Semiotic Analysis of the “La Poste” advertising campaign EXECUTIVE SUMMARY This report is about the study of the advertising campaigns of the French postal organization, “La Poste”. Since its first TV commercial as an autonomous organization in 1980’s, the organization has radically changed its advertising strategy adopting throughout the years new themes and concepts. Thus this report aims firstly to provide relevant contextual information about the organization and unveil the reasons for selecting these particular texts.
Secondly, an in-depth analysis of the adverts using a semiotic approach will be uncovered in order to highlight the evolution of the communication strategy. Thirdly, the last part of this report will tackle an evaluative discussion of the organization’s overall communication. The research reveals that “La Poste” which is one of the leading companies operating in the public services changed several times the components of its brand identity before adopting a particular identity.
The main reason of these modifications appears to be a continuous will of the organization to modernize its image and adapt to the new competitive environment. Furthermore, the particular progress in the advertising campaign outlines three major tendencies which can be related with the organization’s historical evolution. Indeed, in the 1980’s the organization has
Then, in the 1990’s, the organization outlined its commercial feature and highlighted therefore its products and services and finally in the 2000’s, the organization developed its financial services which explained the total “restyle” of the brand. TABLE OF CONTENTS INTRODUCTION 3 Section 1: Contextual information 4 1. Activities of “La Poste” 4 1. 1 Mail 4 1. 2 Parcels and Express delivery 4 1. 3 Banking and financial services 4 1. 4 Customer service: post-offices 5 2. Reasons for the selection of the adverts 5 Section 2: Analysis of the adverts 6 1. 986: Creation of the brand “La Poste” 6 1. 1 Summary of the advert 6 1. 2 Interpretation 6 2. 1990: revitalization of the identity 8 2. 1 Summary of the advert 8 2. 2 Interpretation 8 3. 2005: a new era for “La Poste” 10 3. 1 Summary of the TV commercial 11 3. 2 Interpretation 11 3. 2. 1 The message 11 3. 2. 2 The slogan 12 3. 2. 3 The logo 12 Section 3: Evaluative discussion 14 CONCLUSION 16 REFERENCES 17 APPENDICES 18 INTRODUCTION “La Poste” is one of the oldest public organizations in France. Indeed, the first relay post offices were created in 1477 by Louis XI.
At that time, the post officers were knights who were essentially in charge of delivering the king’s mails. The profession of postman truly appeared with the creation of Paris’s post-office in 1760 by Piarron De Chamousset. It was before this date difficult and even impossible for individuals to receive and send personal mails. Since then, “La Poste” has significantly diversified its activities and aims to be nowadays more than only a historical institution. For the purpose of this report, the focus of attention is mainly on the study of one aspect of the organization’s evolution i. . the advertising campaigns. In doing so this paper encompasses three parts in which first of all a small description of the organization’s activities are presented as well as the reasons underpinning the choice of these specific adverts. In a second section, this paper conducts a detailed study of the adverts by dint of a semiotic analysis of the elements entailed in the commercials. Lastly, an overall evaluative assessment of the communication of the organization will be uncovered. Section 1: Contextual information
The purpose of this section is to provide contextual information about the organization in order to outline the environment in which the study takes place. Thus the main business activities are underlined as well as the reasons for selecting these particular adverts. Activities of “La Poste” With a rise of 3. 8% in 2007, “La Poste” is growing steadily by dint of four successful core business activities. 1 Mail This activity represented 57 % of the organization turnover in 2007 and it is continuously modernising in order to meet on the one hand the hallenges of an open market and on the other hand the new expectations of the customers. 2 Parcels and Express delivery This activity represented 22% of the organizational turnover. GeoPost and ColiPoste together represent the second largest parcel operator in Europe. 3 Banking and financial services With its entity “La Banque Postale” created in 2006, the organization is now able to provide the same services as the other financial companies and become therefore a strong competitor on the financial market.
This service provides adapted banking and insurance solutions to almost 29 million customers and represented in 2007 23% of the organization’s turnover. The new objective of the organization regarding this activity is to tackle the real estate market by 2010. 4 Customer service: post-offices “La Poste” is the leading provider of local services in France. This position has been achieved through an ambitious modernization programme, a strategic customer relationship management and a strong national presence (17,000 post offices).
Customers being more demanding about the availability of the staff and the range of products, “La Poste” has initiated a review of its employee’s training programmes and is gradually increasing its range of services as well as its distribution networks. Reasons for the selection of the adverts The adverts selected correspond to the main periods of changes noticed in the organization’s advertising strategy. These adverts enable therefore to critically assess the evolution of the organization’s communication.
