In the present-day society, advertisement has become an integral part of the strategic management of such establishments as business enterprises, non-governmental organizations, political as well as religious organizations. There are numerous advertising activities which are carried out through various media outlets including television commercials, press, and billboards advertisements. Obviously, the fundamental purpose of engaging in advertisement activities is to convince consumers of the need to purchase certain products. Because of this, advertisers have always ensured that messages they incorporate in their advertisements are persuasive enough. Persuasiveness is meant to elicit certain feelings and emotions that facilitate the appreciation of values that products and services represent (Beasley & Danesi 2002, 23).
Print advertisements were found to be extremely effective methods of reaching mass audiences. Due to this notion and because the adverts are in s form of print, the manner in which colours, texts, and photography are used is extremely important in ensuring the effectiveness of the campaign in question. Advertisements that are meant to simply inform customers about the availability of certain product may not guarantee their retention in the long term. Effective advertisements must, therefore, appeal to intended consumers. It is important to ensure that advertisements are more than mere attempts to present the attributes of products they are attempting to sell (Beasley & Danesi 2002, 23).
Advertisers ought to ensure that the information presented makes sense to the consumers (Richards et al 2000, 85-93). This study seeks to perform a semiotic analysis and compare various printed adverts in terms of content and form. Attempts are made to compare print adverts that are meant for marketing the same or closely related products, which originate from the same manufacturing firm. The comparison is made between products mainly aimed at women with other products that are aimed at men.
In the view of the importance of marketing in today’s world, it has become imperative to engage in constant studies and analysis of various print media advertisements. The analysis is done with the aim to reveal underlying messages and hidden meanings that the advertiser wishes to disseminate. Using semiotic analysis while studying advertisements facilitates the revelation of hidden messages and meanings, which underlie readily observable features. The present-day semiotics methodology is founded on the compositions of Ferdinand Saussure and Charles Pierce.
This essay concentrates on four print advertisements, which are aimed to market products offered by Ralph Lauren brand. Ralph Lauren is one of the most famous fashion designers, who produces chic designer fragrances and clothes. The founder established this successful brand back in 1967 when he opened a simple tie shop. He, consequently, made a remarkable transition and started to produce high-quality menswear. By 1971, Ralph Lauren managed to introduce clothing items for women in his appearing collection. Ralph Lauren brand has been managing its successful growth in the fashion industry since its inception (Sebeok & Sebeok 1988, 15-21).
Ralph Lauren adverts have been extremely rewarding as they helped to create meaning for products that the company offers. They have made Ralph Lauren famous for chic designer clothing of extremely high quality. In this case, the brand has eliminated the need for engaging in mass advertising activities. In fact, consumers immediately recognize the Ralph Lauren’s logo the moment they look at the label. The advertisement, therefore, instantly generates values due to its style and quality. This has been realized by the company after its recognition of the importance of generating value through advertisements so as to win and retain a strong consumer base (Bignell 2002, 78-82).
The first category of printed advertisements to be considered is the one concerning the Ralph Lauren Romance. Ralph Lauren Romance is a fragrance that has two distinct products: one for females and the other for males. Looking at two distinct advertisements in Figures 1 and 2 (see the Appendix), it becomes apparent that different methods and signs are utilized for the purpose of making these ads appealing to two sexes. Both photographs in Figures 1 and 2 in the Appendix are advertisements used for marketing Ralph Lauren Romance products.
Figure 1 is an advertisement of women’s fragrance while Figure 2 is an advertisement of men’s fragrance. It is striking that two advertisements have a female and a male in them. Both advertisements are made in black and white colours. Nevertheless, as the comparison of two ads is being made, it becomes noticeable that the advertisement aimed at males consists of darker tones as compared to the one aimed at females.
The advertisement in Figure 1 features a female and a male. The male model is placing his hands on the shoulders of the female. The female has put her arms around the male in loose and gentle manner. This situation happens to absolutely contrast the scenario in Figure 2. The second advertisement, Figure 2, is an action shot which happens to be slightly blurred. In the second ad, the male aggressively embraces the woman in a lustful manner. The embrace causes the flexing of his bicep. The female’s head is tilted as both of them engage in a passionate kiss.
In the second ad, female’s hair is blown presumably by the wind. This scene can connote an idea of a stormy romance. Both models have perfect bodies. This symbolises beauty and health. The male happens to be perfectly toned while the female is attractive and slim. The flowing of her hair is used to signify femininity. Visual codes in these advertisements denote gender. In both advertisements, the male is depicted as the one who is taking on an active role.
In Figure 1, the male is taller than his female counterpart and this allows for a component of elevation. This is a common technique and it has a gender oriented connotation (Bignell 2002, 78-82). In the second figure, the male is seen to be taking on an active role once again. The female partner’s face is not visible and, therefore, this ad is focused on members of the male gender. The male is depicted as the one who is in control of the situation as well as of himself. While comparing these figures, the function of colour codes becomes important. White clothes that two models wear do stand out. The white colour depicts such connotations as chastity, goodness, and purity. These three connotations happen to have clear links with romance, and, thereby, with the fragrance’s name.
