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Humanities II 1996

Persuasive Communication


The Swiss Stop AIDS Campaign
From Emission to Reception

(1996, 61')


The English Transcription




Pierre Dunand Filliol


Part One

Dr Dominique Hausser

Dr Daniel Peraya and Pierre Dunand Filliol


Part Two

Dr Daniel Peraya


Dr Daniel Peraya and Pierre Dunand Filliol









Welcome to all of you who come from throughout Europe to join the HUMANITIES course in Communication Sciences.

Today we will be talking about persuasive communication, which we will illustrate with examples taken from the Swiss AIDS Prevention Campaign.

You are no doubt familiar with the pink condom which is the "O" of the logo "Stop AIDS". It has travelled around the world and is the very symbol of AIDS prevention.

Two speakers will talk to us about different aspects of this campaign.

Doctor Dominique Hausser is a specialist in Prevention and Public Health. He is one of the experts who was in charge of the evaluation of the campaign from 1985 to 1991.

Doctor Daniel Peraya is a specialist in communication and the analysis of audio-visual languages. His current research is in the area of mediated pedagogical communication, particularly in the field of distance learning.

Now that the introductions are complete, we may proceed.

May I ask you to please write down your questions and comments as they arise, so that we can have a conversation at the end of this lesson.

Thank you!


1. At the Origins of the Campaign

In June 1981 the Centre of disease control of the Unites States draw attention to 5 bizarre cases that figured in the reports it had received. Why bizarre cases?

Because a recognised pathology appeared on people who would normally not be affected by this disease. The patients were young men, whereas usually only old people or people treated for cancer were affected, this is to say people who are immuno-depressed.

The scientific research machinery in laboratories got going ; and already by 1983 the human immuno-deficiency virus, the virus causing AIDS, was discovered; it was found by a French team of researchers.

Only two years later, very quickly, a test was put on the market ; for detection of antibodies produced by the human body against the virus. These antibodies are not at all efficient, infected people died and still continue to die.


It was also stressed that we are confronted with a disease - because of the virus - that it is a transmissible disease, and not a contagious one like tuberculosis, bronchitis or a flu is and that it is either sexually transmitted, by an unprotected penetration &endash; we will talk about that later &endash;, or by blood, this is to say by blood donation, transfusion, or, and this is a big concern in our countries at the moment, by people who shoot themselves intravenously with - legal or illegal - drugs and share syringes.

The third way of transmission is called vertical transmission. It goes from mother to child, either during pregnancy, during birth or even, though in less frequently, by breast-feeding.


In 1984, the Swiss Federal office of public health started to think about the way to take action. They did this for two reasons. Firstly, because law on epidemic states that they have to, secondly because they considered the AIDS epidemic as a health priority, a priority for the health of the entire population.

We will look further on certain elements of its policy in a more detailed manner. Let us now talk a bit more about how things were put in place, again in respect of the public.

In March 1986 the first public action was undertaken: an informative brochure was distributed to all households ; this brochure differed little from the standard and neutral ones normally given by the Federal administration.

Two concerns lay behind this action: one was of course to inform the population and to make them aware of the disease. The second was to test the acceptability of a national programme to the authorities of the cantons, who are basically in charge of health care matters, to different pressure groups and, of course, especially to Churches.

The results of the evaluation of the brochure and its impact showed that awareness of the disease increased and second that a national strategy lead at a federal level would be acceptable.

Finally, on the third of February 1987 the Stop AIDS logo was launched and is now known in the entire world.


2. Objectives and strategy


In Switzerland, the strategy for combating AIDS was organised according to a concept that stated that there are 3 epidemics:

1. The first is the HIV epidemic, the epidemic of transmission. It is silent, invisible, since it is not possible to see with the naked eye if a person is HIV-positive.

2. The second is the AIDS epidemic, it is the epidemic of the disease, it is for a person the subsequent stage of the epidemic.

3. The third is the epidemic of social reactions to the epidemic. A social response - or social responses - is essentially about how people do react to a new disease. How they deal with a problem, how they are discriminating or stigmatising a person because of her or his HIV-status.


The strategy is then based on the 3-epidemic-concept:

This is the general framework. On this base everything was developed.

I will not speak hereafter about medical care and research but focus on aspects of prevention of HIV- transmission and promotion of solidarity.

