1 Introduction – Meaning-Making and Political Campaign Advertising


Over the last two decades, cognitive-linguistic research on figurativity has increasingly taken into account its modality independence and, from an initial exclusive consideration and investigation of verbal expressions, turned towards its wide range of materializations in various modalities (e.g., gestural or pictorial). By contrast, the study of figurativity in audiovisual media is hitherto rather rare and has not gone beyond individual studies of television advertising and films. The field of audiovisual political advertising, such as campaign commercials, has so far not been taken into consideration at all by cognitive-linguistic research on figurativity, which “has traditionally been overshadowed by the study of metaphor” (Catalano and Waugh 2013, 32). This oversight is remarkable as both metaphor and metonymy are conceived of as fundamental tools of communication and of rhetoric in politics (see, e.g., Androshchuk 2014, Charteris-Black 2004, 2005, Lakoff 1996, 2008, Lakoff and Johnson 1980).

This book intends to bridge this gap. By analyzing metaphorical and metonymical meaning-making processes in German and Polish campaign commercials, it pursues the objective of contributing to metaphor and metonymy theory by taking a dynamic perspective on figurative meaning-making and refraining from former mainly static and cognitivist approaches. In this pursuit, two dynamically-oriented theoretical models from film studies and cognitive linguistics are combined to form the theoretical basis for a new approach to audiovisual figurativity. This dynamic approach will focus on three aspects of dynamics: time, attention, and experience. In brief, the dynamic approach as presented in this book brings together the following core statements:

Multimodal figurativity and audiovisual compositions are temporally dynamic.

Multimodal figurativity and audiovisual compositions are attentionally dynamic.

Multimodal figurativity and audiovisual compositions are experientially dynamic.

Drawing on a transdisciplinary cognitive-linguistic and film-analytical method of analysis (Müller and Kappelhoff 2018, Müller and Schmitt 2015, Schmitt, Greifenstein, and Kappelhoff 2014, Kappelhoff and Greifenstein 2016), this book elaborates on these three aspects in German and Polish campaign commercials and describes them in regard to the process of audiovisual figurative meaning-making. The point that thereby shall be made is:

The interplay of the two main modalities of language and audiovisual staging, which is analytically accessible through the respective configuration of their three dynamics each, gives rise to different variant forms of audiovisual figurative meaning-making.

The dynamic approach advocated in this book seeks to contribute to a better understanding of metaphor and metonymy as fundamental principles of meaning-making and communicating ideas and conceptualizations. Using the example of campaigning candidates, it focuses on figurative meaning-making as a process instead of a fixed product. Moreover, it does not assume a presumed default persuasive power of figurativity but addresses it as situated process of embodied experience and meaning-making at all medial and modal levels (and, this being the case, as a potential precondition of persuasion; see Section 9.3). This dynamic and embodied approach has fundamental consequences for a theory of figurative thinking and is, as shall be suggested, an unfilled gap in contemporary reflections on audiovisual metaphor and metonymy.

1.1Audiovisual Figurativity as Product and as Process

A commonly shared assumption among researchers dealing with metaphor and metonymy is that both are usually complementary combinations of spoken or written language, moving images, sound, or music in audiovisual media, such as TV ads or films. The following example of a commercial for body lotion discussed by Charles Forceville (2007b, 21) may serve as a representative illustration:

In a fast montage of close ups we see white thread winding itself on a wooden spindle. After a few seconds a female voice-over comments, “Silk reflects each ray of light. Hardly surprising, then, that it is so beautiful on your skin.” The next shot shows the “spindle” standing upright, while the silk quickly unwinds to reveal a bottle of Dove Silkening Body Moisturizing, suggesting the metaphor DOVE BODY LOTION IS SILK. […] The target is rendered both pictorially and verbally, the latter in spoken as well as written form (on the Dove bottle). The source, silk, is presented visually […] and orally […].

The metaphor in this example is clearly divided into a source and a target domain with the two of them unambiguously assigned to particular modalities. Metaphorical meaning is prompted from the unilateral mapping of features from the source domain to the target domain. Furthermore, both domains are exclusively constituted (verbally, audiovisually, or pictorially) by represented content from the commercial that is conceived of as pre-existing in terms of well-defined entities, ideas, or concepts, i.e., the silk thread on a spindle and the body lotion. Such a clear-cut and fixed form of metaphor in audiovisual media seems to be due to a top-down perspective conditioned by conceptual metaphor theory (CMT). Its fundamental tenet is that the “ordinary conceptual system, in terms of which we both think and act, is fundamentally metaphorical in nature” (Lakoff and Johnson 1980, 3). In order to verify the existence of such a mental figurative deep structure and to make reliable statements about its nature, proponents of CMT are looking for verbal, pictorial, audiovisual, etc. surface appearances of this deep structure. Gunnar Eggertsson’s and Charles Forceville’s (2009, 429) introduction to their study of a structural metaphor in the horror film genre gets to the heart of such an approach:

However, assessing the validity of the Conceptual Metaphor Theory (CMT) paradigm launched by Lakoff and Johnson requires not only that non-verbal and multimodal expressions of conceptual metaphors are studied as such, but also that the extent of their systematic occurrence is investigated. After all, a central tenet of CMT is that human beings conceive certain phenomena systematically in terms of certain other phenomena, allowing for numerous different surface manifestations of a single conceptual metaphor.

From such a perspective, the level of the human conceptual system has primacy over the level of actual and situated use. Accordingly, what is relevant is how conceptual metaphors and metonymies are manifested or expressed in a particular film, TV ad, or campaign commercial. In order to outline this tenet and its analytical focus, it is subsequently illustrated by one of the campaign commercials to be analyzed in this book.

In the Christian Democratic Union’s (CDU) TV campaign ad for the German parliamentary elections in 2009 the top candidate Angela Merkel is shown standing at and gazing out the window of her chancellery (Figure 1 left). In a voice-over she comments on her political career, significant past events for Germany, such as the German reunification or the FIFA World Cup in 2006, and achievements of her first term as Chancellor. Showing Merkel turning away from the window and striding through her office (Figure 1 right), the topic of her statements changes to future issues and challenges.

