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There are a number of advertisements that contain educative and informative visual and written elements which perform many functions. In this paper, one particular ad will be analyzed and evaluated in order to define what key signs make this ad powerful, what cultural codes help to comprehend the message of the ad, and what arguments may be used to prove the correctness and reliability of the chosen image.
The popular English-language magazine Cosmopolitan is chosen for the analysis; among the variety of ads which are presented in Cosmopolitan, it is not very easy to chose the one and prove that the chosen image is the best for the analysis. However, taking into consideration the idea that ads have to contain a number of signs and message to people, the ad with Jude Law who advertises Dior is chosen.
Semiotics itself represents a kind of social interaction that should happen between an individual who observe this ad and the sign that is offered in a variety of interpretations. In this paper, the analysis of the ad from Cosmopolitan will be organized: this ad is both male- and female-based because women can find Jude Law attractive and stylish person with proper taste and ideas, and men may comprehend what kind of perfume is possible to use and become a true “modern” (Figure 1) man.
Identification of key signs. The advertised product under consideration, “Dior Homme Intense”, has a number of signs whose meanings introduce a kind of favourable impression on people and underline masculine context in which it is presented. Semiotic analysis evaluates a number of signs in the chosen societal society and turns out to be helpful for those who want to comprehend the essence of the ad under discussion and the purposes of its message.
Signs of advertisement are not independent from the context they are presented in. At the chosen semiotic level, it is possible to identify the following signs: the picture of Jude Law that introduces the image of a handsome, smart, intelligent, and stylish man who makes use of the perfume and achieves success in this life; white background that proves that nothing else is as important and significant as Dior; the chosen slogan “the essence of modern man” (Figure 1); and finally, the bottle of the perfume itself that informs people how Dior looks like.
Ferdinand de Saussure identifies two integral parts of any sign in the ad that are the form of the sign and the concept of the sign (Sebeok 2001), this is why it becomes very important to interpret each sign and its part in a proper way.
Interpretation of signs. There are four main signs in the chosen ad, and each of them has its own meaning (connotation) and function. First, the image of the man, Jude Law attracts the attention. The chosen perfumes are for men; and it is necessary to choose a successful handsome and attractive person who may prove that this choice is justified.
Jude Law meets all these demands, this is why his image should attract the attention of many women who would like to buy Dior to their men and help them to become better, and male audience should be interested in the production because Law demonstrates good tastes, awesome achievements, and popularity among women.
White background is one more powerful sign that explains that nothing should matter when perfumes are presented. The chosen background makes the viewer focus his/her attention on the person and the production, and nothing more. The written effect is the sign that should inspire people to buy this perfume and be encouraged with the hope to be called a modern man, a stylish man, a successful man.
Finally, the bottle of Dior itself is the main sign of the ad that shows what action should be taken to achieve the desirable glory and success. Jude Law is the central but not the only main character of this ad. Dior is the key to male success and recognition. It exists, it looks attractive, and it waits for all men to use it and be improved.
Signs’ analysis. With the help of this ad, a good understanding of the effects of signs’ combination is demonstrated. First, the use is metaphor is evident: Dior is not only the perfume that has to be used by people on ordinary basics; Dior depicts “the essence of modern man” (Figure 1), and this essence may be observed though the image of Jude Law.
Elegant suit, kind look, slim figure, and bright shoes – all this makes a man real and successful. There are no colours around just black and white, and that gold bottle of perfume that is advertised.
The idea of choice, preference, and clarity are the main semiotic concepts which are used in the ad. The idea to choose concrete colours proves that nothing else is important right now, no other colours, tastes, and principles matter. There is one choice, one idea, and one decision to become a modern man, and this idea is justified by properly chosen colours, clothes, and words (the main semiotic concepts).
Cultural codes. Stuart Hall (1997) admits that it is not always easy to define cultural codes because their function is to underline the obvious structure of the ad.
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The use of such codes like colours (white and black to underline reality and dispose all possible distractions), chosen language (brief, accurate, and meaningful words to introduce the image), and location (words are at the foot, man is at the centre, and perfumes are on the left but still the most noticeable and colourful). Relevant concepts of the chosen ad are connected to fashion and style that is inherent to people.
The chosen codes and signs are perfectly combined in order to explain people how important fashion is nowadays. The relation between the text and the culture presented is clear: if you want to be stylish and recognizable, you are welcome to use this perfume and become better. Jude Law has already made his decision, and his popularity is one of the best evidences. Now other men should try this and make some changes in their lives.
Conventions and discourses of the ad. In our modern world, people make a considerable use of magazine advertisement in order to find out what is in fashion, what is better to use, what is more effective, and what makes this life more amazing, captivating, and worthy of attention. Usually magazines are gender specific, and Cosmopolitan is one of those sources where interesting information for both men and women who are interested in fashion and style may be found.
If a person is stylish, aware about fashionable trades, and eager to get the best profession, Cosmopolitan is the magazine with ads and facts reliable. This ad meets all conventions and principles of modern world.
There are no extra words which may be used to attract attention: everything is clear and understandable, and if a person is eager to use the advertised ad because of the discourse presented, the effectiveness of such ad is proved. The broader discourse of the ad is possible in the field of fashion, style, and tastes which are chosen by people.
In general, the overall effect of the ad and its signs and codes is positive. People like fashion; they always want to know more and use real-life examples as powerful trends and proofs of their actions. Chosen colours, person, and background seem to be perfect for this ad because nothing could be add to improve the advertisement and everything is as clear as it should be to attract people, prove them that this choice is good enough, and make them believe that the power of perfume is great for the world we live in.
Hall, Stuart. “The Work of Representation” in his Representation: Cultural Representations and Signifying Practices”. London: Sage & Open University Press, 1997
Sebeok, Albert. Signs: An Introduction to Semiotics. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2001.
Figure 1: Advertisement