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Visual Rhetoric on Cordaid Image

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Cordaid, The Catholic Organization for Relief and Development Aid, is an international development organization based in the Netherlands. The organization fights poverty, exclusion in fragile states, areas of conflict, and extreme inequality. In order to stand up for the world’s poorest and most marginalized communities, they raise funds in the Netherlands as well as other international areas. The target audiences for this campaign are citizens from the Netherlands. This advertisement is targeted mainly at women, which can be assumed by the use of a female model as well as the included prop, the handbag. The advert would have been aimed at women from middle to high class who regularly spend large amounts of money on fashion items, such as handbags. The advertisement clearly targets women who believe that one can never have too many bags and there is always a need for a new bag to coordinate with different outfits. This advert was used as an outdoor advertising which meant a wide range of people were exposed to it allowing not only the main target audience to comprehend its message but anyone else who might stumble on the image itself.

The photo was taken in a place that looks like the deserts of Africa. The ground is clear with little to no vegetation or life anywhere to be found. However, there is a slender woman lying across the floor using her body to display the handbag. She has one hand across her forehead holding up her posture and the other hand alongside her body, holding up a clean, delicate white bag. Her scrunched eyebrows and squinted eyes show that she is in distress. By the stern look on her face and very bold facial structure we can tell that this woman has been through a lot trying to find food in order to survive. The bag, on the other hand, is a contrast to the surrounding area. The whiteness of the bag sticks out of the picture like a sore thumb. It represents purity, cleanliness, and a higher social class. On the contrary, the surface of the picture is a dirt plain which can be associated with the lower class or people in poverty. The way that the model is holding the bag above her body states that the bag is more important than the woman herself. The bag has a higher rank of importance and is the first object that is seen in the image. Everything else seems to blend in with the background and is insignificant. Along with the color of the bag, the text also appears in white with prominence given to the handbag that has a bolder font compared to the rest of the words.

The text and name of the campaign, People in Need, relies on the audience’s understanding of the image for comprehension of who is in need. The photograph does not match the text as people expect it would because the need is not shown. Rather it is implied by the comparison made by the cost of food to the cost of the handbag. The juxtaposition from the use of a simple word or phrase is powerful. The word handbag represents something of hedonistic value, as it is something that gives the consumer immediate gratification from purchasing and using it. Rather, food is a basic human requirement needed for survival while the handbag is not. Placing these things together allows the audience to quickly recognize which is more important. Consequently, leading them to evaluate the amounts of money spent on each item. This is the advertisement’s most important feature because it encourages the audience to put things into perspective. The producers intentionally chose a figure that is small enough in comparison to make a significant impact on the people’s thoughts. The text, for a week, is added for clarification and accuracy.

It brings into perspective that the price of one handbag can feed eight people for at least one week. However, on the bottom right, the advertisers are only asking for roughly one third of the required amount to feed one person. This shows how even the smallest amount can make a great impact in one person’s life. The documents emotional appeal gets the audience to beg the question about what is more important: the bag or a human being? The fact that the image was shot in a poor part of Kenya adds to the advertisements credibility. The image being set and shot in an area where the money and development efforts are needed creates a better sense of realism. Thus, making the advertisement more credible and in turn encouraging the audience to care. However, because poverty is not literally presented in the image, it may hinder the credibility of the advert for some members of the target audience due to the lack of emotional appeal. The main purpose of the advertisement is to gain donations for Cordaid to go towards their work with those facing poverty.

The image does this by exaggerating the proportionality of money and a materialistic fashion item to arouse feelings of guilt which will motivate the audience to donate. The color grading of the image is not bright and happy rather it gives a slight sad and discontent feeling. This is effective in gaining donations as images that evoke negative emotions appear to produce more and greater potential donations than those that evoke positive emotions. The overall purpose of the image is to get people to understand the basic of necessities and priorities. The large amount of money that is spent on an unnecessary item compared to the small amount of money it takes to feed this woman for a week is clearly stated. Without any emotion attached to either object it is logical to spend the money on food as it is a basic physiological need. If the target audience can afford to pay a large amount for unnecessary fashion items, such as a handbag, then surely they could donate €1.50 for someone who needs it.

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