As we said before, it is possible to protect oneself from the first mode of transmission, the sexual transmission, either by abstinence - but you know as well as I do that abstinence only exists as long as you had no sexual relation - or, by being always faithful to each other in a partnership - but, many people don't fit in this case, people get divorced, get married again and so on. Abstinence or permanent mutual faithfulness are therefore not a general condition. An other possibility of protection is to use condoms when engaging in penetrative sexual intercourse.

The points of action focus therefore on protection with condoms as well as on faithfulness.


The second way of transmission is by blood. We have seen that concerning transfusion a detection test has been conceived to spot infected stored blood that can be taken out subsequently.

Campaigns focus of course in a first step on people who are aware that they are HIV-positive. They are asked not to donate blood. And, in order to reduce the transmission by syringe exchange, measures must also be taken, for instance increase the accessibility of sterile syringes and induce people not to share used " works ".

For the third way of transmission from mother to child it is indeed difficult to find a preventive measure. The simple statement " do not conceive anymore " rises a whole debate about ethical and social matters. There can not be a simple measure for this aspect. Besides that, we must admit that this type of transmission is the minor one.


I would like to say two things in respect of solidarity.

First, there is obviously the consideration of human rights and of ethical issues which drives us to promote solidarity, secondly there is a public health consideration.

If we discriminate against people, what will these discriminated people do? They will hide. If these people hide, we will not be able to reach them anymore, we can not continue to carry out good prevention. We must therefore try to show solidarity in order to let them be part of the community. By reaching them with messages we can try to induce them to protect themselves and to protect others by a 'safe behaviour'.


Pierre Dunand Filliol:

&endash; So this touches on the social epidemic, the epidemic of social reactions. Is that where the persuasion must be effective?


Dr Dominique Hausser:

&endash; Yes, persuasion will act alongside solidarity. There are two modes of solidarity: there are aspects... I would say that there are individual behaviours &endash; Mister X or Misses Y show solidarity with their neighbours &endash; , and there is also society as a whole that should show solidarity with people or groups of people who are particularly affected by a problem. I think for instance of migrants, of drug users, homosexuals, prostitutes, we hear about truck drivers as well, these people are involved in the AIDS epidemic.

But there are also institutional aspects that have to fit. For, there are institutional mecha-nisms that discriminate. Particularly with regard to social insurance and the work place.

So there are two distinct levels of activities, and consequently two different levels of intervention.


I would like to have a look at the first advert of the campaign now, the one with the letters. For me it does still symbolise, even after ten years, the spirit in which the campaign has been conceived. It is an explanatory campaign, things are explained and behaviours are not judged. There is no moralising tone in it. The producers of the add tried to adopt a positive approach, one could sayŠ. a humorist one is not the right word, but an approach with a wink that says: even if it is a serious problem we can first try to handle it in a positive and cheerful way. They dropped the idea of scaring people, of threatening them, they dropped the idea of catastrophy; in other countries and for other campaigns this concept was used and turned out not to be effective at all.

[" Letters "]

They wanted to be coherent in every situation, this is to say that every single person, in whatever situation he or she could be, should get the same message. Therefore it is important to reach the whole population, as well as to focus on every person or on every target group.

So, just a Šwhat ? a gag, finally: at the end of the add, the condom is unrolled on the " I ". This meant a lot of debates amongst Creative Team, that piloted the campaign. The first version did not have any unrolling condom. Then they tried to debate, to discuss: do we go too far, isn't it already too erotic, is it against the reigning moral principles, will people be shocked, is it to audacious and may endanger this campaign?

Then finally they thought that if they wanted to explain something they had to do it properly. Subsequently a condom will not only be on a " O ", but also unrolled on an erected penisŠ


3. Models of Adressee and Model Adressee


Who is the message for?

Actually, on scientific basis, the study of epidemic tells us that everybody is concerned, not only one particular group, but every single person. The campaign should therefore be organised at three levels.

1. First we have to address everybody, it is the mass campaign, known under the logo Stop AIDS.

2. Second we will address target groups, this is to say young people, migrants, working people, prostitutes, homosexuals, etc., and we will develop distinct actions that will consider the particular aspects of each group; however, the basic message is still the same.

3. The third level of action is the individual one; there we will mobilise all the potentially concerned service providers : physicians, professionals in the health care sector in general, teachers, educators, priests, youth leaders, etc.