Figure 1: Angela Merkel looking back into the past and striding towards the future

From a CMT point of view, these two sequences would probably be considered as audiovisual instantiations of the conceptual metaphor TIME AS SPACE, more precisely PAST AS BEHIND and FUTURE AS IN FRONT OF OBSERVING EGO. PAST AS BEHIND OF OBSERVING EGO would possibly be analyzed as being cued by Merkel’s statements about past events (verbally represented target) and her posterior view and look ‘back’, evoked by the camera angle (visually represented source). The conceptual metaphor FUTURE AS IN FRONT OF OBSERVING EGO would be regarded as being cued by Merkel’s statements about future tasks (verbally represented target) and her turning around and striding forward (visually represented source).

In addition to these particular audiovisual manifestations of the conceptual metaphor TIME AS SPACE, two instantiations of the conceptual metonymy PLACE FOR PERSON would probably be detected: the interior perspective of the bureau locates Merkel in her official residence, which stands for her political life, her political office as German Chancellor, and her political work. In contrast, the space outside, i.e., beyond this political sphere, stands for the life beyond politics, namely the social life of the people. Both the metaphorical and metonymical instantiations would be considered to intertwine with the result that Merkel is understood as being both outside – knowing the shared history and people’s concerns and thus having a private, civil side – and inside – knowing the political challenges of the future and thus having a formal or political side.

It strikes that such an approach and its focus of analysis have a rather identifying or deciphering character instead of a reconstructing one, so to speak. Put another way, it addresses finished products instead of unfolding processes. Due to its clear top-down orientation it is from the first geared towards presumed collective and ubiquitous patterns of meaning and might therefore disregard novel, creative, and unusual forms of figurative meaning. Moreover, the clear-cut, static form of the audiovisual manifestations unpicks the dynamic and multimodal unfolding of audiovisual media. As a consequence, these kinds of extracted metaphors or metonymies suggest meaningful items or instances of meaning-making that run contrary to the moving nature of audiovisual images.

These observations are the starting point for the argument unfolded in this book. It argues that drawing conclusions with regard to the meaning of a film or a commercial on such a narrow basis ignores the fundamental dynamic aspect of audiovisual figurative meaning-making. By contrast, a process-oriented, dynamic approach is suggested to allow for findings closer to the data and to the specific media mode of experience of audiovisual images that modulates the spectator’s process of viewing. Including and applying dynamics in terms of the three aspects mentioned above (time, attention, and experience) to the analysis of figurative meaning-making in the CDU campaign commercial provides a somewhat different picture than the one outlined above.1

A process-oriented, dynamic approach first entails taking account of the temporal dynamics of audiovisual compositions. Although this statement may appear self-evident, neither cognitive-linguistic research on audiovisual figurativity nor film and media studies have sufficiently taken it into account. No matter in which disciplinary context, the analysis of audiovisual images frequently is based on extracting single shots or scenes from their temporal flow and treating as well as analyzing them as if they were static images. Nevertheless, the medium of film differs significantly from static images due to its dynamic unfolding in time, and it is this difference that has a fundamental impact on the process of meaning-making.

The two stills from the CDU campaign commercial in Figure 1, for instance, are made snapshots showing Angela Merkel standing in front of the window and walking through her office. Watching the TV campaign ad, a spectator does not perceive any one of them in a separate and static manner. Instead, they are embedded into a composition or, in other words, they are part of a temporally unfolding movement. This dimension of movement goes beyond the mere representation of walking, it implies “more complex forms of transformation (e.g., lighting, rhythmic arrangements of shot lengths, acoustics), that are called ‘movement’ in film theory with regard to their role in modulating perceptual dynamics” (Bakels 2014, 2052). Only within and through this compositional context and temporal course are the images connected and unfold their meaning: Merkel’s walk through the office takes up her position of standing at the window in a contrastive manner. Accordingly, audiovisual images – like audiovisual figurativity – are not meaningful on their own terms, but only within their media context, i.e., their temporal composition and unfolding.

The change of perspective from single, constructed static images to a temporal unfolding of audiovisual movement goes hand in hand with the attentional dynamics of audiovisual compositions. The interrelation of images or figurations reveals a particular orchestration of this temporal movement that shapes the viewer’s flow of attention. The audiovisual staging plays an important role here as it unfolds patterns in the viewer’s perception: “Different articulatory modalities (e.g., camera movement, montage, or sound) create figurations of movement that establish different gestalt-like forms.” (Scherer, Greifenstein, and Kappelhoff 2014, 2085) The respective composition of these movement gestalts (or cinematic expressive movements, Kappelhoff 2004) and their arrangement in the course of time make particular aspects more salient in the viewer’s perception. For instance, in the first half of the CDU campaign commercial the interplay of the underlying court-style music and temperate camera movement evokes and foregrounds a calm and solemn atmosphere. In the second half, a clear arrangement of the frame in center and periphery, making Merkel the unambiguous focal point of each shot, highlights balance and stability. In this way, the articulatory modalities of audiovisual staging build a salience structure throughout the campaign commercial in the viewer’s perception.

Audiovisual staging does not only orchestrate the spectator’s flow of attention, but also his or her affective experience. By the continuous interplay of articulatory modalities that compose to movement patterns throughout an entire film or campaign commercial, a path of various qualities, moods, and atmospheres emerges that the spectator goes through in the process of viewing (Kappelhoff 2004, Kappelhoff and Bakels 2011, Kappelhoff and Müller 2011, Müller and Kappelhoff 2018, Scherer, Greifenstein, and Kappelhoff 2014). Such a philosophical argument understands ‘to be moved’ by audiovisual images literally: as a dynamic modulation of a viewer’s affective experiences (Scherer and Greifenstein 2014, 2083) or, in other words, as the experiential dynamics of audiovisual compositions.

