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Budaya, Sejarah, dan Filsafat (Materi dan Tugas Kuliah)

The Representation and Commodification of Family and Nature in Ultra Milk’s Advertisement: a Semiotic Study

Indonesia is one of the world’s most populous countries with approximately 220 million people. It has admittedly contributed to the significant increase of people’s awareness towards the importance of health, shown by people’s demand to the milk products which has gradually increased. But, Indonesian milk consumption is still only 11.09 liter per capita per year that makes Indonesia as the lowest of milk consumption in Asia (Rostiyani, 2012). This consumption is however forecasted to increase from 283,810 ton in 2008 to 604,970 ton in 2014, an average annual growth of 16.3 percent (International Finance Corporation 2011). Because of the increasing demands of milk, dairy industry becomes one of promising, potential industry to be developed.

One of the biggest existing dairy processors in Indonesia is PT Ultra Jaya Milk Industry and Trading Company. This multinational company was initially established by Ahmad Prawirawidjaja in 1958 as a household industry, which then developed to become a limited company in 1971 (Muzani, 2009). One of the products produced by this company is Ultra Milk. Ultra Milk is the company’s most prominent product. It can be seen from its contribution to the percentage of the company’s net sales in 2004, namely 82 percents, while other products as milk powders, butter, and sweetened condensed milk are 18 percents (Ultrajaya cited in Rahman, 2008, p.6).

Ultra Milk is fresh milk produced from the dairy farming which passes through sterilization process, namely UHT (Ultra High Temperature), and is full of essential vitamins needed for human growth and development. Substances contained in Ultra Milk are in balanced composition and quantity, good for brain development. Besides, Ultra Milk is low-calorie so that it does not cause obesity. Ultra Milk is also safe because of not containing any artificial sweeteners, preservatives, dyes or soda (Rahman, 2008).

Because of the benefits and strengths mentioned above, the writer is interested in discussing more about Ultra Milk. When the writer read Jawa Pos 1 June 2012 edition on 30 June 2012, the writer unintentionally found an Ultra Milk’s advertisement on page 14. The advertisement is interesting since it is printed half of the page, making it look alluring and conspicuous. The advertisement shows a family jumping above the green grassland in smiling faces and attractive motions. To analyze the advertisement more deeply, thus the writer only focuses on this research question:

How does Ultra Milk represent and commodify the family and nature in the advertisement printed on Jawa Pos 1 June 2012 edition?

From the research question above, the writer intends to find out how Ultra Milk represents and commodifies the family and nature on the advertisement printed on Jawa Pos 1 June 2012 edition since both become the dominant part of the whole advertisement. Thus, the writer uses Barthes’ semiotics, supported with Baudrillard’s commodity-sign, in order to obtain comprehensive analysis and to answer the research question above.

There are several symbols and words printed on Ultra Milk’s advertisement on Jawa Pos 1 June 2012 edition. Here, the writer uses Barthes’ semiotics of linguistic message, non-coded iconic message and coded iconic message to analyze the symbols and words in order to find out how Ultra Milk represents the family and nature in its advertisement.

In linguistic message, as Barthes explained, the writer is concerned with the words that deal with family and nature printed on the advertisement only, which constitute certain messages on the advertisement. First are the words “NATURE IN GOOD HANDS”. The words are in bold, blue-colored and capital form, located under the logo of the company ‘Ultrajaya’ and on the left side of the company’s age ’40 Years’. Second are the words “Susu Cair Segar Setiap Hari. . . untuk Keluarga Indonesia yang Segar dan Ceria”. These Indonesian words imply a giving or presentation. “Susu Cair Segar Setiap Hari” means “fresh liquid milk everyday”. ‘Untuk’ means “for” which shows direction or purpose. “Keluarga Indonesia” stands for “Indonesian family”, while “yang Segar dan Ceria” means “fresh and cheerful” to indicate the Indonesian family. In other words, this expression means “fresh liquid milk everyday for fresh and cheerful Indonesian family”.

Third are the words “NUTRISI DARI ALAM”. The words are in bold, white-colored and capital form, positioned under two packs of Ultra Milk products. These are Indonesian words that stand for “Nutrition from Nature”. Fourth are the words “nikmati kebaikan alam untuk kehidupan yang lebih baik”. This expression implies an invitation or enticement in Indonesian language. “nikmati” is a verb that means “enjoy”. “kebaikan alam” denotes “the nature’s kindness”, while “untuk kehidupan yang lebih baik” means “for a better life”. Thus, these words mean “enjoy the nature’s kindness for a better life”.

In non coded iconic message, the writer deals with colors, pictures, and the font or form of the words used in the advertisement. Green, white and azure are the dominant colors of the advertisement. In addition, words that imply nature, as in the first and fourth example above, are in bold and capital form. Besides, there are four pictures that dominate the advertisement: green grassland, azure sky, white nature, and a family.

First, there are 6 black-and-white-striped cows eating and standing on the green prairie. Second, the azure sky dominates half of the advertisement, constituting the background of the jumping family. Third, most of the nature, such as flowers, birds, clouds, and tree, are made of milk and white-colored. Last is the family jumping above the green prairie. They all laugh, open their mouths, show their teeth, and jump jovially in attractive motions. The family consists of three generations, namely grandfather-grandmother, father-mother, and son-daughter.