At the end of 2005, the apparition of a new TV commercial of “La Poste” raises questions about the reasons which motivated the organization to undertake these profound changes. Indeed, not only the innovative style of the commercial entices the attention of the public but also the sudden change of logo, slogan and the refurbishment of post offices. It is therefore important to thoroughly look into this new plan especially as the new look of the organization was also the starting point of a debate regarding the amount of the investment made in this modernization plan which had been publicly disclosed.
Nevertheless, before outlining the main features of this disruption, it is crucial to look back at some of the previous key adverts in order to reach a better understanding of the modifications occurred. Section 2: Analysis of the adverts This section aims to conduct a semiotic analysis of three major adverts of “La Poste” using the study denotations and connotations of their different components (Barthes, 1977). 1986: Creation of the brand “La Poste” In 1986, “La Poste” appears for the first time in the mass media as separated from the Ministry of the Telecommunications.
The objective of the communication strategy is mainly cognitive as the primary aim of this advert was to raise the audience’s awareness on the creation of the brand “La Poste”. From this time forth, “La Poste was not only considered as the name of an organization but also as a real brand with specific products and services. 1 Summary of the advert This first advert is essentially a theatrical representation of the organizational production line. Indeed, the advert presents the process from the step of gathering mails to their delivery.
The commercial ends up with the representation of the brand and a man (representing the symbol of the brand: the blue bird) flying over it. 2 Interpretation By representing the production line process in a straightforward manner, this advert presents the basic service the organization provides at that time. However, this representation may imply another connotation. In fact representing the mechanism of its activity enables to refer to the mission of the organization which was at that period its commitment to effectively deliver mails.
Regarding the language used, it is linguistically poor. Indeed, it is essentially composed of simple words instead of complete grammatical sentences. Besides, the same lyrics are repeated during the entire commercial. In fact at the beginning of the advert, the production line process is described and repeated twice (Appendix 1: translation). At the end, the key message of the advert ‘Move with La Poste’ is repeated three times. The repetition of the same lines gives a monotone aspect to the commercial even though it may be assumed that it aims to favour its memorisation by the udience. Besides, a thorough analysis of the message enables to identify another disguised meaning. Indeed, the organization expresses its evolution with the verb ‘move’ and this is reinforced with all the dynamic movements of the actors as well as the personification of the brand’s emblem (blue bird) . The word ‘move’ therefore resumes the meaning of the whole advert as well as the key ambition of the company which was at that period its intention to give to the organization a new status with the creation of its brand.
In addition, ‘move’ may refer to the first progress the organization had just accomplished: its first appearance in the mass media as independent from the Ministry of the Telecommunications. Lastly, the use of the imperative tense may suggest an invitation to the audience to join the organization in its ‘move’. Furthermore, the whole decor of the stage including the actors’ outfits symbolizes the traditional colours of the organization (yellow and blue). It can be presumed that it was a means to definitely attribute these colours to the brand. Besides, the tone of the advert is cheerful.
The purpose of this tone is to address another objective of the communication strategy which is the affective dimension. Thus entertaining its public by humour and caricature enables to give a pleasant feature to the organizational identity and probably ease the relationships with customers. In brief, this first advert is the symbol of the creation of the corporate identity as well as the celebration of its autonomy. “La Poste” uses mostly emotional elements which aim to entertain customer and entice therefore their sympathy. 1990: revitalization of the identity
For many decades, La Poste has been associated with an outdated image. The first attempt in changing this pejorative image occurred in the 1990’s when the organization intended to rejuvenate its corporate image. This period is also characterized by the increasing communication on the products and services of the organization. One of the most successful commercials broadcasted at that period was about its express service Diligo. 1 Summary of the advert Every morning from Monday to Friday, a young girl receives parcels containing a different object but she is clueless about their meaning.
The advert ends up with the solution of the enigma. 2 Interpretation For this campaign, the attributes of the service are neatly outlined by dint of several signifiers. The arrival of the postman every morning symbolizes the punctuality and the efficiency of the service. Besides, as Diligo is a service which aims to offer a delivery within 24hours, the fact that the young girl receives the object every morning stands for the reliability and rapidity of the service. Lastly, as the objects arrive in good condition, the quality of the service is highlighted.
It is also noteworthy to mention that the rhythm of the music contributes to give a dynamic feature to the advert. To some extent, it may be presumed that this fast rhythm also refers to the attributes of the service (Express). The signifieds of this advert are thus precisely transmitted to the audience which are according to Barthes (1997) a requirement in advertising as the signifieds are a priori related to the attributes of the product. Moreover, this commercial draws attention to the mysterious characteristic the organization endeavours to incorporate in its commercials.
This new feature is reinforced by the absence of language, the physical expression (facial and gesture) of the young girl and the rebus. The advert ends up on an affective note which is denoted by the endearing message (Appendix 1: translation). Regarding the connotations that can be ascribed to this advert, the first that can be mentioned is the staging of a young girl which surely aims to address the objective of rejuvenating the corporate image. The dynamic music also enables to give some energy to the corporate identity. Additionally, the use of a rebus takes on a polysemic value.
