Tamagaci and the Oregon Trail

This ad is for Windows 8 and the new Internet Explorer. Microsoft is reminding the audience that it is also from the 1990’s, when we were kids too. The ad is largely playing for a second chance with the younger generation. We have forgotten Internet Explorer and instead turned to ‘modern’ browsers like Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox (and even Opera and Safari). The ad is for my generation, people who were kids in the 90’s. The ad appeals to our fond memories of Tamagaci, battle tokens, Hungry Hungry Hippos and pump up shoes. The ad brings to our attention how much our lives have changed with the social media the internet makes available. The ad focuses so much on what we used to do and how we have changed in order to get us to think that perhaps Internet Explorer has changed too (it is an implied change-for-the-better).

Burke came up with a pentad to dissect discourse. The five parts of his pentad are as follows:

  1. act, what happened? what is going on?
  2. scene, where is the act happening? what is the background situation?
  3. agent, who is involved in the action? what is their role?
  4. agency, how do the agents act? what are they using to perform the act?
  5. purpose, why do the agents act? what is their purpose?

If we look at each one of these, we can analyze this ad for its deeper pieces.

Firstly, act: what is going on? In this ad, we are witnessing actors playing with things we used to play with as kids, as well as the things themselves being focused on without any clear actors visible. The different scenes are narrated and the narrator is talking about what we see in a positive light. The ad is remembering the 90’s as we might remember it. This helps to get the audience on the side of the ad, inasmuch as “Hey, Internet Explorer knows what’s up!”

Secondly, scene: where is the act happening? This ad has no clear scene, except that each act is by itself the whole scene. It makes use of solid color backgrounds and close-up shots to emphasize the various things we are looking at as opposed to the actual background of the act. In a figurative sense, the scene is in our minds’ eyes as we think back to the Tamagaci pets we killed because we didn’t feel them enough (or overfed) and how much fun we had playing with yo-yos and Oregon Trail.

Thirdly, agent: who is involved in the action? The actors in this ad are deliberately kept out of frame or never looking directly at the camera. This is so that we in the audience have an easier time remembering what our own experiences were and we aren’t just watching some other kids have fun in the 90’s. It isn’t about what the actors are doing, it’s about what we remember doing (and then giving Internet Explorer kudos for remembering as well).

Penultimately, agency: how are the agents acting? The agents in this ad are either using the items from our childhood or the items themselves. By either being playing with the items or by the items simply sitting in the view, we then remember what it was like to play with or use the items. This is a very effective technique because my own memories will work many times better for me to remember things than some sort of scene (with a full background, etc) that this ad could have done.

Finally, purpose: what is the purpose of the agents? The purpose is, of course, to get us to remember how good the 90’s were, and to get us to realize that Internet Explorer is as old as we are. Over the past 20 years, we’ve changed a lot. Internet Explorer wants us to believe that it has, too.

Burke says that once an analysis has been done of a discourse, we can summarize it down to a ratio made from the pentad. For this ad, I would choose the ratio act:scene. I chose act because it is the doing of the things in the advertisement that remind us of how cool the 90’s are, and I chose scene because it’s the act of seeing all the different situations that puts us back into a nostalgic mindset. This nostalgic mindset that Internet Explorer also shares makes us want to give IE another shot.

For me, this ad was not very effective (as far as the ad’s goal is concerned). I do not base my browser choice (or do not believe I base my choice) off of coolness factor, which this commercial does a lot of. Remembering the 90’s is cool. Taking pictures of your lunch is not. After having used all the major browsers on the market, I keep the ones that work fast and remove the ones that are slow. That’s what it boils down to for me. My mind is not going to be changed just because Internet Explorer came out in 1995.

Nicholas Westerhausen

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