1. Whose message is this? Who created or paid for it? Why?
The J.M. Smucker Company paid for this ad to sell its Jif brand peanut butter.
2. Who is the “target audience”? What is their age, ethnicity, class, profession, interests, etc.? What words, images or sounds suggest this?
The primary target audience is English-speaking mothers, specifically African American mothers, who are interested in taking care of their children long-distance while they are at college. The scenes displaying the care package (in what is presumably the daughter’s dorm room) suggest this target audience. The image of the large kitchen and the style of the mother’s clothes reference middle-class professionals who may be a secondary target.
3. What is the “text” of the message? (What we actually see and/or hear: written or spoken words, photos, drawings, logos, design, music, sounds, etc.)
There are images of an African American woman in a green sweater and green scarf in a large kitchen as her cell phone rings. Her left hand clearly displays a wedding band. Smiling, she says, “Hey, college girl” into the phone. The scene cuts to a younger African American woman sitting on a pink polka-dotted comforter on a bed, with an open white box next to her. Smiling, she says, “Hey, Mom, I just got your package.” The commercial proceeds to cut back and forth between the two scenes of the mother in the kitchen and the daughter in the dorm room. Each room is decorated with family photographs on the wall and refrigerator. In the package that the younger woman received are many items, including a jar of Jif peanut butter. She begins eating the peanut butter while on the phone with her mother. A voice over states, “It’s more than just that great peanut taste. Choosing Jif is a simple way to show someone how much you care.” The two women exchange “I-love-yous”, followed by the continuing voice over, “Choosy moms choose Jif.”
4. What is the “subtext” of the message? (What do you think is the hidden or unstated meaning?)
Various subtexts include good mothers send care packages to their daughters who are in college, sending Jif peanut butter shows someone that you care about them, if you send someone Jif peanut butter they will call you on the telephone and tell you that they love you, Jif peanut butter brings families together, the best way to eat peanut butter is with a plastic spoon while laying in bed, if someone selects a different brand of peanut butter other than Jif, they are not choosy.
5. What kind of lifestyle is presented? Is it glamorized? How?
The lifestyle presented is middle to upper class. It is not glamorized as much as it is normalized—there is a sense that what we are seeing and hearing is what all people (regardless of race, class, ability, and geography) should have, or should want to have.
6. What values are expressed?
Middle-class values are expressed, along with values of love, care, connection, and peanut butter.
7. What “tools of persuasion” are used?
Timing—This ad is currently running because it is “back-to-school” season
Symbols—The smile on the daughter’s face is a symbol of happiness with the product, the wedding band on the mother’s hand symbolizes her perceived heterosexuality, the use of the color pink in the dorm room is used to represent femininity
Association—Jif is being associated with ideas of family, connection, care, and love
Warm & fuzzy—The music, the connection between mother and daughter, and their expressed love for each other are used to emit a warm and fuzzy feeling
Simple Solution—By purchasing Jif the mother can eliminate the distance between herself and her daughter
Repetition—Jif is visually and verbally repeated, the colors green and pink are repeated
Download "The language of persuasion"
8. What positive messages are presented? What negative messages are presented?
Positive messages include the visibility of women of color, the connection and love between mother and daughter, and the perceived support of the daughter’s college education.
Negative messages include the substitution of a product for love and the classist and/or capitalist notion that love can be purchased in a jar of peanut butter.
9. What groups of people does this message empower? What groups does it disempower? How does this serve the media maker's interests?
The message seems to empower women of color, particularly African American women, through their visibility and presence. The message disempowers low-income, working class, and poor communities through the normalization of wealth. The media maker’s interests are served because they get to appear as if they are not racist by creating a target market of African American women. However, the actual power dynamics of race and class in U.S. culture are actually maintained and not shifted by this approach.
10. What part of the story is not being told? How and where could you get more information about the untold stories?
We are not told the nutritional information on Jif peanut butter, or the cost of the peanut butter. The Jif website has that information at http://www.jif.com/home.asp.
We are not told that African American women, and people of color in general, are less visible and more silenced when not being used to read someone else’s script. One example is the fact that less than 10.5 percent of the reporters, correspondents, columnists, editors, and bureau chiefs in the Washington daily newspaper press corps are journalists of color — 60 out of 574. That compares to the non-white U.S. population of 30.9 percent (2000 U.S. Census) and the 12.5 percent of reporters, editors, and supervisors found in daily newspaper newsrooms in general in 2003 (http://unityjournalists.org/diversity/index.php).