In the current competitive business environment, firms are forced to spend huge sums of money on promotional campaigns. According to Machin (2007), to attract new customers and retain the existing ones, companies have to remain conspicuous, relevant, and trendy in the market. Other than producing products that meet customers’ needs, they also have to maintain regular communication to influence the decision of customers in the market.
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In this semiotic analysis paper, I will analyze two ads promoting L’Oreal’s men and women moisturizer based on socio-cultural context. The primary question that should be answered in this analysis is whether the ads have the right appeal and the capacity to pass the intended message to customers in the targeted market. The analysis will be focused on ad description and contextualization, in-depth ad analysis, and a summary of the findings.
Ads’ Description and Contextualization
The first advertisement, shown in figure 1 below, promotes one of the firm’s products known as Sublime Glow. It is a body lotion meant for women. It is important to analyze the denotative meaning of the advert as presented by specific images and words used. Mateus (2016) defines denotation as “the literal or primary meaning of a word, in contrast to the feelings or ideas that the word suggests” (p. 67). One does not need to interpret the information beyond what is presented in the image and words. Machin (2007) says, “A photograph of a family member or of a house simply denotes things by representing the person or place respectively” (p. 22). People tend to associate a brand with the image used.
At the top of the print, an ad is the logo of the brand, which is also the name of the company. Then there is the promise of what the product offers, ‘365 days of glowing perfection. The promise is emphasized by the testimonial, a beautiful woman with glowing skin, apparently satisfied with the product. The context under which the testimonial is used emphasizes the target market for this product. It targets women. The ad then provides the name of the lotion, Sublime Glow, followed by the slogan, ‘daily moisturizer, and natural skin tone enhancer’. There are a headline and a body that outlines the benefits that the product has to offer. Then there is an image of the product itself.
Denotatively, one can easily understand what the firm offers, and it would not be difficult to identify the product in the market. There is parallelism created between the benefits of the product and the testimonial used. The positive language and two-word sentences such as ‘Daily Moisturizer’ help to make the ad memorable.
The signature statement provided in this advert is ‘The new body language’. The above images and language use are put together to create meaning, by emphasizing the benefits of the product. It promises its customers that the product is natural and does not have any side effects.
The second advert, figure 2 below, promotes men’s skin moisturizer known as Hydra Energetic. At the top of the advert is the brand logo (name) just like the first advert. Then there is a smiling man who is the testimonial for the product. The testimonial is Mathew Fox, a popular actor. In the ad are the product name, Hydra Energetic, and the product itself that enables customers to identify it in the market with ease. The advert has a headline, ‘fight 5 signs of fatigue for a healthier look’, and then identifies the five signs. It ends with a signature statement, ‘expert technology for every man’s skin, you are worth it.
Denotatively, it is obvious that the second advert targets men. The testimonial used, the face of a man is the first factor that defines the targeted customers. The slogan ‘men expert’ is also an indication that the product is meant for men. It is important to understand the context of the testimonial used in this advert. Images, slogans, testimonials, body copy, and other attributes are put together to pass a message to men, that they all deserve the benefits which the product has to offer. Parallelism is between the benefits of the product and the testimonial used. The ad has positive language and one/two-word sentences such as ‘Feels dry’.
Analysis of the Ad
After discussing the ads denotatively based on the direct messages that they present, it is necessary to move a step further and discuss the connotative messages that the two ads present. Connotative meaning is defined by Compagno (2018) as “as that which includes the feelings and ideas that people may connect with that word” (p. 43). Determining the more hidden meanings of words and images, color, and unique factors in a given advert make it possible to understand the message that the company seeks to pass to its customers. Machin (2007) says, “So asking what an image connotes is asking; what ideas and values are communicated through what is represented and through the way in which it is represented.” (p. 25).
The first ad targets the female audience by emphasizing the need to be beautiful, while the second targets men by promising comfort and confidence. The connotative difference in linguistics and visuals in the two ads, as discussed in the previous section, is meant to demonstrate the cultural difference between men and women in society. For instance, the background chosen in each of the ads in terms of color is similar to that in the casing of the product. Mateus (2016) explains that the chosen background in an ad should reflect the value it promises and identify with the target audience. The strategy helps in product identification.