We see that many people are mobilised in order to get more individualised interactions, in opposition to a mass campaign addressed to everybody.

But, what is important is that, at every level the basic message is the same: We can protect ourselves and that is the way to do it.



&endash; You are talking about the influence of the social and cultural environment. But where will the intervention aim?


Dr DH:

It wasŠ it is a theoretical way of seeing at which level action can have an influence in order to achieve the aim, that is to say 'safe behaviours'.

When the model, the individual model, was conceived the basic idea was to act on people's awareness - it's the information, people learn, it's the pedagogical aspect - as well as on people's values and beliefs.

And Š there is a whole series of adds' that show situations without risk. This was to address situations where people were scared.

[" Experts I "]

They tried to show that there exist behaviours presenting no risk, actions people do not have to be afraid of. These behaviours will potentially avoid rejection of people who could be concerned, people who could be thought of being HIV-positive.

And then they tried to act on attitudes, in a positive manner. They show how to act, and then we see in the most recent adds actually actors, that willŠ who the spectator should be, and then they will be able to act the same. You can see how to use condom and how important it is not to forget to put it on, for instance, etc.

ThereforeŠ action is concentrated on this and we think that we can encourage safe behaviours.

What was done in the last ten years, we must say it, corresponds to the original model, it continues to be the basis for reflection. But we realised that it is not enough to think just in terms of individuals, we have to think in terms of interaction. Therefore, transmission will only stop and solidarity will only arise when a social relationship is taken into account, only when interaction is happening.

At the present time thinking is focused on interaction. Interaction between people, between people and society, between pressure groups and specific groups, etc.


&endash; Could you show me some commercials which illustrate the use which was made of this behaviour model?

Dr DH:

&endash; Yes indeed. Take for example the add " be faithful " in the first series.

[" Wedding Ring "]

Faithfulness was symbolised by a wedding ring. But the ring happens to be much more a symbol of marriage and institution than of faithfulness.

Many people did not identify with this symbol. Homosexuals because they can not get married in a civil or religious way, young people because they are faithful within a series of monogamous relationship. As the campaign develops, they maintained the basic message but dropped the symbol.


A second example is about sharing injection equipment, or more precisely about not sharing injection equipment.

The first add stated that " AIDS, one hit is all it takes ". The focus was on drug use in general rather than on risk behaviour and the ways to protect oneself. We see here a distortion of the original AIDS prevention message.


In the second series of adds, called " Don't start ", the logo " Don't start " goes with a needle, the text, however, and the underlying picture say something different, they even say " don't start using drugs ".

[" Don't start (parents version) "]

Somebody points at the drug user's parents. Fear arises finally.
And then the second point that seems important to me is that not only the dealer is stigmatised but also the parents because of a inappropriate behaviour: not to speak about drugs.

This philosophy is the opposite of the solidarity message that the campaign wanted to promote.

The third series of adds that I will refer to in order to illustrate how this model was used, is the solidarity ones.

Even if solidarity was defined since the very beginning of the campaign, almost two years passed before the first add appeared. People did not know how to talk about solidarity and how to show solidarity, illustrate solidarity in a simple manner in this campaign addressed to everybody.

Finally, the first series of adds involve " Personalities talking to TV-watchers ". These add is black and white to show how important and difficult this subject is. But the effect is rather cold and distant.


"People with AIDS need our sympathy. We owe them all our solidarity, without reserve."
Cornelio Sommaruga, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross.]

The second series, and it's the series I prefer, is the one where HIV- infected people or people with AIDS speak out.

This was planned much earlier, but people were afraid to be stigmatised in their daily life and did not dare to appear on TV saying " I am HIV-positive ", or " I have AIDS ".


[Concerned people 1 :
"Parents, I want to ask you, if one day you learn that you have a son or daughter who is sero-positive, don't reject them.
Because they alone need you in these difficult moments of their illness.
Because friends and people close to them will never be able to bring them what you, father and mother, bring them.
I had the misfortune of announcing to my parents that I was sero-positive, and I was rejected.
Now I am alone in life. And it's hard."

It is a very direct message. I think that in this way the difficulties are shown at a individual level.

The third series of adds is very different. There is a conceptual, metaphorical approach of solidarity in it. One is the presentation of the idol, of the hero, of the role model.

[" Baggio "]

This add expresses several other images. The first is that you may not protect yourself one time and take the risk of being infected by the virus. This is of course against the spirit of the whole campaign.