In this understanding, the viewer is bodily affected by, for instance, the calm and moderate movement qualities that are foregrounded in the first half of the CDU TV campaign ad. Audiovisual compositions are considered to consist of movement patterns that shape time in an aesthetic manner. The spectator realizes their qualities as felt experiences and, on such an embodied basis, creates meaning.2 In the case of the CDU campaign commercial, the audiovisual staging and composition unfolds an experience of dignified power and dominance that viewers ascribe to Angela Merkel and through it see her as a queen-like sovereign in the center of power.

The illustration of the product- and the process-oriented perspective on figurative meaning-making by the example of the CDU campaign commercial concludes with a theoretical remark. The separate elaboration of the three aspects of dynamics for multimodal figurativity as well as for audiovisual compositions demonstrates that meaning in both contexts is neither a static property of single components or entities nor a product that results by default from their addition. The process-oriented approach to audiovisual figurative meaning-making as put forward in this book brings together and thinks through both contexts in the aspect of dynamics. This perspective indicates the fundamental role of a perceiving and sensing viewer, who participates affectively and cognitively in the process of meaning-making. In this respect, the spectator has so far rather been disregarded by cognitive-linguistic and cognitive media studies research within the two contexts. Without him or her, however, the three aspects of dynamics are unthinkable. Figurative meaning as well as audiovisual compositions unfold temporally, attentionally, and experientially only and exclusively for ‘some-body’ who is experiencing and understanding something in terms of something else (cf. Gibbs 2018, Jensen 2017, Kappelhoff 2004, Müller 2008a, Müller and Kappelhoff 2018, Müller and Tag 2010). This observation is of great relevance for this book’s argument while also representing far-reaching consequences for a theory of metaphor and metonymy.

1.2Audiovisual Figurativity as Construction of Meaning

One consequence of the dynamics outlined in the previous section and their key prerequisite of an experiencing and understanding participant is that they direct attention to the process of figurative meaning-making in audiovisual contexts itself. So far, little attention has been paid to the question of how a spectator in watching a film, advertising spot, or campaign commercial is actually enabled to make meaning and how this process occurs. Instead the main focus has rather been on how figurative meaning in audiovisual media is objectified in word-image form by a producer (without clarifying, who ‘the producer’ of audiovisual media actually is) with the aim of intentionally evoking a particular idea in the viewer (e.g., Carroll 1996, [1994] 2001, Eggertsson and Forceville 2009, Fahlenbrach 2007, 2010, 2011, Urios-Aparisi 2009, 2014). The process he or she experiences is thereby broken down into recognition and deciphering of such word-image forms that are suggested to be interspersed throughout the film or spot by the producer. In order to argue that the viewer is indeed able to identify and comprehend them, they are considered manifestations of interpersonally shared, entrenched mappings between conceptual domains, allowing viewers to easily process them. It seems to be very much taken for granted that the spectator deciphers higher-level figurative meaning by default from its audiovisual instantiation and due to a producer intending so; all the more, considering the lack of reliable empirical evidence for such a claim. As Chapters 3 and 4 develop, this holds for both cognitive-linguistic as well as for film-theoretical accounts of figurativity.

Forceville devotes some attention to this concern indirectly when dealing with the question of whether or not “comprehension of a non-verbal or multimodal metaphor [implies] that recipients ‘mentally’ verbalize the metaphor” (Forceville 2009a, 31). Since, in his viewpoint, non-verbal modalities differ from words as they do not have the ‘A IS B’ form, one has to focus on the “stylistic means” by which similarity is “triggered” (emphasis mine). Noël Carroll (2001, 362–367) touches upon the process of audiovisual figurative meaning-making when discussing “visual metaphors” as intentionally created symbols in an artistic medium with regard to their recognition and interpretation by a spectator. In both cases, figurativity merely plays a role in advocating a concept of intentional meaning-making that is based on the emphasized perspective of a creator. For the most part, this concept is based on an objectivist understanding of language use and meaning-making in audiovisual media. It does so by objectifying figurative meaning in terms of image plus word(s) and thereby making a process a product, by linking this product and its recognition to the intention of a producer, and thereby making the spectator a passive recipient.

Although Forceville and Carroll have different opinions in regards to the question of whether or not source and target domain are reversible in the case of audiovisual metaphor, both nevertheless share the idea of a producer who deliberately implements figurative meaning audiovisually in this or that way and wants it to be understood accordingly. As Forceville states, “[m]akers’ intentions are an important factor in discussions about metaphor” (Forceville 2007b, 16).

[A]n intention to produce a metaphor usually results in the provision of salient cues to that effect by the metaphor’s producer. In the first place, some sort of similarity between A and B must be signalled. […] The similarity may be of many different kinds: A and B may look similar, sound similar, occur in a similar space or […] be simultaneously signalled […]. A second type of cue that an A-as-B interpretation may be called for is that there is something odd or anomalous in the identification of A and B, because in the given situation A and B are experienced as entities belonging to different categories and do not normally constitute a single entity. (Forceville 2007b, 19)

According to such a way of thinking, the spectator’s derivation of figurative meaning is the result of a prior intentional ‘just so’ presentation of a thing, a person, or an issue by the producer. The prerequisite for this is an objectification of figurative meaning, specifically, a clear formal manifestation of a conceptual source and target domain. Each of these has to be exclusively or predominantly represented in different modalities (Forceville 1996, 2007b, 2009a). Carroll follows a similar line of thought, but adds furthermore the salience of features to be mapped as a criterion for correct interpretation:

Up to this point, our conception of a visual metaphor has been that a visual metaphor is a visual image in which physically noncompossible elements belong to a homospatially unified figure which, in turn, encourages viewers to explore mappings between the relevant constituent elements and/or the categories or concepts to which they allude. […] This signals that the figure as a whole is recognizable perceptually as well as that the elements that serve in the viewer’s mappings be perceptually recognizable. […] Of course, in order to negotiate a visual metaphor, the viewer must not only be able to recognize the relevant elements. Her attention also needs to be drawn to them. So the relevant elements must stand out; they must be visually salient or prominent. (Carroll 2001, 362)

For both Forceville and Carroll it is of utmost concern that, first of all, the producer of audiovisual figurative meaning himself recognizes the contradiction of two similar yet actually incompatible things. On that basis, it is reasonable for him to suppose that the viewer does as well (Carroll 2001, 363). By implication this means that, for instance, a metaphor is only then a metaphor when viewers have reason to believe that the producer wanted them to see two actually incompatible things as identical (and not due to fiction or genre) (Carroll 2001, 363). Thereby, viewers play a subordinate and, above all, passive role in the process of audiovisual figurative meaning-making: they become deciphering recipients and figurative meaning a pre-existing meaningful entity that a producer can dispose of intentionally.