The first ad promotes a body lotion for women known as sublime as demonstrated by objects used. The ad uses two objects, the woman endorsing the product and the image of the product itself. These objects enhance the identity of the product. Culturally, beauty products for women are based on a different premise from that which is meant for men. Goffman (1974) says, “So deeply does the male-female difference inform our ceremonial life that one finds here a very systematic’ opposite number’ arrangement, one that allows us to think profitably about the way in which self-definition is guided and externally determined” (p. 9).
For women in western culture, emphasis is often laid on the desire to make users more captivating and sexy while for men, the goal is often to portray them as strong and confident (Mateus, 2016). Paying close attention to poses, objects, and settings, and colors used in each of the ads can help understand how these factors are brought out.
The testimonial used can help in identifying the target audience of the first ad. Compagno (2018) explains that it is often common knowledge to use a woman when promoting a product meant for women and vice versa. The sexy pose of the woman is meant to bring out feminism in the product. The pose is meant to improve the appeal of the product to the targeted customers. The word ‘Glow’ is written in a bright color just to emphasize its meaning. According to Mateus (2016), there is the use of the word ‘perfection’, which is a common desire among many women. Machin (2007, p. 46) defines modality as “how real a representation should be taken to be.”
The Loreal AD for the ladies is considered to be Low modality ad, as it is very clear that it was photo-shopped, and it seems to be less realistic and too perfect. Beyond the picture are clear statements explaining why the product is important. It presents an offer image, promising a glow to women who consider using the product. These factors contribute to the ad’s potential ideological meaning. It promises perfect skin to women who use the product regularly.
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The second ad, as mentioned above, promotes body lotion for men, as evident in the testimonial used. The pose taken by the man is meant to demonstrate strength and confidence, which are some of the admirable characteristics of men (Mateus, 2016). The objects used in the second ad, especially the image of the man, help to define the target audience. The second object (the image of the product) is meant to enhance the product’s identity in the market. Barthes (1982) says, “In order to see the photographic signifier, one is obliged to focus at very close range” (p. 43).
It is necessary to have a close-range analysis of the ad to understand the intended message for the targeted audience. Strength and confidence are stereotypically associated with men in western culture, and that is the message that comes out when analyzing the image. The Loreal ad for the men is considered to be a High modality ad because it is realistic and is not considered to be very much edited, not much brush has been using in the image. It is an offer ad, promising to improve the looks and health of its users.
In this ad, just like in the previous one, there was an attempt to avoid polysemy. To avoid misinterpretation or any form of confusion, each word used in the ad is simple and clear as to what it seeks to achieve. These factors contribute to the ad’s potential ideological meaning by presenting the product as that which will make men achieve what society expects of them, which is confidence and strength.
L’Oreal is one of the leading cosmetics companies in the global market. The two adverts analyzed above promote some of their most popular products, one meant for men and the other for women. The paper focused on determining whether the ads have the right appeal to the targeted audience and the capacity to pass the intended message to customers in the market. The two ads have the right appeal and the capacity to communicate effectively with customers. Although they share many features, they differ in terms of the language used and the testimonial because they target different market segments. It is also evident that color is used carefully to avoid cultural misunderstandings in the global market. The two ads can influence recipients positively. The findings are relevant to marketers who may want to use these concepts to develop effective ads.
Barthes, R. (1982). Camera lucida: Reflections on photography. New York: Hill and Wang.
Compagno, D. (Ed.). (2018). Quantitative semiotic analysis. Cham, Switzerland: Springer.
Goffman, E. (1974). Gender advertisements. New York, NY: Harper & Row.
Machin, D. (2007). Introduction to multimodal analysis. London, UK: Arnold.
Mateus, E. (2016). Semiotic analysis of a dove advertisement. Munich, Germany: GRIN Verlag.