Meanwhile, in coded iconic message, the writer firstly analyzes the words appeared as the linguistic message. First, the representation of the words “NATURE IN GOOD HANDS” implies that nature is appropriate to be managed by Ultrajaya Company since the words are put right under the company’s logo. Good Hands here indicate the company’s hand, or under the company’s management which frequently prides on itself of its UHT (Ultra High Temperature) technology for sterilization process.

Second are the words “Susu Cair Segar Setiap Hari. . . untuk Keluarga Indonesia yang Segar dan Ceria”. These words indicate an act of presenting fresh liquid milk for fresh Indonesian family by the Company, Ultrajaya. Hence, this expression represents the company’s generosity or kindness which is willing to present fresh liquid milk everyday for Indonesian family. Third, the words “NUTRISI DARI ALAM” represent the naturalness or genuineness of the product, which contains nutrition originated naturally from the nature, because of not containing any artificial sweeteners, preservatives, dyes or soda. Fourth are the words “nikmati kebaikan alam untuk kehidupan yang lebih baik”. This expression shows that by consuming Ultra Milk, the consumers have taken a part of enjoying the nature’s kindness, kindly presented by the company, for their better life.

After analyzing the words appeared in the advertisement, the writer scrutinizes four pictures that dominate the whole advertisement as the coded iconic message. First, the green prairie and azure sky, which constitute the background of the advertisement, represent the naturalness and openness. The six black-and-white-striped cows eating and standing in the green grassland also strengthen the impression of naturalness and openness since they are not placed in the cowshed. Second, most of the nature, such as flowers, birds, clouds, and tree, which are made of milk and white-colored, reflect the purity. Last, three generations of a family jumping above the green prairie represents the family theme. In addition, the expressivity is also represented in this family image because they all laugh, open their mouths, show their teeth, and jump jovially in attractive motions.

Meanwhile, before moving further to explain about the concept of commodity-sign from Baudrillard, the writer deems it necessary to firstly explain about Marx’s concepts of use-value and exchange-value. Suseno has given the most understandable and simplest explanation of use-value and exchange-value. Suseno (2003, p. 181) argues that use-value is the value of goods measured from its usefulness to fulfill certain needs, while exchange-value is the worth (generally in money) of goods if they are traded in market

However, Baudrillard supposes that Marx’s concepts of use-value and exchange-value are no longer incapable of answering the problems of the contemporary society. There has been a transformation in the Western social structure nowadays, according to Baudrillard (Mujianto, Elmubarok and Sunahrowi, 2010), namely a consumer society, a society that consumes all things, both real objects and sign objects. Hence, Baudrillard proposes the concept of sign-value, based on the assumption that in contemporary societies commodities are no longer purchased for their use-value and exchange-value, but more for their sign-value (Allan, 2011). Sign-value has become an inseparable part of any product in consumer cultures. Hence, Baudrillard introduces the concept of commodity-sign to indicate a close relationship between the tangible (commodity/goods) and the intangible (sign/imagery) (Girardelli, 2004).

In accordance with Ultra Milk product, as shown in the advertisement, the writer supposes it important to scrutinize the relationship between milk and the package that packs it up. Girardelli states that the package is never neutral or meaningless; it may constitute a powerful ideological vehicle (2004, pp.6). Relevant with Girardelli’s argument, Ultra Milk package, as shown in the advertisement, not only functions to protect the milk from the dust or to pack it up, but it is also used as a symbolic vehicle in the process of attributing symbolic values to the milk contained in the package. Therefore, by using Baudrillard’s commodity sign, Ultra Milk and its package cannot be separated and should be seen as a unique and inseparable entity that is consumed in both a concrete and symbolic manner (Girardelli, pp.6)

The use of symbols and words, which are in particular related with family and nature, is intended to signify the consumers about the nature and family values in Ultra Milk products, namely naturalness, openness, genuineness, purity, family and expressivity. Besides, does Ultra Milk package not only function to protect or pack the milk, but it is also used to attribute symbolic values to the milk contained in the package. In conclusion, it serves the ultimate goal to commodify the representation of nature and family values, as clearly shown in the advertisement, in order to seduce the consumers and to increase the sales of Ultra Milk products.
 

Reference List

Allan, K. 2011. Contemporary Social and Sociological Theory: Visualizing Social Worlds. 2nd ed. CA: Pine Forge Press.

Girardelli, D., 2004. Commodified Identities: The Myth of Italian Food in the United States. Journal of Communication Inquiry, vol. 28, pp.307-24.

International Finance Corporation, 2011. Dairy Industry Development in Indonesia. Jakarta: Morelink Asia Pacific.

Mujianto, Y., Elmubarok, Z. and Sunahrowi, 2010. Pengantar Ilmu Budaya. Yogyakarta: Pelangi Publishing.

Muzani, I. A., 2009. PT Susu Ultra Milk. Arifmuzani, [blog] 30 June. Available at: <http://arifmuzani.blogspot.com/2009/11/pt-susu-ultra-milk.html&gt; [Accessed 30 June 2012].

Rachman, A., 2008. Analisis Kepuasan Konsumen Produk Susu. Ultramillk. Undergraduate. IPB.

Rostiyani, Y, 2012. Indonesia’s Milk Consumption the Lowest in Asia. Republika, [online] 22 May. Available at: <http://www.republika.co.id/berita/en/jakarta-region-others/12/05/23/m4f9pm-indonesias-milk-consumption-the-lowest-in-asia&gt; [Accessed 30 June 2012].

Suseno, F. M., 2003. Pemikiran Karl Marx: Dari Sosialisme Utopis ke Perselisihan Revisionisme. Jakarta: Gramedia Pustaka Utama.

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