Such an understanding is reminiscent of CMT and its verification on the basis of linguistic metaphors and a “lexical-semantic approach” (Müller 2008a, 76) that primarily proceeds from a paradigmatic and systemic point of view. Indeed, audiovisual and linguistic figurative meaning are explicitly related to each other in such a perspective: “[T]here are some visual images that function in the same way that verbal metaphors do and whose point is identified by a viewer in roughly the same way that the point of a verbal metaphor is identified by a reader or a listener” (Carroll 2001, 347). Saying this results in the adoption of the lexical-semantic and static focus of the paradigmatic level, i.e., the selection from the assumed superordinate system of conceptual metaphors and metonymies. This, in turn, leaves out the combinational interplay with other aspects and entities of the context of use, i.e., the syntagmatic level. As Müller has aptly and thoroughly explained, the tacit assumption of CMT that conceptual figurativity is “collective in nature” and “psychologically realistic” (Müller 2008a, 68) is rather implausible and, moreover, hard to empirically verify.

The idea of relating producer and recipient with regard to meaning-making is not wrong by itself. After all, film just as face-to-face interaction has no end in itself, but is addressed to someone being involved in it. What is, however, problematic is the notion of ‘a producer’, for it is never a single person but always a number of people involved in making a film. As the film only unfolds meaning by being perceived and experienced through a spectator, the immediate interactive situation takes place between these two, not between ‘a producer’ and the spectator. On the other hand, the notion of intention alludes to the psychological reality of figurative meaning for the producer and the addressee and thus also to consciousness. These psychological states are hard to argue and to prove empirically from the paradigmatic perspective of the system as they are matters of individual use (Müller 2008a, 2011). It seems that exactly this difficulty of inspection in the spectator’s individual perspective of use is the reason to de-emphasize his process of figurative meaning-making in terms of a static recognition and deciphering of the producer’s intentions.

The issue of the viewer (or the addressee) and his or her process of figurative meaning-making – the problem of comprehension – is a central one for traditional as well as cognitive metaphor and metonymy theories (see, e.g., Black 1993, Gibbs 2011, Müller 2008a, 2011, Steen 2006, 2011). However, it has not yet received profound attention by scholars dealing with audiovisual figurative meaning-making. This is a gap that this book intends to bridge. Instead of proceeding from a finished product of meaning that the viewer automatically perceives and deciphers one-to-one according to the producer’s intention, it is argued that retracing the process of figurative meaning-making has empirical relevance. Furthermore, it is suggested that such a close consideration of the situated media context also directly bears upon a theory of figurative meaning-making as it locates and analyses it where it actually emerges: in a situated manner with an involved viewer who experiences and understands something in terms of something else.

The dynamic approach proposed in this book makes for a change in perspective with regard to the analysis of audiovisual figurative meaning-making: from a product to a process and from the producer to the recipient. This empirical shift of focus entails a clear distinction of system and use (cf. Müller 2008a). So far, figurative meaning-making in audiovisual media has first and foremost been ascribed to entrenched, collectively shared patterns of thought (e.g., Eggertsson and Forceville 2009, Fahlenbrach 2007, 2010, 2011, Forceville 2009b, 2017, Urios-Aparisi 2009, 2014). Yet, such an exclusive orientation to the system level ignores the media specificity and the situatedness of the meaning-making process in the spectator’s perception and experience as properties of the level of use. The spectator, on the other hand, turns through a dynamic approach from a passive recipient into an active participant: the constructer of figurative meaning in establishing metaphoricity or metonymicity (cf. Kappelhoff and Müller 2011, Müller 2008a). As a result, figurative meaning in audiovisual media can no longer be conceived of as a product of deciphered, pre-existent meaningful entities. By contrast, the term figurative meaning-making alludes to an activity (a ‘doing’, see Gibbs 2018, Jensen 2017), a process of constructing meaning in the course and context of viewing a campaign commercial.

As a result, the audiovisual metaphors and metonymies presented in Section 1.1 from a dynamic perspective would not be considered pre-existent meaningful entities that a producer has intentionally packaged in audiovisual images, spoken or written language. Instead, they are conceived of as emerging from the temporal, attentional, and experiential dynamics that a spectator goes through while watching a campaign commercial. As Kappelhoff and Müller have put it in more active terms, in the process of viewing the spectator is “enabled to construct” (Kappelhoff and Müller 2011, 143) figurative meaning through these aspects of dynamics, i.e., over the course of time, through foregrounded segments and aspects, and through embodied experience. Again, the fact that Angela Merkel is experienced as standing for the people or that she is seen in terms of a queen or sovereign in the CDU campaign commercial is not contained holistically or objectively in an image or a word, a phrase, or a sentence. The spectator is considered to construct these meanings in the ‘encounter’ with the audiovisual ‘material’ through perception, experience, and cognition. The issue of the empirical reconstruction of this process of meaning-making will be presented and discussed in detail in Chapter 5. The complete analysis of the emergence of figurative meaning in the CDU campaign commercial will be provided in Chapter 6.

