The Promise of Greatness – Photography and Advertising

  • 22nd July 2018
  • Blog

a Few years ago walking through Helsinki I noticed a new Manpower advertising/recruitment campaign. Each advertisement consisted of a photographic portrait which focused on the face as the index for the message, assisted by a slogan “Nyt on Teemun aikakausi”[1]. The images, concentrated on the face, were focused on the eyes with features further back quickly falling out of focus. The eyes in each image adjusted to create impact and stand out from the rest of the image. These technical details of the images have been clearly added to heighten the classical sense of individuality that Manpower is attempting to sell within the campaign. The advertisement attempts to tap into our increasingly individualistic society through a series of portraits anchored with text aimed at one’s narcissistic values. The concentration on the individual also seems to contradict corporations’ usual requests for a worker with team ethic but perhaps hints that one will ultimately end up working in an environment governed largely by the laws outlined by Darwin.
Manpower Advertisment in Helsinki
As mentioned, the photographs cast aside the image of the individual as sold to us through regular advertising, instead opting to concentrate on the face. By using the people’s first names, the advertisement creates a more traditional sense of individual in relation to the worker. In terms of telling one anything about Manpower as an organisation or about the type of work available the slogan is mere rhetoric, a linguistic attempt to raise the status of both the company and their jobs. The text accompanying the images contains the inherent qualities of advertising language. Therefore, the language present within the advertisement has little substance beyond its rhetorical value and works in connection with the ongoing programme of capitalism to close the universe of discourse in order to stop any further qualitative change in society. As well as being full of the contradictions that occur regularly in advertising language, the text has a “telescoping and abridgement of syntax which cuts of development of meaning by creating fixed images which impose themselves with an overwhelming and petrified concreteness.”[2] The advertisement appeals to one with ‘The age of [insert your name here] has begun’, helping to create the fixed image in one’s mind of success and greatness through the borrowing of a historically used phrase that does not beg to be questioned further.


[1] In English this translates as “Now is the age of Teemu”, however the English campaign slogan uses the words “The age of Teemu has begun”.

[2] Herbert Marcuse, One-Dimensional Man, (London; New York, Routledge, 1991), p.94