The second points out the message that we are responsible for our actions. But a lot of HIV-positive persons are not responsible for their illness because when they were infected they were not aware of the existence of the virus and could not avoid something they knew noting off.

And the third element is finally what we said when discussing the model, a person is not playing the game all alone. There are two people, two partners, the interaction is important. Both are responsible for each other and for themselves and this does not figure in the message.


These adds are also conceptual but draw a cartoon: a huge man is shown and an old woman, a prostitute, sniggering.

There we are again completely disconnected from of the solidarity message .

People who have this disease are made a laughingstock, and I can hardly imagine that a person who sees this add can understand the message of solidarity that was intended to be transmitted.

[" Respect and Esteem " (female version) "]

Immediate reaction on " Respect and Esteem " (female version)

Dr Daniel Peraya:

So Pierre, you saw the commercial? What do you think of this commercial, this video you saw?

Pierre Dunand Filliol:

Listen, I was very surprised by this very caricatural vision of a person who is supposedly deviant. I wondered - is she really a prostitute or not? Is she just a strange character? And to assimilate sick people to ugly people...?

Dr DP:

Yes, for me what bothered me a bit, finally, was that the person shown, she's ugly, she's caricatural, she looks ridiculous. She has a sort of... monstrous appearance. And then, it says about the sick people, "You are like her - you are monstrous, but we have to love you and accept you despite this monstrosity". I wonder whether this is really the message that should be put across? It's as if everything were working backwards...


Yes, as if, as if these people were designated to be excluded anyway.

Dr DP::

You see, because for me, finally, the idea - what is the idea? The idea is to say that " These people are ill, but it's not because they are ill that they represent any danger. " We must not put them in a leper hospital, like in the Middle Ages. Therefore " Their illness is not dangerous, let's accept them socially, " is not the same message as saying " They are different, but this difference is a monstrosity, and let's accept them despite this difference and this monstrosity. "

On top of that, I say, this is really a pretty terrible representation, I mean, representing the... I mean, we are in the Red Light District in the middle of Geneva, in a hot neighbourhood... The people who work on the streets, I mean, they aren't like that, you see... There's something that bothers me in this representation.


Yes, they completely... I get the feeling that they made a mistake concerning their object, because if you look at people likely to have AIDS around us, they are not recognisable as such. And it's precisely not a message about exclusion that is needed.


4. Forms of Communication, Types of Discourse

Let us take this set of commercials dedicated to the " Stop AIDS " campaign. They all respond to the same objective, to the same will to modify public behaviour, the beha-viour of youths, of young adults, of the whole population.
What is intended is to really transform their behaviour concerning their sexual relations. There is an extremely strong intention: to persuade them that they must change their behaviour.

Globally all these audio-visual messages, all these videos are, can be characterised as being socio-educational communication. And it is important to state that it IS socio-educational communication, because, usually, we separate what is socio-educational from those messages that are strictly didactic communication.

Why make this distinction? What does it correspond to? What's the use of it? Well, you have to know first of all that these two types of message correspond to different intentions, to different contents, to different forms of rhetoric.

Let me explain. The socio-educational aims to change the social behaviour of people. That's finally like changing their way of being, their life skills. Qualities that are socially recognised in society are valorised, and the attempt is made to model their behaviour on these social models which are displayed.

In didactic communication, this is not at all the case. One tries to teach above all knowledge, learning, and above all this knowledge and this learning are structured, organised in reference to school programmes, teaching programmes.

Another difference, well is obviously that socio-educational communication is not the object of the same kinds of evaluations as didactic communication.

Didactic communication enters into a school process, linked to schools and training institutions, it is therefore evaluated in that way, with evaluation procedures which are of the classical type in educational systems. And anyway, everything which belongs to educational communication generally gives rise to certification.

Socio-educational communication on the contrary is not the object of evaluations - or very little, or very different evaluations, at much longer term - and rarely leads to certification.

So if there is this difference, if these two poles exist - the socio-educational and the didactic poles - there must be a whole series of productions which are situated in between the two. It isn't cut and dried.