The last idea to be suggested in these regards for the moment is that the first and foremost concentration on a producer’s intentions and purposes of previous cognitive-linguistic, as well as cognitive media studies’ research with regard to audiovisual figurativity, is replaced by the viewer’s perspective. There are several reasons for doing this: as outlined before, the viewer has hitherto been widely disregarded and reduced to a passive receiver when it comes to audiovisual figurative meaning-making. Moreover, using the producer’s intention as a central criterion and argument for the meaning-making of an addressed spectator seems theoretically as well as empirically problematic. First of all, intention refers to a mental state that is closely linked to activities like planning and forethought (cf., e.g., Bratman 1987). As such, it raises the question of its degree of consciousness, i.e., how aware the producer was of his or her intentions or intended impact on the addressee. These questions have philosophical, neuropsychological as well as psychological relevance and, as Müller (2008a) has convincingly pointed out, there is still no single comprehensive theory of consciousness. In order to make a reliable point about the intention of the producer as the decisive factor for audiovisual figurative meaning-making on the part of the spectator, empirical evidence for this intention would be necessary. Additional research instruments, such as questionnaires, would be needed for intentions that are not empirically observable from the audiovisual material. However, such additional research has not been carried out in previous studies on audiovisual figurative meaning-making. Instead, the equivalence between the analyst’s interpretation and the (psychologically real) producer’s intention has been tacitly presupposed.

Instead of reapplying such a problematic presupposition, this study follows Müller’s decision “to rely on a facet of cognitive processes that is empirically accessible through microanalyses of language use” (2008a, 12; emphasis mine). This is as much as to say that by the results of the analyses in this book there will be no claims of their psychological reality. The type of argument that is developed instead is a philosophical one and, as such, it is theoretically motivated. On the basis of accessible and observable aspects a specific approach will be suggested that is above all – and thereby it is in line with Johnson (2007) – inspired by aesthetic perception and bodily experience as the driving forces for meaning-making. As this argument is fundamentally contrary to previous research on audiovisual figurativity, the main objective of this book is first of all to introduce and illustrate an alternative approach to audiovisual figurativity by means of campaign commercials. For this purpose, the dynamic approach to audiovisual figurative meaning-making and its practical application to campaign commercials will be developed step by step (see Chapter 5).

1.3Audiovisual Figurativity as Embodied Experience

Former one-sided concentration on the assumed collective conceptual system in the context of analyzing audiovisual metaphors and metonymies has been shown to oversimplify figurative meaning-making in audiovisual media. It makes figurativity a pre-existent product, the spectator a passive recipient, and the producer an intentional and most influential factor in meaning-making. Following this tenet, respective studies also try to account for the affective dimension and persuasive impact of metaphor and metonymy. In the same manner that conceptual figurative meaning is considered to manifest objectively in words and/or audiovisual images, affective content – as an inherent feature of such superordinate concepts – is implicitly assumed to be contained in these manifestations (see, e.g., Androshchuck 2014, Charteris-Black 2005, Fahlenbrach 2007, 2010, 2011, Grady 1997, Kövecses 2000, Ortiz 2015). Just as these manifestations are considered to be more easily comprehended due to their status as collectively shared patterns, their immanent affective substance is suggested to be, by default, recognized and internalized by recipients. The following quote of Forceville is a representative example of such a cognitivist-informed conception of emotional appeal through figurative meaning:

Drawing on conceptual schema’s, they [i.e., verbal metaphors] will retrieve from memory typical elements that belong in such schemas. In multimodal metaphors, many details need not be imagined or supplied, since they are already given. Such details are bound to evoke specific connotations, and hence will steer and constrain interpretation of metaphors in manners that are different from those cued in exclusively verbal terms. […]

Apart from their greater degree of comprehensibility, metaphors drawing on images, sounds, and music also, I submit, have a more intense, immediate emotional impact than verbal ones. (Forceville 2007b, 27; emphasis mine)

Apart from the fact that Forceville does not offer any more precise differentiation or a definition of “typical elements” and “connotations” at this point, what is remarkable is the lack of a systematic accountability of what he calls elsewhere “clear-cut connotations for a community of users” (Forceville 2009b, 383). At this point, there is no known satisfactorily and thoroughly elaborated theory of these suggested culturally or nationally shared associative patterns. This is one of the reasons that makes it problematic to draw on such a conception of emotional appealing through figurative meaning. The lack of differentiation between a collective system and its realization in use is another factor for the necessity of an alternative account of the emotionalizing potential of audiovisual figurativity.

The usage-based and notably dynamic approach as advocated in this book is not consistent with the static and system-based understanding of emotional appeal of former cognitive-linguistic as well as cognitive media studies’ work on audiovisual metaphor and metonymy. Their lack of concern for the necessity of distinguishing the collective and the individual level, i.e., system and use, of emotional experience (not to speak of the lack of differentiating between emotion, affect, and feeling; for a detailed discussion of these terms, see Kappelhoff 2018) is another research gap addressed in this work. Due to the one-sided orientation towards the system level (and its thereby tacitly postulated higher value), the emotionalizing of addressees through metaphor and metonymy becomes a mere response to a stimulus. Its basis is the already mentioned cognitively stored connotations and emotions that are said to be linked to a particular concept or issue.

Consider in some detail how cognitive-linguistic research has described and explained the issue of emotionalizing so far by taking the example of Forceville’s study (2009b) of metaphors in commercials and fiction films. In it, he focuses on how sound and music can cue a metaphor’s source domain as well as mappable features from source to target domain. In the case of an advertisement for a Senseo coffee maker Forceville suggests the metaphor COFFEE MAKER IS MOTORCYCLE, which he derives inter alia from the underlying sound of a motorcycle and the song “Born to be wild” from the film easy rider (Dennis Hopper, USA 1969) accompanying the presentation of the coffee maker. In the following quote, he explains how music and sound come to evoke particular qualities with the promoted product on the part of the spectator:

One mappable feature is clearly the high-tech design, but more importantly the music evokes connotations such as living life in the fast lane, freedom, unconventionality, youth, sixties’ counterculture – a whole range of qualities nostalgically associated with Easy Rider motorbiking that are potentially mapped to making your coffee with a Senseo machine. (Forceville 2009b, 389; emphasis mine)

Here, it becomes apparent that Forceville links the suggested co-accessed connotations to cultural knowledge that he tacitly assumes to exist and to be shared collectively.3 Although there is no explicit mention of particular emotions or emotional evaluation, the synonymous use of “connotations” and “qualities” indicates that Forceville attributes emotional content as an inherent feature to objects, entities, and figures on the level of representation, such as the film easy rider. This is prompted by the following statement: “In most metaphors in commercials, the product is the target and the source is something else, which means that it is positive features that are mapped from source to target” (Forceville 2009b, 389; emphasis mine).

