women 'talking' about the product using informal lexis ('sudsing whizz')
The more 'techn­ical' details of the product are written in a serif font, connoting the more 'serious' or 'factual' inform­ation that the '1,2,3' bullet point list includes.


Roland Barthes - Semiotics
Theory recap: (1) the idea that texts commun­icate their meanings through a process of signif­ica­tion. (2) the idea that signs can function at the level of denota­tion, which involves the 'literal' or common­-sense meaning of the sign, and at the level of connot­ation, which involves the meanings associated with or suggested by the sign. (3) the idea that constr­ucted meanings can come to seem self-e­vident, achieving the status of myth through a process of natura­lis­ation.
Suspense is created through the enigma of 'what women want' and emphasised by the tensio­n-b­uilding use of multiple exclam­ation marks.
Barthes' Semantic Code could be applied to the use of hearts above the main image. The hearts and the woman's gesture codes have connot­ations of love and relati­onships, it's connotated that this is 'what women want' (in addition to clean laundry).
The hyperbole and superl­atives ('mira­cle', 'world's cleanest wash', 'world's whitest wash') as well as the tripling 'no other' are used to oppose the connoted superior cleaning power of Tide to its compet­itors. This symbolic code was clearly successful as P&G's competitor products were rapidly overtaken, making Tide the brand leader by the mid-1950s.
This section covers codes & conven­tions of print advert­ise­ments, industry context of print advert­ise­ments, the compos­ition & typogr­aphy, and applies Roland Barthes' Semiotics theory.

Examples of 1950's hair (3)

As seen on Rita Hayworth


In the 1950s, while men were being targeted for the post-war boom in America's car industry, women were the primary market for the techno­logies and products being developed for the home.
In advert­ising for these types of texts, stereo­typical repres­ent­ations of domestic perfec­tio­n,c­aring for the family and servitude to the 'man of the house' became linked to a more modern need for speed, conven­ience and a better standard of living than the women experi­enced in pre-war era.


The dress codes of the advert's main female character include a stereo­typical 1950s hairstyle, incorp­orating waves, curls and rolls made fashio­nable by contem­porary film stars such as Veronica Lake, Betty Grable and Rita Hayworth. The fashion for women having shorter hair had a practical catalyst as long hair was hazardous for women working with machinery on farms or in factories during the war.
The headband or scarf worn by the woman also links to the practi­cal­ities that women's dress codes developed during this time. For this advert, having her hair held back connotes that she's focused on her work, though this perhaps binary opposes to the full makeup that she's wearing.


Stuart Hall - Repres­ent­ation
Theory recap: (1) the idea that repres­ent­ation is the production of meaning through language, with language defined in its broadest sense as a system of signs. (2) the idea that the relati­onship between the concepts and signs is governed by codes. (3) the idea that stereo­typing, as a form of repres­ent­ation, reduces people down to a few simple charac­ter­istics or traits. (4) the idea that stereo­typing tends to occur where there are inequa­lities of power, as subord­inate or excluded groups are constr­ucted as different or 'other' (e.g; through ethnoc­ent­rism).
The images of domest­icity (including the two women hanging out the laundry) form part of the 'shared conceptual road map' that give meaning to the 'world' of the advert. Despite its 'comic strip' visual constr­uction, the scenario repres­ented is familiar to the audience as a repres­ent­ation of their own lives.

David Gauntlett - Identity
Theory recap: (1) the idea that the media provide us with 'tools' or resources that we use to construct our identi­ties. (2) the idea that whilst in the past the media tended to convey singular, straig­htf­orward messages about ideal types of male and female identi­ties, the media today offer us a more diverse range of stars, icons and characters from whom we may pick and mix different ideas.
Women repres­ented in the advert act as a role models of domestic perfection that the audience may want to construct their own sense of identity against.
To summarise, this block covered the industry context of men and women being targeted for differ­ently for products, the dress codes and how they are typical to 1950s through stars of that time and the new change of having women in the workplace, and finally the appliance of Stuart Hall's Repres­ent­ation theory and also David Gauntl­ett's theory of identity.

Example of 1950's hair (1)

As seen on American film-star Betty Grable



Despite women having seen their roles in society change during the war (where they were needed in medical, military support and other roles outside of the home) domestic products of the 1950s continued to be aimed at female audiences.
The likely target audience of increa­singly affluent lower-­middle class women were, at this point in the 1950s, being appealed to because of their supposed need for innovative domestic techno­logies and products.
The increasing popularity during the 1950s of superm­arkets stocking a wider range of products led to an increased focus by corpor­ations on brands and their unique selling points.
The likely audience demogr­aphic is constr­ucted through the advert's use of women with whom they might personally identify (Uses & Gratif­ica­tions theory non-es­sential theory, but still useful to learn and apply).
These young women are likely to be newly married and with the young families (the men and chin's clothing on the washing line creates these connot­ati­ons).
The endors­ement from 'Good Housek­eeping Magazine' makes them an Opinion Leader for the target audience, reinfo­rcing the repeated assertion that Tide is the market­-le­ading product.
The direct mode of address of the images in the top right and bottom left-hand corner link to the imperative 'Remem­ber!' and the use of personal pronouns 'your wash', 'you can buy'.


Stuart Hall - Reception (NOT repres­ent­ation)
Theory recap: (1) the idea that commun­ication is a process involving encoding by the producers and decoding by an audience. (2) the idea that there are three hypoth­etical positions from which messages and meanings may be encoded. (3) the domina­nt-­heg­emonic position (preferred reading): the encoder's intended meaning is fully understood and accepted. (4) the negotiated position: the legitimacy of the encoder's message is acknow­ledged in general terms, although the message is adapted or negotiated to better fit the decoder's own individual experi­ences or context. (5) the opposi­tional position: the encoder's message is unders­tood, but the decoder disagrees with it, reading it in a contrary or opposi­tional way.
The preferred reading(Stuart Hall) of the advert's reassuring lexical fields ('trust', 'truly safe', 'miracle', 'nothing like') is that despite being a new product, Tide provides solutions to the audience's domestic chores needs.
The indirect mode of address made by the woman in the main image connotes that her relati­onship with the product is of prime importance (Tide has what she wants). This, according to Hall, is the dominant or hegemonic encoding of the advert's primary message that should be received by 'you women'.

George Gerbner - Cultiv­ation
Theory recap: (1) the idea that exposure to repeated patterns of repres­ent­ation over long periods of time can shape and influence the way in which people perceive the world around them (i.e. cultiv­ating particular views and opinions). (2) the idea that cultiv­ation reinforces mainstream values (dominant ideolo­gies).
Advert­ising developed signif­icantly during the 1950s and this theory, developed by Gerbner in the early 1970s, explains some of the ways in which audiences may be influenced by media texts such as adverts. The Tide advert aims to cultivate the ideas that: this is the brand leader; nothing else washes to the same standard as Tide; it's a desirable product for its female audience; and its 'miracle suds' are an innovation for the domestic washing market.
Gerbner's theory would argue that the repetition of these key messages causes audience sto increa­singly align their own ideologies with them (in this case positi­vely, creating a product that 'goes into more American homes than any other washday product').
Context for audience of that time, targeting methods for women are the same despite the developing role of women, the use of the women in the advert used as 'ideal' females and ones that the audience may personally identify with, endors­ement from 'Good Housek­eeping Magazine', and finally applying Stuart Hall's Reception theory and George Gerbner's Cultiv­ation theory.


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