Multi-modal text can be used to augment the effect of writing, or in some cases replace the use of the written word in its more pure form. This week alone, I’ve come across hundreds of multi-modal media, some that I’m sure I glossed right over. When I did start to take good count, I came across about 10 that used the five modes of communication: linguistic, aural, visual, spatial and gestural. In particular, a Dove ad caught my eye. Not only was it inherently visual (because it was a video), but it had sound (aural), used words (linguistic), was spatially aesthetic (words were well-placed, and gestural, because the women in the film were moving about and gesturing. Here’s the link to the video:

I think you will all find this to be multi-modality in near-perfect form. Each and every mode of communication was effective. I mean, probably because they have the best advertisers in the business, but because their audience was women, and they knew exactly how to pull on the heartstrings. They didn’t need perfectly lyrical sentences, or paragraphs of syntactical grace. All they needed was the perfect synthesis of the senses—a synthesis that provoked thought and emotion.

The other texts that I found were, too, advertisements. And not to my surprise, they were effective. In particular, I find Target’s instagram (@targetstyle) to be particularly spatially pleasing. Though they typically avoid aural stimulation, they tend to be heavy on the spatial/visual, which is perfect for their argument: target is a competitive decorating/design force. Their images are usually set something like this:


However, their commercials that use all five forms of communication do reach a wider audience, and I’m sure account for the majority of their shoppers. So while I applauded their visual/spatial multi-modality, videos are just an unmatched form of evocation.

The use of the various modes contributes to how different they are– one may be heavier on one mode than another. For instance, the dog video was more aural than spatial. But, it’s important to keep in mind that each mode can be just as effective when executed correctly: a picture can, sometimes, mean more than a song, and vice versa.

2 thoughts to “#TargetStyle”

  1. Kit, thanks for putting that ad in there, it really makes me think of my three younger sisters and how they kick down those boxes everyday. You’ve probably seen it, but here’s another #LikeAGirl ad that has got to be one of the best ads of all time–https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XjJQBjWYDTs. The ad you posted makes its statement powerful in every sense of every mode– the power of the girls’ own handwriting on the boxes, use of the spacial when the girl stands on top of the box, the gestural kicking down of boxes, as well as the aural and visual elements.
    As for Target, I think that rather than using all five modes and telling the whole story– the shopping, the checkout, the lines– they focus their ads on the finished product. This picture looks as if these items have already purchased, and use of spatial organization makes it seem like these items would look nice in any home. I think Target’s marketing team purposely doesn’t use all five, and it works out well for them.

  2. Kit,
    Ahh that’s an incredible commercial!!!! I had never seen it before and it really spoke to me–I nearly teared up at some points and laughed out loud when the girl said she wants to explode the box. Word.
    It’s crazy how much ads can say… about issues that are not even necessarily linked to the product they are advertising. I find myself wondering… to what extent does the message–of female empowerment–really make the viewer want to buy “always” products? The commercial makes me want to destroy boxes and break down barriers and punch anyone who tells me I can’t because I’m a girl, but it doesn’t make me want the product for any reason besides the fact that it is associated with such a great message. Would it be more effective if the commercial used multi modality to really highlight the specific aspects “always” materials? Or should advertisers strive to say something bigger?

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