Introduction: The aim of the essay is to undertake a semiotic analysis of an image, in this case a magazine advertisement, and to comment on the strengths and weaknesses of this approach. Using analysis of: Denotation vs. Connation, Signifier vs. Signified, Codes, Signs, Representation of reality. The image will be dissected into its individual building blocks in order to assess its effectiveness as an advert and its commentary on society today, also discussing whether semiotic analysis is the truest discipline to follow in this case. Denotation vs.Connation, Signifier vs. Signified:
The image I have chosen is a magazine advertisement for ‘Heinz Big Soup’. In order to analysis the semiotics of this image I will firstly discuss what is visibly present in the image (known as the signifier) and what the suggested meanings are (what is signified). The main focus of the image is a large, seemingly well made cooking pot with a violently broken handle, in the lower right hand corner there is a picture of a can of ‘Heinz Big soup’. The pot is positioned on a warm beige background and there is no text.
What is denoted in the image is a pot with a broken handle and a can of soup, however there are underlying conations as to what the suggested meaning of this image is. What is signified in the image is that the soup is so substantial, so filling and ‘Big’ that even a well made pot is not up to the job of holding its weight for cooking, it is in fact more than just an entire meal in a can. The relationship between the signifier and the signified is the difference between what is seen and what the advert desires the viewer to see, that is to say this image is not just a broken pot and a can of soup.
This advert relies almost entirely on representation; the general consensus being assumed that average soup is not substantial enough to break a cooking pot handle, thus reinforcing the mental concept of ‘Heinz Big Soup’ being ‘Big Soup’. This particular ‘sign’ stands for something other that an image of a broken pot, it stands for a soup to beat all other soups, a meal in a can that is great value because of this. This image does not signify reality; it appears conscious of the almost humorous situation it denotes, that the general consensuses would regard this situation as being impossible while transmitting a message of ‘Big Soup’.
Codes: “One of the fundamental concepts in semiotics… codes provide a frame work with which signs make sense” (Chandler: 1995). Analysis of the codes used in this advert, whether they are social or textual codes help with the semiotic analysis of this text. Codes may be different languages to give the impression of a foreign product or they can be the way the advert is constructed with relation to the photography. In this particular advert there are few textual codes, the only text being the label on the tin of soup.
This is important as it gives the advert its context, if the tin had no label signifying soup the advert would be pointless. Because the tin is labelled the relationship between the soup and the domestic preparation of soup i. e. : the pot, is now clear and the sign becomes clear. Textual codes play a role in the way in which an advert is interoperated. In this advert the camera work gives the text a feeling of warmth and comfort, conjuring up images of eating the soup by a fire side on a cold winters evening. If the colours were to change for instance, this may give the text a different meaning.