Let's take an example. Look at the video - the commercial which shows the experts and the medical advice: we find ourselves in the position of spectators face to face with a doctor, in a white gown, who is explaining what the risks and the non-risks are, for example drinking out of the same glass, sharing cutlery or certain kisses with a sero-positive person or a person with Aids. This is knowledge, it's information, it's facts given by a specialist, in a face to face situation like a professor teaching, like a teacher giving a lecture. We are pretty much in a situation of didactic communication, even though, globally, the intention is socio-educational.

Inversely, if you take commercials like "Lips, Happy End" or others of the same sort, we are faced with a fiction, there is no discourse, we are faced with a situation which is commented on or which is not even commented on, and with which the TV audience, the viewers, can identify themselves or not identify themselves.

Globally, different themes, different language organisation, different types of discourse.


Pierre Dunand Filliol:

I just caught the word of " discourse ", Daniel. You surprise me a little, because in fact we are dealing with images, with pictures on a screen, flat... We are not dealing with forms of discourse. Or at least, I don't think so...?"


Dr Daniel Peraya:

Well, listen, it's because you understand the word " discourse " in the definition that I'd call the most common, and not in its technical definition.

So the common definition of the word discourse is indeed what a teacher utters, or a professor, an orator, a politician. In the technical definition it is a unit of language, it's a unit of meaning, it's a unit of a message, whatever its nature: visual, audio-visual, written, spoken, cinematographical, that's of no importance.

So it's a fragment of communication which we can attach and link, through its form, its structure to, on the one hand, a particular intention, to a particular social group as emitter, identifiable, and on the other hand to a particular audience.

This would mean, and it also means that a language, whichever it may be, is never homogenous. Each social group who uses this language uses it in its own fashion, inflects its usage depending on the themes that are its own, on the vocabulary that is its own , on its communication intent, on its forms of rhetoric, etc.

5. Intentionality and Enunciation Setting

I was talking to you about communication, I was talking to you about communication intention. But there are nevertheless certain things to specify, there are certain concepts to give.

The first thing is to recall that all communication, be it political communication, be it publicity, be it a book, be it poetry, be it fiction, be it socio-educational communication, in all cases there is always, behind every act of communication, an intention. And the very fact of not communicating, of not responding to a solicitation of communicational nature is a way, again, of communicating. That is the first thing.

And all the types of discourse &endash; to return to the notion we were talking about earlier on &endash; all the types of discourse correspond, in general, to a particular intention. That is the first aspect, which is fundamental.

The second aspect is that we often think that communication is limited to the transfer of information, to the transfer, to the communication of a message between two or several people. But in fact it's not true, it's not enough to say that.

In any form of communication there are two indissociable aspects: the first aspect is the content, the message, the informative content. What we want to talk about, what we are talking about.

The second aspect is the relation in which the communication of this message takes place. The fact of communicating with someone necessarily institutes a social relationship, an interaction between the speakers, between the people, those who are listening and those who are delivering the message.

There are therefore always two aspects: one aspect which is the content, essentially semantic, which bears on the content, the information, and an aspect which is relational. This relational aspect is fundamental, because it expresses itself through - not only through the language - but through gestures, through posture, through what is called paralinguistic, through what is called paraverbal, what is also called analogical communication.

Take an example, and let's take the examples which we saw. It that commercial on the experts, which includes the medical figure who is talking and explaining, it is clear that all the gestures, the whole position of the doctor, facing the camera, who explains and speaks, who addresses people formally, at the beginning, in the third person, who speaks completely neutrally, is a way of addressing people, a way of putting the people to whom one is speaking in a particular relationship, which is defined globally by the way the enunciation setting.


Pierre Dunand Filliol:

You just used two terms, the term " address " and the term " enunciation setting ". For me these terms are jargon which I do not understand very well. Could we go back and explain these terms?"


Dr Daniel Peraya:

Well, let's take the second term first, let's talk about the enunciation setting.

It was long thought, in the theories of communication and in the analysis of the forms of intentional, and thus persuasive, communication, it was long thought that only the message counted, that only the message was important. And it's in this measure that people focused - almost essentially - on the analysis, the definition of the message, of what is called the utterance, the things which are said.

And so, people forgot that these things were said in a context, between real people, between individuals, between social persons, between social actors, who were exchanging words in the framework of a particular social relationship that one could study, one could describe. People forgot that to really understand the meaning of the utterance, one had to take all these contextual and relational factors into account.