The concept of syntagmatic patterns becomes relevant when the evaluation of the colour connotations begins. White clothes possess a syntagmatic pattern which is fairly balanced with the female partner’s hair. It is also balanced with light tones being represented on the iconic image of the perfume bottle. Matching the light hair of the female with the dark male model’s hair produces a paradigmatic structure. This matching, therefore, enhances the effectiveness of the advertisement. Figure 2 also represents a syntagmatic pattern. The dark iconic image of the bottle matches male’s hair while, white clothing facilitates a syntagmatic pattern that matches the lightness of female model’s hair.
Male’s chain tattoo is also striking. Although the tattoo is not visible in the first ad in Figure 1, it becomes readily visible in the ad in Figure 2. The tattooed arm of the male partner attracts the attention of the viewer before shifting the attention to his perfectly shaped bicep. The tattoo connotes masculinity and is used to signify a component of rebelliousness. This contrasts the representation in Figure 1, which has elements of purity and goodness especially due to the innocent stance and face expression that models have (Noth 1995, 5-9).
These two advertisements represent the idea of romance according to Ralph Lauren. The advertisement which is aimed for females is soft and gentle, while the one which is aimed at males happens to be connotative of lust, passion, and sexuality. In fact, Figure 2 does represent an idea of romance that is typical for the members of male gender.
Figure 3 and 4 (see the Appendix) represent another set of advertisements that are analysed in this study. These two figures are advertisements that were used by the Ralph Lauren Golf clothing campaign. Ralph Lauren used photographs presented in Figure 3 and 4 for the company’s 2004 Spring/Summer collection. Figure 3 is meant to advertise ladies’ golf wear. The picture features a female model who is wearing golf course attire. The colour coding in Figure 1 becomes clear as the advert is compared to that in Figure 4. It can be observed that the photograph in Figure 3 uses a variety of pastel colours. These colours include white and pink. White and pink happen to be culture specific connotations of femininity, purity, and innocence. The use of these colours is striking since pink happens to be extremely feminine, while the game of golf is typically perceived as masculine.
Figure 3 is to some extent similar to Figure 4 since pastel colours are used again. Nevertheless, colours in Figure 4 are primarily blue. Blue happens to be a typical male colour. It also has some connotations of mystery and tranquillity. Therefore, apart from being utilized for decorative purposes, these colours have an underlying meaning. In addition to the colour codes that are utilized in these ads, there is also a striking dress code. In this regard, it becomes easy to comprehend the purpose of these printed advertisements. The golf club, the golfing gloves, and the hat are all meant to represent golf (Vellnagel 2011, 7-12).
Passive and active roles that models assume are also striking. The female image in Figure 3 happens to be more passive than that in Figure 4. In Figure 4, the male model is actively engaged. The female is presumably lost, while the male identifies with the circumstance which prompts him to be active. Even though the female model happens to be taking on a passive role, the advertiser ensures that she features on the right-hand side. This position of a model creates a sense of strength. On the contrary, advertisement presented in the Figure 4 places the male model in the centre. This makes him to become the focus of this ad. Covering male model’s face with a shadow facilitates mystical connotation of the advert which happens to be in line with colour blue (Vellnagel 2011, 7-12).
While analysing the advertisement in Figure 3, the syntagmatic structure of the printed advert becomes identifiable. The model is depicted wearing a golfing glove and a golfing hat while carrying a golfing club. These items, together with the greened background, represent the game of golf. The linguistic signs in these advertisements also depict a gender connotation. The text in Figure 3 happens to be smaller than that in Figure 4. In Figure 4, the term Polo is written in enlarged and bold font, which also happens to be spread centrally throughout the advert. Bold and large texts are typical for male advertisements, while the curvy and small ones are typical for female ads (Stokes 2003, 8-14).
In Figure 3, the female model happens to be placed just next to a linguistic sign. The sign is the Polo brand name. Placing the model side by side with the brand name creates an instant relation between her and the linguistic sign. The female model happens to be beautiful, slim, and young. These are all positive features that are typically adored by the contemporary culture.
All advertisements use photographs of attractive models. Featuring such people in printed ads allows the reader to link the brand name or a product to a positive connotation (Sebeok & Sebeok 1988, 15-21). For instance, one may have the feeling that commodities being advertised are the ones that make models healthy, sophisticated, and beautiful. This is why a significant number of Ralph Lauren’s advertisements depict uniqueness and class. By offering unique clothes, Ralph Lauren wishes to persuade customers that by purchasing these clothes, they certainly will become unique and beautiful, similarly to the models in the advertisements.
The term “Romance” in Figures 1 and 2 suggests customers that by using the fragrance being advertised, they can improve their appearance, thereby becoming more attractive. This will help them becharm members of the opposite sex. They are inspired by the idea that they too may acquire the status of models that feature in ads. Since males and females perceive and process messages differently, the ads are created in a manner that caters for views and wishes of members of both male and female sexes. Therefore, semiotics facilitates the decoding of messages in advertisements so that the audience can perceive the meaning of the underlying subject matter (Sebeok & Sebeok 1988, 15-21).