In a similar manner, film-analytical studies following CMT derive and explain emotional appeal through audiovisual figurativity. Kathrin Fahlenbrach (2011), for example, proceeds in her study about metaphors in the sound design of films from cognitively stored image schemas that as sonic and visual manifestations affect the viewer’s perception. Drawing on Lakoff and Johnson’s (1980) as well as Kövecses’ (2000) work on the systematic metaphorical conceptualization of emotions, she argues that the sound design of films draws on entrenched image schemas and mappings when it comes to the perception and evaluation of objects, characters, and spaces. Using the example of the film the shining (Stanley Kubrick, GB/USA 1980), Fahlenbrach explains the emotional impact of the stair sequence when Wendy is attacked by Jack by means of the unconsciously activated conceptual metaphor FEAR IS AN OPPONENT IN A STRUGGLE:

Together with the music and the voice timbre of the characters, further key stimuli are triggered on the reflexive level of bodily response that is linked to the opponent metaphor: The high frequency of Wendy’s voice and the dissonant sounds of the music contrast with the slow movements of the two characters through the hall. (Fahlenbrach 2008, 94)

Overall, both cognitive linguistics as well as cognitive media studies treat a systemic approach to figurative meaning-making and its emotional appeal as unproblematic. In focusing solely on assumed, but not thoroughly elaborated and accounted conceptual patterns and networks that are suggested to be shared by entire groups of people, figurative meaning as well as its emotional impact are reduced to static and pre-existent entities and features that a producer can dispose of intentionally and that are recognized and understood one-to-one. Compared with this, a dynamic approach to audiovisual figurativity shall be proposed that implies two fundamental theoretical changes of perspective:

1. From an objectivistic view on figurative meaning-making in audiovisual media to a constructivist one that proceeds from bottom up. This opens up an alternative, usage-based way of thinking that goes against the so far dominant systemic one and puts to the fore the viewer’s participation and activity in meaning-making.
2. From a cognitivist view on figurative meaning-making in audiovisual media to an embodied one that proceeds from the felt experience of the viewer. This opens up an alternative way of thinking about the claimed affective or persuasive potential of figurativity that so far has been conceived of as a default effect on the cognitive level, but has never been convincingly discussed or demonstrated.

This is not to say that these two changes of perspective from top down to bottom up (i.e., from system to use) deny the existence of superordinate image schemas or conceptual metaphors and metonymies. Nor should the possibility of the existence and impact of shared cultural value systems or associative networks be ruled out. However, the previous exclusive commitment to the systemic level has entirely neglected the level of use, i.e., the situated media context, as a note-worthy aspect of audiovisual figurative meaning-making. This is the subject to which this book intends to contribute. By proceeding from the very situation in which audiovisual figurative meaning is emerging and playing out, i.e., when a spectator is watching a campaign commercial or a film and addressed by it temporally, attentionally, and experientially, it takes account of the respective individual medial context of use.

In this respect, the dynamic approach to audiovisual figurative meaning-making as proposed here is considered to complement the existing systemic approaches by opening up an alternative perspective to the object of research. By means of systematic analyses of a larger body of data, e.g., of all parties that released campaign commercials in particular elections, it becomes possible to draw conclusions on a higher level. In so doing, recurrent motifs and their respective audiovisual presentation could be identified and considered. With a larger body of data, be it national or international, one could look for genre-specific features in a limited period of time or in general.4 With regard to the identification and verification of systematic or superordinate meaning structures, such a bottom-up approach provides a more material-informed basis than a top-down take that, in a biased manner, intends to confirm ex ante assumed superordinate structures in the data. In order to arrive at a complete picture of the issue, the so far dominating static top-down approach that has considered audiovisual figurative meaning-making in an objectivistic and cognitivist light needs to be complemented and revised by a dynamic bottom-up approach. This is a conclusion drawn by Lynne Cameron in regard to metaphor in face-to-face interaction:

[…] [I]f we take a purely cognitive approach or a purely socio-cultural approach to language use and, by extension, to an aspect of language use such as metaphor, we do not get pictures that are differently but equally valid; rather, we get partial and inaccurate pictures, since it is precisely the interaction between the cognitive and social in language use that produces the language and behavior that we observe and research. What we need is a view of language in use which prevents a one-sided or compartmentalized approach, by allowing the social and the cognitive to be integral parts of theory and analysis of data. (Cameron 1999b, 4)

By contributing an alternative approach that proceeds from the viewer’s process of figurative meaning-making, this book intends to bridge the research gap Cameron is mentioning. Its understanding of dynamically emerging and unfolding figurative meaning gains support from recent usage-based approaches to metaphor that predominantly but not only have been developed within the field of face-to-face interaction (e.g., Cameron 2007, 2010, Cameron et al. 2009, Jensen 2017, Jensen and Cuffari 2014, Müller 2008a, 2008b, Müller and Ladewig 2013, Müller and Tag 2010, Musolff and Zinken 2009, Semino 2008, Semino and Demjén 2017). It is only recently that an increasing number of studies with a similar way of thinking appear and come up for discussion with regard to audiovisual forms of figurative meaning-making (e.g., Müller and Kappelhoff 2018, Kappelhoff and Müller 2011, Kappelhoff and Greifenstein 2016, Müller and Schmitt 2015, Schmitt forthcoming/2019, Schmitt, Greifenstein, and Kappelhoff 2014). This book is inspired by and considered in line with this body of research.

With campaign commercials as its particular object of research the dynamic approach to audiovisual figurativity as proposed here goes beyond the scope of the cognitive-linguistic theory of and research on metaphor and metonymy alone and provides a link to the social sciences (e.g., political science, political sociology, communication studies). Located at such an interdisciplinary interface, it poses figurative meaning-making on the part of the recipient or addressee of the campaign commercials as a shared question of central relevance to each of these disciplines and opens up a new, embodied perspective on it: bodily experience as the ground for the emergence of figurative meaning and thus for making sense of candidates and political issues.

