Exercise Part 4


Rip out an advertising image from a newspaper supplement and circle and write on as many parts of the image as you can. Comment on what it is, what it says about the product and why you think it’s there. You could use this as the basis for your assignment if you feel it’s taking you somewhere interesting. Or you could adopt this method for your assignment preparation.

Come back to this exercise when you’ve reached the end of Part Four and see if you can add anything to your analysis.

In undertaking the exercise I purposefully chose a magazine and advertisement that would be unfamiliar and to which would have no direct meaning for me. I felt this would allow a more forensic analysis of the visual and symbolic elements of the advert. For this reason I used an advert from a women’s magazine.  As I leafed through a number of my wife magazines I  was reminded of a line from Williams (1987):

“Adverts are selling us something else besides consumer goods: in providing with a structure in which we, and those good,are interchangeable ,they are selling us ourselves”                                    pp13

The advert I settled on was at first identified because it was on heavy and glossy card within the magazine. Before I looked at the images there was a sense of increased value of the product this page was peddling.  As shown on the can below I then set about analysis of the elements within the advert.

I separated the advert into a range of specific elements:

  • Text
  • Image, composition and use of colour
  • Signifiers and Signifieds
  • Message and connotation

Whether these are the right element or to I am uncertain, but they did aid me in deconstructing this advert.


Before getting into the detailed elements described above it is worth noting that there is a balanced and quite attractive composition to this advert. It has quite a classic and simple appeal in its aesthetic. Adde with the have duty pare and high quality printing (compared to the rest of the magazine, all this suggested something of quality, something standing out from the rest of the content I the magazine. The BJP has recently been printing some of its content on high grade paper/card and this advert had the same feel.


The text was simple, balanced in the composition and the font is simple and elegant. it reminded me of the 1920’s and appeared to be the same font as used in the collectors edition of Waugh’s Jeeves and Wooster novels. It is “modernist’ in the literate sense, a pre second world war serif less font. Key words are use to communicate a message:



The message is in capitals, YOU is used twice in the buyline, WON’T and WILL, stand out in the messaging. SPF FORMULA suggests the scientific, the technical, the significance of the produce. All are textual signifiers. The signed I take from this is personalisation, quality, scientifically proven and above invisible to others. A connotation is that of youth.

Other text tools add to the messaging. The Good Housekeeping Institute seal in the top right of approval. This signifier suggests endorsement by a trusted source.. The Olay Ageless logo and the AGELESS hashtag  place the product in a particular brand space.

The text below the image of the can is in a mix of upper and lower case and has a more narrative message about the product, perhaps aimed at those less foamier with the brad. this is a strong marketing message , finished off with a second and perhaps more important buy line:

skin doesn’t have to show its age

Image, composition, use of colour

As stated in the introduction, I was struck by the simplicity but engaging nature of this add visually. The picture elements are quite aesthetically pleasing. The strong red of the can of product, photographed and printed to give a three dimensional feel, contrasting with the gray gradient background that goes from dark shades in the bottom right of the advert to the light grey tones of the top left. The two feather, white in colour linking visually to the LIGHTWEIGHT reference in the first buy line. It is a high quality , high resolution product image printed on high quality media that connotes value, classiness and something worthy of purchase perhaps?

Signifiers and Signifieds

Using the same technique that Hall (2007) uses I also separated signifies and potential signified from the core elements of the advert.

As an aside, I struggled to create a table in WordPress (this is something I  will have to learn). So I created a list in word, printed it and scanned it and inserted it as an image. Not great quality, but it worked!


This was available exercise in that it showed the range of signifieds and potential signifiers. What stood out through this approach to analysing the adverts was just how repetitive some of the signifieds are. Like a repetitive voice in the background all leading to the message, buy this to be young and no one will notice!


Message and connotationWhat is the advert trying to say?

This is a high quality product, you and others won’t notice you are wearing that will make you look younger, its is backed scientifically and endorsed by external referees with credibility.

None of the above may actually be true but I think the advert is selling as Williams(1987) suggests an alternative ‘you’ and not just a can of product!

The analysis of this one advert shows the power of symbols, both in the text and the picture elements and how both support each other in the creation of an illusion about self, that transcends the idea of a can of cream that you spray on yourself.

There is a lot to learn from this exercise but I am left with a sense that it is the text in advertising that is vital, the visual element and the image lend weight I feel, but can enhance an idea the advert is selling.  But for me it is what is written  and how it is written that the real selling takes place. I have really worked hard to avoid text in my assignments to date in an attempt to get pictures to speak for themselves. Coming out of this exercise I am going to hunt down some text free advert, if there are any. I will report back!



Cobley, P, & Jansz, L. (1997) Introducing Semiotics, Icon Books , London

Hall ,S. (2007) This Mean This -This Mean That-A users guide to semiotics Laurence King Publ., London

Williams, J. (1987)Decoding Advertisements: Ideology and Meaning in Advertising, Marion Boyers Publ., London




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