Here is an example: If I say " Jesse's writing is awful ", we don't know whether Jesse is a boy or a girl, and we don't know if it's his - or her - handwriting which is awful or the style and the grammar of the writing. We obviously need elements of contextualisation to really understand, to get the meaning of the utterance. And it has become usual to make the distinction between the meaning of the utterance, and the meaning of the enunciation, which is the real meaning of the message in an enunciation context.

So the enunciation setting is the whole of these parameters: contextual, relational, which joined to the utterance determine the true meaning of the message in the social interaction.

That's for the first answer.

The second answer is about the notion of " address ". If there is a relationship, one can address the audience, one can address the listener in many different ways.

Let's take a whole series of commercials which are presented. For example, those two half-moon characters who end up merging and who, when they flip over, turn into a condom.

Let's take the commercials which are mimes, the problem of hands, the hand which is rejected and then the hand which is beckoned back... we always get the impression we are watching a televisual show. It's a bit as if we were watching a story, as if it were a narrative. We're an outside observer, and we watch events happening, like any outside observer.

In other settings, there is an attempt to integrate the viewer. How can he be integrated since he's not present?

Well one easy way of doing it is by the way the eyes are used. The speaker watches the viewer, is opposite him, positions himself physically like in a real position for conversation, for face to face discussion.

Another way of doing it is to use the linguistic resources which are available: the address, the second person singular or plural, " I am talking to you, I am asking you a question, I am giving you instructions ", I use the imperative, and so on.

Take the commercials which were dedicated to heroine, and to the dangers in fact presented by use of... and re-use of syringes, well, it's obvious if we watch these commercials closely, we see appear, we read a written message, which is formulated in the second person plural. The speaker addresses the viewer directly, saying to him, " What would you do in our position, would you talk about it, you shouldn't... don't let it happen, talk about it before a dealer for example talks about it with your kids. "

Another way of doing it is in the commercial of that character on stage who shows the non-dangers of certain social behaviours and natural events - mosquitoes and mosquito bites, the shared glass, the hugs - this character is on stage, the first thing he does when he faces the stage, therefore faces the audience of TV viewers who are really watching the commercial, is to say:


Hi! You know, AIDS is sexually transmitted, but... I have good news!]


This is a direct address, it's a sort of challenge, you can't address a person more directly than that, than saying " I have something to tell you, it's very serious, but I also have some good news. "

This intention of addressing is important, because it is expressed both linguistically - as we said, by the imperative, the second person singular or plural - but also for example by the ways looks and eyes are used.

We often referred to that old American publicity of Uncle Sam saying " I want you! " with the finger, the index finger pointing towards the viewer, it's a way of challenging and addressing the viewer directly through a gesture.

All these aspects and factors determine, constitute, globally, the enunciation setting.


6. Forms of Address

Pierre Dunand Filliol:

&endash; I would like for us to return to these forms of address, Daniel. These forms of address, are they gestures, are they expressions...?

Dr Daniel Peraya:

&endash; Listen, there are two things to say.

Firstly, it's that in forms of persuasive communication, you have forms of address that are entirely conventional, which are codified, and which for us, in terms of linguistics, of gestures, of body language, are very-very important and are known and recognised by everyone. One gesture - I lean towards someone, that means I'm listening, generally. The look, the eyes are fundamental for us. We teach kids very early on to look at the person they're talking to. And for us, this question of the eyes is very-very important.

These are explicit forms of address. They are codified, and the code is known and used by everyone.

Next to that, there are implicit forms of address. They are forms of address that go through rhetorical procedures, therefore through sorts of figures of style, through particular stylistic usage.

I'll give you an example.

Let's take what we call connotations. Connotations are second meanings, complementary meanings, which are socially added on top of word, images, units of meaning which have a first meaning or a more trivial meaning.

Take for example - in the commercials on heroin - take the motorcycle. We see teenagers fleeing heroin, they're on a very ordinary sort of moped, very banal; the dealer is on a huge motorcycle, a chopper, with shiny chromium. There are all sorts of connotations there which are important and which arise naturally.

Take the term " gigolo " from the song " Gigolo ": as soon as we think of a gigolo, we necessarily think about a life of rather free or dissolute love affairs, we have a group of meanings which become associated with the basic unit of meaning, be it an image, or be it a word.

Take metaphors. In these commercials, you find an enormous number of metaphors, metaphors which are both verbal but which are also pictorial metaphors.

