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Overview: Ad Description
Appendix 1 shows a grey, white and black advert comprising of a plus-sized woman lying down on her right side. Her right arm is resting on the ground and folded to support her head. The woman has tilted her head to make her seem like she is looking forward and diagonally.
She has also let her short hair free to fall on her back. In terms of dressing, she has a grey T-shirt with the ‘Abercrombie & Fitch’ text on her bust area and black fitting shorts, which reveal her thighs. In addition, she has body art on her right arm, upper left arm and just above her knees. The white text, “Attractive & Fat” is placed just above the woman with the letter “F” partially hidden by the woman’s thighs.
Although this is a denotative meaning of the advert, advertisements are built around semiotics to help persuade consumers’ to purchase products while using the societal culture as leverage. Therefore, they have connotative meaning. With this in mind, this paper critically deconstructs the advert to reveal its connotative meaning.
The obvious message or intent of the advert is trying to persuade plus-sized women in the western, liberal world into believing that Abercrombie & Fitch brand of clothing is suitable for plus-sized women because the company’s clothes makes them feel attractive. The “Abercrombie & Fitch” text on the woman’s bust area is a sign that the woman is modeling for the company’s clothes. In the fashion industry, manufacturing an image in advertisement seeks to persuade buyers to change their habits.
Therefore, to reach to and persuade plus-sized women to accept Abercrombie & Fitch clothes, the advert uses or ‘manufacturers’ a plus-sized woman who is a model of the targeted population. This is in addition to dressing the woman in Abercrombie & Fitch clothes that are seemingly attractive, liberating or ‘cool’ by societal standards to form an ideal plus-sized woman. More so, the ad creators focus on the target group insecurities to persuade them to purchase clothes.
Ideally, the society does not consider plus-sized women as attractive. This makes them have low-self esteem and feel unattractive. The dress code of the woman in the ad exhibits an attractive person full of confidence. Markedly, although plus-sized, she is not afraid to wear clothes that show off her body, including her thighs and arms. In addition, her non-verbal codes show confidence. She is resting comfortably on the ground with her chin up.
This makes plus-sized women believe that with Abercrombie & Fitch clothes, they can deal with their weaknesses, feel attractive and confident. Convincingly, with the phrase “attractive & Fat” written in white color to symbolize a new beginning, Abercrombie & Fitch is making a statement that their clothes will change the plus-sized women’s lives by helping them deal with their weaknesses.
Critics argue that adverts create false expectations and so is the revelation of the hidden meaning of this advert. Although the advert seems to inform or insinuate to the plus-sized women that Abercrombie & Fitch clothes will help them deal with their weaknesses, the hidden meaning reveals otherwise. The hidden meaning is that the clothes that Abercrombie & Fitch Company is selling cannot make plus-sized women become confident, attractive or improve on their self-esteem.
This is because these three traits come through being intelligent, practical and mature enough to discern societal expectations. In simple terms, the three traits are nurtured from within by controlling external influences and knowing what one stands for. This ensures that a person, whether plus-sized or not is confident and has a high self-esteem. These two traits make a person feel attractive.
The hidden message is derived from the color code, particularly the permissive grey color. In the western world and most societies, grey symbolizes intelligence. Being emotionless and motionless, grey is stable and solid with a sense of composure and calm that offers relief from the chaotic world. Grey is conservative and elegant, but not glamorous. Grey is practical, a color of responsibility and maturity due to its association with grey hair in old age.
It never seeks attention, but stays toned down and safe. The extensive use of the grey color even on the woman’s skin creates an association between the color and the message that the ad passes across. This makes it easy to connect the symbolic meaning of the color to the actual message to reveal the hidden meaning of the advert.
Therefore, being intelligent, practical and staying toned down or controlling external influences helps plus-sized women to nurture a high self-esteem and confidence from within, not the Abercrombie & Fitch clothes.
Conclusion: Social and cultural relevance
The connection between the obvious and hidden meaning and the ad is derived from the advertisement’s social and cultural relevance. The advert creators are torn between persuading the target audience to attain advertisement effects and informing them as expected by the societal culture. The society knows that advertisements evoke false expectations and creates unrealistic role models. Therefore, there is a belief that advertisements should seek to inform.
To avoid compromising on the effect of the advertisement, the designers inform the target audience in a subtle or hidden way. This becomes a defense mechanism against societal expectations in case people start criticizing the advert. The advert presents a liberal western and plus-sized woman with the probable benefits derived from Abercrombie & Fitch clothes. In addition, as the societal culture expects, it uses the grey color to inform that the attributes they seek are nurtured from within, not by the clothes they wear.
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