Ad Hoc

Welcome to Ad Hoc, our newest feature on the art of advertising. We are proud to welcome Dr. Richard Zakia as the author of this page each month.

Eileen Fisher

I find this ad attractive and, to a certain extent, believable. A mature woman gracefully resting on a sandy desert floor looks out into the distance with the desert sun caressing her face, her white hair flowing over her shoulder. She wears a youthful expression and seems to be looking forward to the future with a sense of anticipation and joy. The setting is informal; she is barefooted and wears a loosely fitted comfortable dress. (My Canadian friend suggested that the model does not suit the dress, which to him, looks homemade in a refugee camp from aged tent cloth. He also saw a possible reference to Botticelli’s “Birth of Venus”)

The entire photograph is attractive and eye catching in itself making one wonder why the art director resorted to an embedded face/mask that we can discover in the folds of her flared waist band that rests in her lap. Was it to be playful or was he/she using the embedded face/mask to grab the viewer’s attention even if not consciously seen. (If you are from Australia, you can also see the face/mask upside down.) So why the embedding that we have also seen in some of the earlier ads discussed?

Welch researcher John Liggett in his book “The Human Face” ( New York: Stein and Day, 1974, p. 175), writes: "The image of the face seems to take precedence over all others when the visual scene is at all unclear. The face seems to be, for all of us, a ‘preferred shape’. We can see faces in the fire, faces in rocks, faces in clouds---faces in the moon...It is strange to discover, too, how artists…seem to be impelled, in their creative work by the same hidden images of the face. Many seemingly ‘abstract’ decorations often contain strong facial shapes, though often enough their designers were probably genuinely unaware of this influence." (New York: Stein and Day, 1974, page 174.)

Richard D. Zakia is Professor Emeritus, Rochester Institute of Technology and author/coauthor of several books on photography, perception, semiotics and advertising.

c. Corinne Whitaker 2009

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