Again, in " Gigolo " - we'll see it later - you have a little cuckoo, a little cuckoo bird which comes out and is holding a condom in its beak. Well, all at once it's funny, because the cuckoo's way of coming out is a pretty important evocation of a movement of display, ejaculation and so on, and also on the other hand, at the verbal level, for us there are many expressions which go in the same direction: the sexual organs of children, of kids, we say, " It's a birdie, it's a cock ".

So there is both a context of comparison, of evocation, of connotations and of metaphors that plays between the pictorial language and the verbal language.

You have other examples. Take the Baggio commercial. Take the kick to the goal. We find the same movement of exteriorisation, which corresponds pretty well again to this image of ejaculation.

You also have in French all the language and all the expressions which revolve around " shooting off ": a " shoot " or a goal is the equivalent of " an easy lay ". In fact there are all sorts of associations there, both verbal and pictorial, which make it possible to challenge the spectator, not necessarily explicitly but in any case implicitly, both on an imaginary reality, a fantasy reality, and on social behaviours which I'd call more diffuse.


7. A Case Study: " Lips "

[" Lips "]

All of these notions, the whole of these tools of analysis, we won't be able to bring them into play for each commercial, because all the commercials don't present each of these aspects, each of these dimensions. But if we watch for example this commercial of "Lips", there are still quite a few interesting things we can show, we can put in relation.

The first thing, this commercial, globally, functions on an opposition between the collective and the individual spheres. From the outset we have a series of individual speeches, which are presented in a fairly aggressive fashion, using metonymy - metonymy is a figure of style, a form of rhetoric - in such a way that each of the lips... I mean the lips represent an individual each time, a particular individual. But we never see this person, it's only a particular aspect of this person which represents them.

The point of passage is where the individual is reconstituted, it's the character who intervenes at a certain moment saying, " We do use condoms ", and we see as the camera zooms out, we see him brutally melt into a mass, and in fact the passage from the piece of the aggressive person, whose behaviour is not valued, is done through an individual who has unity and integrity as an individual - since we see him whole - but who also has a unity within a constituted social group since he has his place there, and we progressively see the place he occupies there as the zoom continues backwards.

That's a first aspect, which is entirely a pictorial aspect.

There is an aspect of discourse, a verbal aspect, which is the type of verbal language which is used. The speeches of the first part, the speeches of the lips and of the people in pieces are presented... they are always presented, I'd say, in an aggressive way, it's discourse which is sometimes... basically we get the impression of seeing a smirk or a set of grimacing lips, whereas when we land on the person who says " we " for the first time, we see lips that look more steady and relaxed. So that is one aspect.

We have the deconstruction of the discourse. At the start we have people who are very sure of what they are claiming. They say, " We don't need condoms ", we see... " we see it and we only have relations with healthy people ". Someone says fairly aggressively and abruptly, " Condoms fuck everything up ", that's what the text says, and then brutally we see the lips of a man, no doubt, who says at a certain moment, " Basically I don't use condoms because... " and he hesitates: basically this certainty is becoming deconstructed, and it's a bit as if the certainty of the individual rejecting the use of the condom is destroying itself and falling apart progressively for the benefit of a more poised discourse, individual discourse - reasoned and reasonable - where the individual finds his place in relation to a certain community. And it's true that we go, at the language level, from " I " to " We ", which is the " we " both of the group of people we see finally in the last shot, but which is also an inclusive "we", because what is really hoped for is that the TV viewers will find themselves involved - grammatically I'd say - in this " we " which represents them.

Another linguistic aspect which is important is that finally the little ditty which is sung at the end is in the second person, it's an injunction, but an injunction that is sung, it says " Know what is going on, make sure you have a rubber on ". It doesn't sound like an order that is very... prescriptive and let's say very rigid, such as we saw in the other commercials, it's all at once sung advice-cum-order, it belongs to the register of song, therefore to the register I'd say of lightness, and not at all of the heaviness of the expert saying " You must do this ".

So we find here a whole series of elements that are higgledy-piggledy, knowing that in a commercial, we won't find the whole of the elements that we finished... that in fact we sketched out in this observation and this analysis.


8. An Active Viewer?

It is often said that, in a televised show or in a filmed show, the spectator-viewer is made to become identified with the character. He is made to become one with the main characters or with certain characters to whom he can easily identify himself. It is also often said in this way that "If you want to convince teenagers, make commercials showing teenagers", because they can become identified with them more easily. They will recognise themselves, and, recognising themselves, they will model their behaviour, they will adopt the values of the characters to whom... in whom they recognise themselves.