Indeed apart from intriguing the public, it contributes strongly to refresh the organizational image by introducing a fun and ludic aspect. The informal terms uses in the advert followed the same goal as well. Besides, in its previous adverts, the organization used to only represent its employees. In contrast here the relationship with the customers is greatly outlined with the friendly postman interacting directly with the customer. Proximity, one of the organizational value which is based ‘on a close client relationship’ perspective, is thus pointed out.
Another new characteristic in the corporate identity revealed in this commercial is the slogan of the organization. In fact, “On a tous a y gagner” which literally means “we all have something to gain” emphasises on the value and benefit brought to the customer. The interpretation of the slogan leads to translate the slogan by “we all benefit from it”, “it” referring to the relationship between the organization and its customers With the “we” the organization includes itself in the relation and builds therefore a closer relationship with the public which refers again to its proximity value.
In other words, this slogan may be perceived as sketching out a sort of win-win relationships. Actually, the organization implies that customers pay for a service and in return the organization ensures to provide an effective and reliable service in accordance with their expectations. Therefore, everybody benefits from this relation. This commercial neatly demonstrated the evolution of the organization in terms of communication campaign. Thus, from the simple presentation of the service, “La Poste” uses a storytelling approach including an aspect of intrigue in its advertising.
Around five commercials using these same features have been developed in that period for different postal products. Moreover, an increase in referring to corporate values has been noticed. 2005: a new era for “La Poste” Due to a strong competition in the public sector especially with the new brand identity of another major actor (SNCF), “La Poste” decided in 2005 to commit itself in a significant modernization plan. This plan included the renewal of many features of the organization namely the brand identity, the creation of a new financial entity “La Banque Postale” and the modernization of the post offices.
To communicate on this new evolution, two advertising campaigns have been deployed. The first is essentially related to the new visual identity of the organization and the second aimed to present its new financial services. For the purpose of this paper, the focus of attention will only be on the corporate campaign. 1 Summary of the advert Using a storytelling style, a city “sloughs off”. This process is initiated by the symbol of the brand i. e. the bird and one of the principal actors of the institution, the postman. They are then followed by several people who contribute to this sort of slough.
The commercial ends up with firstly the off screen voice which explains the reasons of the change and secondly the whole package of the new brand identity is disclosed: the logo, the sound effect and the slogan “et la confiance grandit” which literally means “and trust grows”. 2 Interpretation 1 The message The commercial aims primarily to highlight the new vision of the organization which is ‘to foster trust through the belief that contributing to each individual’s development contributes to society’ according to Jean-Paul Bailly, Chairman of “La Poste”.
This vision is neatly stated by the off screen voice “when we contribute to increase trust, it benefits to everybody and the whole Society moves forward. Therefore “La Poste” changes in order to increase trust”. This assertion may associate the organization with a negative connotation. Actually, it strongly outlines the trust issue the organization is facing by dint of the repetition of the word “trust” in the off screen statement mentioned previously. and “La Poste” appears as begging the confidence of its public.
By representing different segments of the population (the children, the young people, the woman who is probably a mother, the elderly lady, the employees and so forth), “La Poste” uncovers that this message targets the whole population. On the other side, it may be perceived as its determination and especially its need to involve the whole society in order to successfully achieve its future plans. This is additionally pointed out by the unfolding of the commercial which suggests a population involved jointly and in solidarity in the change.
Thus the organization demonstrates a will to reassure the population which is highlighted by the serene rhythm of the music as well as the tone of the off screen voice. Besides, the image of a “slough” may be interpreted as a means to remove all the previous associations and images of “La Poste” and to appear therefore as totally new to the public. In other words, now the public can trust “La Poste”. 2 The slogan Concerning the slogan “and trust grows”, when separated from this advert it becomes confusing due to the double meaning it may induce.
On the one hand, it may highlight that the organization has identified the lack of trust it is confronted with and is consequently the new challenge the organization is committed to achieve and. On the other hand, the word “trust” may refer to the self confidence the organization has now gained and this explains its modernization plan. 3 The logo The new logo follows the objective of modernizing the organizational image as it has not been changed since 1984. A few changes have been added to the former but the traditional colours (yellow and blue) and the blue bird remained the same.
