The 1956 Bell Telephone System advertisement, an ad for multiple household telephones, is a compelling subject that accurately depicts how layout and appeals are manipulated to target both a certain audience and a particular issue. This advertisement takes into consideration popular issues of the 1950’s, such as gender roles and family values, and exploits them through its layout design. There are four main aspects of this advertisements layout, balance, proportion, movement, and simplicity, that have a significant effect on its overall audience appeal.
Balance, a fundamental aspect of layout design, is achieved in this advertisement by equaling out the heavy picture on the right side, depicting a business man struggling to hold a baby, presumably, his child and an armful of dirty dishes, with a headline, a smaller picture of a young woman sitting at a desk, and a narrative body copy on the left side. Balance and equilibrium are created within the advertisement through the use of proportion.
The relative size of the four main aspects of the advertisement, the large full length image of the man, the sizeable headline, the smaller image of the woman, and small text of the narrative body copy, help to create a coherent movement. The type of movement used in this particular advertisement is structural movement. Due to the large size of male image on the left side of the advertisement that is what first captures the audience’s attention.
The audience’s view is then direct towards the headline in the upper right of the advertisement by the direction of the man’s stance, the line created by his shoulders, and the upward line created by the baby’s arm. After reading the curious headline “Madam! Suppose you traded jobs with your husband? ” the audience continues to look down the page, consistent with the habitual reading direction found in Western language, to an image of a young woman, seemingly the man’s wife, sitting at a desk. Once again, angles and lines created by the desk and the woman’s seating position, as well as the abitual reading direction, conduct the audience’s attention to the body copy that covers the remainder of the advertisements right side. Although the audience has now been visually stimulated by the advertisement in its entirety, the direction of the falling baby bottle leads the audience’s gaze to cycle around once again. The uniform direction and structure of this advertisement make it clear and simple. The plainness of the background, which also helps to create unity within the advertisement, facilitates easy reading.
The text is simple in both font and diction. However, the simplicity of the advertisement layout format covers strong undertones that relate to its appeals. A major aspect of this advertisement’s appeal is the way it depicts gender roles. It is clear from both images and text how women were depicted during this time. For instance, the image of the male is the largest aspect of the advertisement and it is also the first thing the audience notices. The relative image of the woman is much smaller and captures the audience’s attention much later on.
This signifies that the male role is much more prominent in society, and women play a much smaller role. This is supported by the context of the body copy. Although the purpose of the advertisement is to sell additional telephones that are available in various parts of the house; it’s unclear if the advertisement appeals to men or women. The advertisement states, “He doesn’t have to do it in his office in town. It would be mighty helpful if you didn’t have to do it in your ‘office’ at home. That’s in the kitchen where you do much of your work. The advertisement later goes on to state that these additional telephones lines are available in places such as “in the kitchen, bedroom and other convenient places. ” It is clear that the advertisement is suggesting the role of a woman is to perform her duties in the kitchen and in the office. The headline, “Madam! Suppose you traded jobs with your husband? ” implies it is always the woman’s job to stay at home, and it is always the male’s job to have a career outside of the home. These varied techniques make me believe that, although the additional telephone line is for the woman, it is ultimately the man who will be paying for it.
Just as the images and the text show the relationship between men and women in society it also depicts the popular values of the culture. There’s the obvious depiction of gender roles in society and also the portrayal of family values. The typical family is supposed to have a strong male character who is the bread winner for the family, a female character that is responsible for household duties and caring for the family, and finally there is the young child who ties the male and female character together as a family entity.
Although this advertisement is merely selling additional household telephone lines, its use of layout and appeal sell much more than that. The advertisement sells the idea of what a family should be, a man at work, a woman at home, and a child under the caring supervision of its mother, and what they really need, extra telephone lines in the woman’s “office. This advertisement sells the ideal picture perfect family of the 1950’s by showing exactly what it shouldn’t be, a man doing household chores, a woman out of the home at work, and an upset child under the supervision of its father. The overall message of this advertisement is that proper gender roles, family values, and telephone placement are important, because “Along with a lot of convenience is that nice feeling of pride in having the best of everything. ”