But there are two mechanisms. It's true that at the start, there are functions of fusion, fusional mechanisms. That means that we identify, we see people who resemble us and we say to ourselves " Well in fact let's do like them ". That's one way.

But this fusion implies, at the same time, a lack of distance... a lack of distance and detachment, in relation to what we see and in relation to the models shown to us. We adopt them, we imitate them, we appropriate them, we have a fusional rapport with this model.

Another way of doing it is to say " But... rather than asking, rather than wishing my viewer to center himself, re-center himself, focus on and appropriate a model which is proposed, I could show him a series of models in continual displacement ", and tell him " Be careful, for such and such a problem, here is one model I offer you. I offer you this model, but it is not a unique model. Other models exist ".

Your attitude, certainly, in a certain way, you will temporarily re-center yourself on this model, but I will give you the possibility of de-centring yourself again, to step back and take some distance from this model, and then effectively I show you three or four models, and then finally what does the TV viewer do? He chooses, he compares, he puts the three or four models in relation to each other, and finally he makes up his own mind, he appropriates what seems most interesting to him.

But the attitude its totally different: in one case what do we do? We say, " Here, I'm giving you a model, and I'm asking you to submit to the model I'm showing you, and it's a unique model "; in the other case, in the case of de-centring, I offer you several models - different divergent, complementary - and I ask you to progressively make your own choice between these different models.

Let's return to this notion of centring and de-centring.

In the first case, centring, it has often been said, too - and I'm thinking of Geneviève Jaquinot for example - that it is pedagogy of the product. That means that there is s structured content, which is structured prior to the construction of the audio-visual, film or video message. When it is a message which functions using de-centring, one can imagine that the very construction of the message, its organisation, its structuring, participates in the creation of the content, participates in the construction of the message. One generally speaks in this case of pedagogy of the process.

One considers, in the first case, that the technical medium, the technical setting, the media set-up has no importance for the content which pre-exists its broadcasting, whereas, in the second case, one considers that the technical setting has a terribly important influence on the construction of the message, and therefore on the mechanisms which are brought into play for the decoding, for the reading and the understanding of the message.

In the first case, finally one considers that the viewer is not an active actor in the communication process; in the second case, one considers that the viewer has an active role in the understanding and the construction of the message. One even speaks of co-construction of the message by the viewer.


Pierre Dunand Filliol:

So this parallel which you're making here, Daniel, does it also apply to the notions of centring and de-centring which we were discussing before?


Dr Daniel Peraya:

So for us this is important why? It's important because we are dealing with persuasive communication, if it is indeed socio-educational communication, and if we really are aiming at a certain efficiency on the audience, we consider that this efficiency is not arrived at at any cost and in any conditions.

We consider that centring/de-centring, pedagogy of the product/pedagogy of the process correspond to two types of behaviour, two particular cognitive thought processes. The first is to say that basically, we function through imitation - and it's true that there are learning processes which work through imitation. In the second case, we consider that there is learning through interaction, and through social interaction, and through the participation of the subject in the construction of his own knowledge. It's clear that as pedagogues, as trainers, and also as communicators, we have, here, in the context of our Unit, a preference for the second type of attitude, because we think that learning will occur in a better way, it will fix itself better if the subject participates in the co-construction of his own learning and his own knowledge.

And in any case, in the theoretical perspective which is constructivist which is our own, we consider that it goes without saying and that knowledge is constructed necessarily within the social interaction.



[" Gigolo ":
&endash; Going out? Don't forget the essentials!]


Dr Daniel Peraya:

&endash; Concerning what we said, look: it's a commercial which is completely decentered, it's not prescriptive, each person can identify or not identify with the character, there are connotations, many of them... Uh, You see the little jewellery box of the girl who puts her condoms in there, another puts his condom in his track shoes...

You have a whole sort of play of associations on the basis of the song itself " Gigolo " I mean ... And moreover it's really pretty funny, you see, there are hints of complicity, there's humour...


Pierre Dunand Filliol:

&endash; Yes, and the smiles, the rhythm...

This is really the way a lesson carries over, no?


Tanslation Credits: S. Peel;

pdf; 15.11.96