Hierarchical specifications in Fish Eagle advertisement (revised edit)

The recent Fish Eagle advert deserves to be dissected into its respective constituencies in order to appreciate how it naturalizes the product it is about. From its quite opening right up to the moment when the eagle swoop down to take its prey, the advertisement is a well orchestrated campaign for selling brandy through connoting the brandy with supremacy as far as status is concerned. That status is hierarchically specified such that we have an effect mirroring the food chain pyramid.

At its opening the advert shows a lotus¹ flower opening after a dew drop falls within its bud, propelling the petals to open slowly, we may assume, at the encouragement of the nourishing dew. At the background soft key notes from a piano can be discerned amidst the quite and serene mood of the environment within which this drama of survival of the fittest unfolds.

As the Lotus Flower blazes open a Dragonfly comes by to collect nectar from the lotus flower. As it hovers above-about a Frog appears on one of the floating green leaves of the surrounding lotuses. It immediately without warning devours the Dragonfly. Beneath the still lake a Catfish lurks; it swims towards the unsuspecting Frog, jumps out and takes it clean in its jaw and disappears with it in the lake to devour it. Just as one would think things wouldn’t get any better than this we hear the sound of an eagle and soon a Fish Eagle majestically comes flying across the screen, slow motioned , talons outstretches as it makes contact with the fish and then effortlessly claps at its delicate body with a soundless snap and fly away with it.
It is important to note that the flight of the eagle from its entry into the film sequence and its exit in the last frame is shown in slow motion. This foregrounds the movement of the eagle throughout, creating elegance. Then as the advert comes to its end we are shown the bottle of Fish Eagle brandy and the advertisement ends.

The organization of the advertisement in this sequence has a psychological effect in the mind of the viewer, to be specific the prospective customer and those who drink the brandy in that they immediately see the drink as superior in nature due to its identification with the predator². The advertisement also inherently posses a crescendo effect, apart from that of the piano tune, as far as the organization of the various elements of the advert, the animals, are packed on top of one another in terms of the survival of the fittest dilemma³ right up to the eagle disappearing from the screen. The elements within the advert can be represented as follows:

Dew Drops
Lotus Flower
Dragon Fly
Cat Fish
Fish Eagle

More precisely in terms of power and succession in the food chain these elements can be represented in this manner

Fish Eagle
Cat Fish
Dragon Fly
Lotus Flower
Dew drop

With Fish Eagle at the top of the food chain this way the primary message is accentuated and actualized 4, which is – Fish Eagle is supreme. But before we get confused we need to be mindful that there are two Fish Eagles that the packaged message, the advertisement, brings forth to the viewer. First it is Fish Eagle the Bird as far as our inverted hierarchical structure above shows and secondly it is the Brandy Fish Eagle which is not an animal but an alcoholic drink.
The insertion of the brandy at the closure of the advert ties in together neatly with the exiting eagle thus the drink replaces the bird – the predator5.
Therefore the bird is equated with the brandy and the brandy takes its prestige from the bird; its significance is nourished by what this predator stands for – supremacy. Trivially speaking we can ask who devours the Brandy then? Our answer is simple, people6.
This last part of our analogy brings unto the pedestal of specifications an important element that is not included but indirectly alluded to in this theater of signs – people, the consumers7.  Thus the advertisement’s aim is to argue that people who drink Fish Eagle are supreme. Thus by indirect reference those who drink Fish Eagle drink a brandy of ‘supreme’ quality.

Such is an advert that uses economy. There is no voice over in the events unfolding; and also the use of text is limited to the curtain closer of the advert. The piano keynotes creates a soft and a relax mood of sophistication until it raises a little in crescendo at the end just as the eagle fly off with the Catfish out of focus,  its victorious  call echoing into a fade.


1. Lotus Flower in Indian spiritual mythology signifies spiritual awakening. In the Chakra  system that charts spiritual awakening it is the seventh and last point of spiritual ascendancy.

2.Here I am almost tempted to assert that this identification of Fish Eagle (bird) vis-à-vis Fish Eagle (Brandy) amidst other brandies qualifies it to be one of a kind; but that will be a subjective statement.

3.In the scheme of nature animals (human beings not exempted from this categorization); in order for them to exist and perpetuate their role they vie with forces of nature, and one another under the merciless law – eat or be eaten. It is interesting to regard bacteria resulting from viruses that cause diseases as supreme in nature’s survival soap opera in that it prevails above the predator whether killed or meeting its demise through old age.

4.The message is actualized psychologically in the mind of the viewer regardless of being alcohol connoisseur, novices or downright uninterested.

5.At that instant in the advertisement, to be specific – at the end of a play of hierarchical specification through animal signs, we have a mirroring effect(a). It is as if the eagle looks at it self in the mirror and see its reflection being that of a bottle of brandy full of sophistication and not as a bird involved in the survival of the fittest dilemma. (a)    A mirroring effect is when a sign, for instance in the present jottings – Fish Eagle (Bird) sheds its natural meaning to dawn the meaning that inevitably attaches to it in the context of how it is being utilized in the galaxy of the meaning in question. And what is the meaning in question in the present writing? It is that Fish Eagle is a supreme drink. It ranks higher in natural scheme of things.

6.Following the dew drop fall into the bud of the lotus, the viewers might come to realize that the play of signs they have just witnessed from then onwards bears a resemblance to a growth of consciousness or awareness. the Dragonfly is not aware of the presence of the Frog in the biosphere nor the Frog of the Catfish neither the Catfish of the Swooping Fish Eagle. It is the viewer in retrospect who is aware which animal will prevail in the survival of the fittest dilemma; with all things considered in retrospect.  In this  regard the viewer is omniscient.

Originally published 12 December 2008 in http://posthighdef21.wordpress.com/

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© Mmutle Arthur Kgokong 2010