Experience, however, is not considered as an instinctive simulation of cognitively stored and by default one-to-one processed emotional content, but as felt qualities of meaning (Johnson 2007, 17) evoked by in the situation of watching a campaign commercial. Johnson has aptly described this bodily ‘encounter’ with meaning: “[T] he situation is meaningful to us in the most important, primordial, and basic way that it can be meaningful – it shapes the basic contours of our experience” (Johnson 2007, 66). Such an idea of “understanding through experience” (Müller and Schmitt 2015, 319) makes it possible to look at the often-claimed persuasive power of figurativity in political communication in a new light. As a result, affective experience is no longer seen from an angle that is biased from the first in that it is equated with the adoption of the perspective it is expressing. Conceiving of affective experience as the ground for figurative meaning-making does not jump to such conclusions. Instead, it leads the way to understanding. In doing so, it raises the question of whether comprehension – achieved through embodied experience, as argued here – could be considered the prerequisite for persuasion. If so, then audiovisual figurativity’s experiential aspect would have been wrongly prejudged as mere negative manipulation (as, e.g., by Androshchuck 2014). An in-depth treatment of this question is beyond the scope of this book. It shall, however, be briefly addressed in Section 9.3.

1.4Objective, Scope, and Structure of the Book

The main objective of this book is to put forward a dynamic approach to the emergence of figurative meaning in political campaign commercials by taking the perspective of the viewing and experiencing spectator. By starting from a situated process of meaning-making instead of a by-default product, the line of argument put forward contrasts with a hitherto dominant top-down directed and intentionally driven understanding of figurative meaning in audiovisual political communication and instead conceives of it as a practice of experiencing and understanding. Along those lines, the dynamic approach to audiovisual figurativity as proposed here is rather consistent with dynamic approaches to figurative meaning-making in face-to-face interaction (e.g., Cameron 2010, Jensen 2017, Müller 2008a, Müller and Tag 2010). Metaphor and metonymies in audiovisual media are considered as emergent phenomena of a multimodal encounter of two ‘interactants’: the campaign commercial and the viewer. In the act of watching, both enter into an interactive situation in which figurative meaning emerges and unfolds dynamically in the course of time, in the flow of attention, and in the flow of experience (see also Müller and Kappelhoff 2018). The focus of this book is on empirically retracing these dynamic aspects in their audiovisual context in order to avoid premature or overgeneralized conclusions concerning the intentional use of and manipulation by conceptual metaphors and metonymies. Therefore, the constructivist and embodied understanding of audiovisual figurative meaning-making introduced sticks to the situated media context. In doing so, the dynamic approach is in line with Terrell Carver and Jernej Pikalo who have suggested that research on figurativity in the field of politics has focused too much on its interpretation and too little on its “creative-productive function” (Carver and Pikalo 2008b, 3). In this context, they emphatically point out the dynamic nature of figurative meaning-making, which corresponds to the major tenet of this book: “The defining characteristic of metaphor in the Aristotelian tradition is that it is defined in terms of movement, change with respect to location mainly movement ‘from … to’ […]” (Carver and Pikalo 2008b, 2).

It is with this emphasis on the processuality and productivity of audiovisual figurative meaning that the book addresses not exclusively metaphor or metonymy researchers from cognitive linguistics, but also political and social scientists as well as media scholars. On the one hand, it operates formally at the interface of the mentioned disciplines by its specific type of data, i.e., political campaign commercials. On the other hand, it intends to bring ideas into the above-mentioned fields of study by its transdisciplinary theoretical model and methodology that are a result of the connection of cognitive linguistics and film studies. Metaphor and metonymy as general cognitive (and therefore modality-independent) phenomena and social practices of meaning-making and constructions of reality provide a common reference point for this purpose.

As a result of such a transdisciplinary scope, the book and its leading argument of the dynamics of audiovisual figurativity are subject to maximum comprehensibility and clarity in order to address researchers from cognitive linguistics, film and media studies, and the social sciences. The discussed approaches and theories are not entirely exhaustive but the result of a selection process in the light of their relevance for the central question of this book. As this particular transdisciplinary question about audiovisual figurative meaning-making in campaign commercials has not yet been previously posed by neither metaphor or metonymy research nor by the social sciences, only those aspects of existing models and theories will be discussed – in a systematic manner – that are relevant for the book’s argumentation instead of treating them extensively one after another. Despite such a content-related reduction, the book aims to account for and give an overview of the range of existing and adopted research related to audiovisual figurativity and campaign commercials.

The selection of theories and approaches that, although being relevant for the subject matter, have until now received only little attention plays another major role in this regard. Bringing together and discussing Anglophone, Germanophone, and Polonophone research contributes to their increased mutual and international scientific awareness and reception. A closer look at parallels in the theoretical argumentation and empirical analysis when compiling the current state of research reveals that the single disciplines often pose similar research questions and share certain assumptions. For instance, metaphor research as well as the social sciences and film and media studies similarly ask for the interplay of modalities and different levels of communication with regard to the presentation of particular contents and issues. Another relevant subject is the relation between emotional appealing by audiovisual content and its impact on the spectator (e.g., in terms of manipulation or persuasion). The specific focus on audiovisual figurativity in campaign commercials opens up an interface to address these questions and makes for new insights within the single disciplines as well as for putting established and taken for granted assumptions up for negotiation. In this respect, the structure of the book is (metaphorically) considered an interweaving of so far unconnected research strands running in parallel: it proceeds from the single disciplines and their core themes relevant for the topic of the book in order to finally bring them together and to open up a new perspective (i.e., a mutual seeing-in-terms-of).

