Semiotic Analysis

Introduction statement

Advertisements are part of our daily lives and even if one stays locked in the house the whole day and does not read papers or magazines, one is bound to encounter advertisements. Whether at the drug store, at the supermarket, or in the television, it is inevitable to come across advertisements. Semiotics or rather semiotic analysis is the study of the processes of signs used in these advertisements. That is, how they relate to the things they refer to, how they relate to formal structures and their signs and effects on the people who use them.

Description of the advertisement or visual artifact (source, target, context, etc)

The advertisement is located within a more recent version of a popular men’s magazine called sky. The advertisement is for a fragrance called ‘Dune Pour Homme’. It has recently graced the first pages of the magazine and it targets mostly the men as is the case since it is posted on a men’s magazine.


-sign and “text”

The advertisement powerfully relies on the use of photographic imagery. The advert features a young male model, presumably in his mid twenties, kneeling on a sand dune. Right next to him is an image of the product and it appears disproportionately large since it is almost half the size of the man. Underneath the image of the product are the words ‘Essence of Freedom’. The image of the man is used to provide an element of youthful glamour. This works to serve not only the product but also the text within which it is being advertised. In semiotic studies, the term ‘sign’ is used to describe a significant unit that is used to represent something other than itself or to ‘stand for’ something. In this case, the sign is depicted by the mixture of the colors light blue and brown in the advert. Though the magazine is read by men, in this analysis, it is unisex and this is shown by the feminine colors used in the advert. These colors depict the sign designed to be compatible with its recipients.

-signifier and signified

The term ‘text’ on the other hand is used to refer to anything that is read on the advert. By stating the word ‘read’, it does not necessarily mean it in the literal sense, but rather anything that can be interpreted from the advert. One of the texts is the youthful and glamorous Sky magazine. Another text is the words ‘Essence of Freedom’ that appear at the bottom of the product. Other interesting semiotic elements can be identified from the advertisement. This is in the advertisement’s notion of freedom that also happens to be its sole signified concept. The ‘signified’ means one of two parts of the sign; it is also the mental concept represented by the signifier. The signifier on the other hand is also one of the two parts of the sign; but also mainly the form that a sign takes.

For the purpose of this particular advertisement, the signified concept is the notion of freedom expressed in the advert. This notion is expressed by the image of a man, alone at a certain location, and who looks totally at ease and without restrictions of the normal hustles of life. His loose, unconventional, clothing also contributes a lot to show a sense of freedom. Moreover, the soft quality of the photo and the gentle coloring consisting of blue and pale brown colors are other signifiers that contribute to this utopia and dreamlike idea of freedom. The signifier in this case is the photographic image of the lone man in his physical environment and the signified is the statement ‘Essence of Freedom’ that is linguistically articulated. This shows that the images alone are no enough to convey the signified concept. This relationship between the signifier and the signified creates a reasonable commodity code.

-code/code system

A code is a procedure for correlating signifiers and signifieds while providing a framework to make sure they make sense. The code in this case has created the basic meaning to the advert, whose combination of image and lingual representations, that is, words and pictures, allows the recipients to receive a communication that is reiterated by the relationship between the signifier and the signified.

-syntagm and paradigm

A syntagm is a combination of signifiers which are interacting, and which form a meaningful whole. It can also be the way in which units of the same text may be related to each other. In this case, the location of the protagonist, his dress code and the words ‘Essence of Freedom’ create a syntagm. A paradigm on the other hand is a set of signifiers that are associated and fit in one category but in this case, each signifier is significantly different. In the advert in question, no paradigm exists.

-denotation and connotation

Denotation refers to the relationship between a signifier and it’s signified. It refers to the literal meaning of a sign. Connotation on the other hand is the association produced as a reader deciphers a text.


This is the way broadcast codes have repetition and are structurally simple.


The signifiers in the advertisement were designed to show a sturdy connection with both the image and textual contexts of the advert. This essay has given a summary and analysis of an advertisement whose features were arranged to give a definite and appropriate image of the product. The terms described and discussed in the essay are all parts of semiotic analysis of advertisements.


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