However, it is now embedded in a yellow circle and completed with a grey line. Besides, the different components of the logo have been spaced in order to increase its readability when it will be used in a small scale according to the spokesman of the advertising agency in charge of the logo project. Regarding the typography, it was the traditional typography of the typewriter that was used on the previous logo in order probably to symbolize the ancient mails. From now on, a modern typography is applied on the logo and the use of capital letters is deemed to demonstrate he professionalism and the expertise of the organization (Raguin, 2006). Vincent Relave, Director of Communication of “La Poste” adds that the new logo aims to give a contemporary and dynamic image and reflect the idea of a stronger organization which is able to face the competition. Lastly, regarding the sound effect, it brings essentially dynamism to the whole package. The principal objectives of communication ascribed to the campaign are twofold. The first one is undoubtedly cognitive as it unveils to the audience the new corporate identity as well as the reasons behind this change.
Nevertheless, the most aspect which dominates the whole commercial is affective due to the call for solidarity. Section 3: Evaluative discussion From its first appearance on TV to the adoption of its final brand identity, “La Poste” seems to have significantly demonstrated its continuous aim to adapt to both the new competitive environment and the evolution of the customers needs. Besides, the analysis of the advertising enabled to identity the early understanding of the importance of placing the customer at the heart of the organizational strategy.
Indeed, in the three major communication phases outlined in this report, the organization represents the public in its adverts and refers to them in its slogans in order to build a closer relationship. Moreover, a progress in the communication strategy is noticed and this can probably be associated to the organization’s historical evolution. Thus the main challenges ascribed to the corporate communication have essentially been twofold: • Escape from the stereotypes of the outdated image that French administration suffers from • Create its own identity and shape its image as a competitive commercial and financial company
On the other side, this study enabled to outline the various changes of the organization’s identity. Indeed, through these many modifications of slogans and the continuous will to show the public a new facet, the organization appears as facing a corporate identity crisis. The 2005 campaign clearly uncovered to which aspect this identical issue can be associated with i. e. the lack of trust. The organization therefore developed a new vision of the organization and the message underpinning it seems to take on a sort of religious characteristic.
Indeed, the organization objective appears as a will to make the public adhere, believe and contribute to spread its philosophy. However, this will to restore confidence can not only be tackled by the simple fact of selecting an attractive identity and then present it with a strategic communication tool. The new identity and the reasons underpinning it have to be accepted by the public (Czarniawska, 1997). The identity crisis may also be related to the fact that the organization is torn between two concepts. Indeed, it intends to be both a modern organization with all the implications this status entails and be the ervice public of reference due to its attachment to traditional French values by dint of the correlation between its own history and the national one. Furthermore, this quest of a suitable corporate identity may be interpreted as an attempt to change the whole feature of being in the public sector. On the long-term it is feared that “La Poste” becomes affected by the syndrome of “company-ization” (Czarniawska, 1997) which is a concept based on the progressive transformation of the public sector into limited companies. CONCLUSION
The study of the advertising campaigns pointed out the different stages in the organization’s communication. From humour, the campaigns evolved towards mysterious puzzlers and ended up with a solidarity message. With its entry in the financial market, “La Poste” is considered nowadays as a competitive actor in the French economic landscape. Since its wide modernization plan undertook at the end of 2005, the organization seems to have finally found an adequate corporate identity. Indeed, since then any changes regarding this aspect has been noticed.
The modernization plan is still ongoing and to date, the organization aims to tackle the new media in order to interact innovatively with its customers. REFERENCES Annual report of “La Poste”. [online]. Available from: www. laposte. fr AOUN, M. , 2006. Press Releases. [online]. Available from: www. laposte. fr BARTHES, R. , 1977. Image, Music, Text. London: Fontana Press CZARNIAWSKA, B. , 1997. Narrating the organization: Dramas of institutional identity. Chicago: the University of Chicago Press Ltd La Poste rajeunit son logo, 2005. [online]. Available from:www. ci. fr[Accessed 6 December 2005] RAGUIN, R. , 2006. Nouveau logo: Relooking pour La Poste. [online]. Available from: www. leblogfinance. fr [Accessed December 2005] Tietze et al. , 2003. Understanding Organizations through Language. London: Sage Publications APPENDICES Appendix 1: Translation of the TV commercials 1. Commercial 1 – Mail stamped, sent, posted (twice) – Sent, posted (twice) – Take off, fly, the mail is delivered – Move with “La Poste” (Three times) 2. Commercial 2 – Jeu = game – The (prounounced “te”) = tea – Meuh= French onomatopoeia for cows’ moo Thon ( pronounced “ton”)= tuna – Gros= big – Lapin= rabbit, here it mostly means bunny as we are in an informal context The solution of the rebus is: Je t’aime. Ton gros lapin =I love you, your big bunny/teddy bear Off screen voice: Either for mail or parcel, the “ready to be posted” (pret- a-poster) passes on your messages. So say it with the “ready to be posted”. Diligo is the name of the express service and the “ready to be posted” (pret-a- poster) refers to the fact that the mails or parcels do not require any additional stamps. Appendix 2: TV commercials (CD)