Chapter 2 provides an overview of the state of research about campaign commercials that so far have been examined almost exclusively in the field of the social sciences (e.g., in political science, political sociology, communication studies). As will be shown, the focus of this research has been either on the represented and expressed content of the TV campaign ads or on their persuasive impact on the spectator. However, both aspects have never been investigated in their mutual interplay and context; just as little as the aspect of the situated context, i.e., the media perception. This holds for Germanophone, Anglophone, as well as Polonophone studies.5 Compared with this, cognitive-linguistic research has hitherto not taken account of campaign commercials. Instead it has dealt with figurativity in various contexts of political communication, most of all in spoken or written form, but not in audiovisual formats like campaign commercials. As will be demonstrated, hitherto existing cognitive-linguistic studies focus first and foremost on metaphor and leave metonymy to the side. A link to the beforehand-discussed state of research in the social sciences provides the question for the persuasive impact of figurativity in political communication. Finally, both research topics, i.e., campaign commercials and figurativity, will be brought together with regard to their central research desiderata and in view of the dynamic approach to audiovisual figurativity as put forward in this book.

Chapter 3 develops the first part of the theoretical background by starting from the fundamental role of metaphor and metonymy for human thinking, understanding, and action from a cognitive-linguistic perspective. On that basis, usage-oriented research is introduced that conceives of figurativity as a modality-independent phenomenon and accounts for questions such as how figurative meaning emerges in situ and unfolds dynamically as well as if and how it is comprehended. Such multimodal usage-based research enables empirical access to the embodied ground of figurative meaning-making and to its suggested affective dimension. The chapter concludes that research on metaphor and metonymy hitherto, however, – save for some exceptions – has given priority to the cognitive function and has also subordinated the affective dimension to this cognitive primacy. Taking up Lakoff and Johnson’s well-known metaphor definition, it will be demonstrated that it is rather understanding that is brought to the fore instead of experiencing something in terms of something else.

Chapter 4 introduces accounts of metaphor and metonymy from a film-theoretical perspective. As will be shown, film studies – like most cognitive-linguistic studies of audiovisual figurativity – have predominantly considered metaphor and metonymy as static, meaningful entities in a filmmaker’s hands. Apart from semiotic and rhetorical accounts that conceive of figurativity as a general principle of figuration in film or as a rhetorical device serving a film’s elocution, recent approaches will be discussed that are informed by relevant linguistic and cognitive theories of metaphor and metonymy. Proponents of such a perspective, however, tend to disregard the media specificity of film or limit it to the level of audiovisual representation. Compared with this, classical film theory focuses especially on the temporal dynamics of the cinematic movement-image and relates it the spectator’s experience. In line with such a way of thinking, phenomenologically informed approaches consider cinematic expression, perception, and affective experience in the process of viewing as being interrelated. Regarding therein the basis for meaning-making on the part of the viewer, such approaches provide a fruitful link to a dynamic and embodied understanding of figurative meaning-making.

Chapter 5 brings together the perspectives of both disciplines regarding understanding and experience in a theoretical and methodological manner. Combining a dynamic cognitive-linguistic perspective on multimodal figurativity and a neo-phenomenological perspective on film-viewing as embodied experience, highlights the benefits of a transdisciplinary approach to audiovisual figurativity. The dynamic approach elaborated will thus rest on three shared aspects of dynamics of both multimodal figurativity and audiovisual compositions: temporality, attention, and experience. These dynamics will next be developed as an analytical access to reveal the particular interplay of language and audiovisual staging in terms of three dominance phenomena. The subsequent analyses of campaign commercials serve to illustrate these variant forms.

Chapter 6 introduces a case of close interplay between metonymy and metaphor – the former emerging multimodally in language and audiovisual staging, the latter almost entirely through audiovisual staging – on the basis of the Christian Democratic Union’s (CDU) campaign commercial for the German federal elections in 2009. As will be demonstrated, the foregrounding of contiguity combines with an unfolding experience of power, balance, and stability and evokes a vital image of the protagonist of the TV campaign ad, the incumbent Angela Merkel, as a powerful sovereign with civil roots. Thereby, audiovisual figurative meaning-making transpires as a form of an equal interplay of language and audiovisual staging.

In comparison, Chapter 7 offers an analysis of the Polish party Platforma Obywatelska’s (PO) campaign commercial for the parliamentary elections in 2011. Despite a similar structure and content conception, this ad creates an entirely different image of its protagonist, the incumbent Donald Tusk, by staging him as a leading builder of a still unfinished building project of a future Poland who is asking his voters for a deadline extension. Here, figurative meaning is primarily induced through verbal metaphors of building that are affectively substantiated by audiovisual staging throughout the campaign commercial. As such, it conveys its message more explicitly as compared with the CDU campaign commercial whose figurative meaning is rather non-verbally grounded in the spectator’s affective experience.

Chapter 8 complements these two analyses of incumbent campaign commercials by presenting those of two challengers: the German Social Democratic Party (SPD) and the Polish party Prawo i Sprawiedliwość (PiS). The latter’s TV campaign ad displays a variant form of audiovisual figurativity that is similar to the CDU’s campaign commercial; however, without metonymy playing such a dominant role. In it, the candidate Jarosław Kaczyński is experienced and understood as a door opener for the so far segregated and excluded, thereby making for participatory equality. Here, figurative meaning emerges primarily from the audiovisual staging that provides its experiential grounds and is made explicit verbally through two faded-in slogans. By contrast, the SPD’s campaign commercial is noticeably language-driven, conveying its central message – Frank-Walter Steinmeier’s Germany plan as the realistic answer to existential questions – explicitly through the voice-over while the audiovisual staging is restrained and plays a subordinate role.

Lastly, Chapter 9 brings the findings of the analyses from the Chapters 5, 6, and 7 together and relates them to the classification of the three variant forms (or dominance phenomena) of audiovisual figurativity introduced in Chapter 5. On this basis, conclusions will be drawn for cognitive-linguistic research and analysis of figurativity in political contexts of use and, in a second step, for social sciences research on campaign commercials. Among these conclusions, the doubt regarding the often claimed, but unsubstantiated, manipulation and persuasion of the spectator by the affective dimension of figurativity will be the subject of a final reflection. The question will be raised if the interweaving of experience and understanding as put forward in the dynamic approach to audiovisual figurative meaning-making might not serve illustrative and evidence-based purposes in the first place (in order to fully understand issues and messages) before taking persuasive effect.