Advertisements are created to sell a particular product. Those come across an advert could find the product appealing and immediately go out and buy it, or quickly skim over the page taking no notice at all. However, in this course, we have to do more than simply skim over media texts. Through studies we know adverts are culturally constructed in ways to provide meaning to the reader. These meanings are often a result of semiotics, which comes from the Greek word semeion, which means sign. This essay will be analysing the use of semiotics in advertisements and their associated meanings.
The advertisement for a Venus shaver from Gillette was taken from the February 2004 issue of Cosmopolitan. Cosmopolitan is read predominantly by females and therefore the major target audience for this magazine are young aspiring women from the ages over 18, anywhere to 30-year-old women. The target audience for the Venus shaver advertisement however is aimed at women in their twenties hence the age representation of the women displayed in the advertisement. To deconstruct an advertisement in order to uncover the hidden meanings and signs we need to consider denotation and connotation. These are two of the most important in semiotic analysis.
Denotation and connotation refer to the first and second level of a meaning in a sign. Firstly we will discuss denotation. According to Dyer (1982, p 128) ” The term denotation refers to the literal meaning of a sign; to what is ‘objectively’ present and easily recognised or identified.
” Denotation refers to what the advertisement displays; images, written text, technical and colour codes. To effectively analysis the denotative content of the Venus advertisement I have divided it into thirds. The top third of the advertisement shows two women, one with blonde hair the other a coloured woman with black hair.The blonde woman on the right is wearing a bright two-piece fuchsia coloured bathing suit and sunglasses. She has both legs resting on the seat in front of her and her arms are above her head as if dancing.
Her mouth is open and smiling and there is an assumption that she is singing, maybe to the car radio, however it is not known for sure. The coloured woman next to the blonde woman is also wearing a bright fuchsia coloured bathing suit, however her suit is a full piece one. She is too, wearing sunglasses. Sitting to the side, both her legs up on the seat, stretching towards the blonde woman.One of her arms is resting on the car while the other appears to be brushing hair off her face. She is smiling and happy. Her costume and body language suggests that this woman may be the more conservative or laid back of the group.
The second third of the advertisement shows another two women. The one on the left hand side has dark brown, shoulder length hair. She is wearing a fuchsia two-pieced bathing suit, the top tied in a knot. She is also wearing sunglasses. Her legs are crossed, facing towards the door of the car.
Her arms are in the air and she looks like she may be clicking her fingers, maybe to music?She has her head turned towards the driver of the car and she has a smile on her face. The driver of the car is a blonde woman with long hair. She is wearing the same fuchsia coloured one-piece bathing suit, more revealing than the dark haired woman’s though. She is wearing stylish sunglasses just like the other young women.
As she is the driver of the car, her right hand holds the steering wheel, while the left arm is up in the arm. Her mouth is wide open and smiling. She looks like she is having a great time, just like the other three women. The bottom third of the advertisement is devoted to the written codes of the product.A caption reads ” What is it about PINK that makes you feel so good? ” This shows the reader, that because the women in the advert are dressed in pink they are feeling good. Another caption to the left reads, ” Reveal the goddess in you.
” This is Venus’s signature slogan and whenever you read or here the slogan you immediately think of the Venus shaver. Above the slogan is a picture of the product and its packaging. The camera angle is a high shot, looking down into the car. To the right of the car there is a stretch of road. As the reader I see this road as a desolate road no inner city noise or traffic, just the car and the road.
I am tempted to say the women are off to the beach because of their bathing suits but I cannot confirm this. The advertisement is predominantly in white and shades of bright pink. The bathing suits are bright pink and the colour of the car is also a lighter shade of pink. The upholstery in the car is white leather. All the writing on the page is in either pink or white. Connotation is the second level of a meaning in a sign. According to Dyer (1982 p128) ” Connotation is a term used to refer to meanings which lie beyond denotation but are dependent on it. Connotative readings of signs are introduced by an audience/viewer.
” In other words in the stage of connotation we as the reader/viewer fill in what is missing from the denotation stage and from there attempt to clarify the meaning the sign is trying to convey. The written, technical and colour codes, actions and objects mentioned above carry certain connotations. Firstly, the colour in this advertisement is very important. The colour pink signifies “girliness” and femininity while the colour white can signify innocence or peace. These women are dressed in bathing suits, which show off their ‘womanly curves’. They are driving an old style American pink convertible, which also signifies femininity.The white leather upholstery signifies that the women are at peace, at peace with themselves and their bodies. If the women were driving a modern, stylish black convertible and wearing black business suits the meaning of the advertisement would be totally different.
The pink older style convertible and the pink bathing suits were placed in the advert on purpose and to portray the message of freedom and femininity. The body language of the women is very important in signifying something. Their bodies are open and confident. Their arms are up in the air and they all have smiles on their faces.The body language of the young women suggests that they are confident, carefree and fun. If the women were pictured with their body language more reserved, such as arms crossed, readers would read this advertisement in a different way. As readers we are made to draw upon our already known and accepted cultural knowledge.
With this knowledge you can come to the conclusion that these women are having fun and the message of the advert is that if you shave with a Venus, you too could have as much fun as these women. The use of written text in the advert is significant.The writing below the photo of the women is in flowing white writing.
It says, ” What is it about PINK that makes you feel so good? ” This is signifying that wearing pink (as the women are in the advert) makes you feel good; feel free to be yourself. This connotates that if you use the Venus razor, which is also pink, it will make you feel good. Venus’s signature slogan is written in pink. It says, ” Reveal the goddess in you. ” There is a link with the slogan and the women in the advert. It is implying that again if you use the Venus razor you will feel and look like a goddess, just like the women in the advert do.The high camera shot looking down on the women in the car.
It is as if we are watching the women, longing to be in the car with them, having fun just like they are. All these features of the advertisement, the camera angle, body language, written text and the colours used paint a certain picture. They all signify femininity, freedom and fun. The features were used in the advert on purpose in order to anchor the reader/viewer to draw certain meaning from the advertisement. All advertisements use certain codes and conventions to convey a message.
One advert may concentrate on one code such as colour to portray a message.However it is safe to say that every advert has a series of codes and conventions and many adverts portray a deeper meaning than what appears at first glance. It is useful to analyse in a Semiological approach to uncover deeper more meaningful messages. However, it must be taken into account that every individual is exactly that. One person may interpret a different meaning that another person so it is hard to evaluate which interpretation is the most valid. In conclusion, I believe using semiology to deconstruct an advertisement portrays a more insightful and interesting message than what you would conclude from a non-analytical approach.