When the majority of people look at a perfume advertisement, whether it be for a male or female fragrance, the perceived notation that comes up many times is that by them wearing that fragrance, they will feel and smell like the celebrity or model who is endorsing it. The people are automatically persuaded into thinking that they will be able to get the same reaction as the person in the advertisement. This is no different for the advertisement by Giorgio Armani for their mens fragrance Code.
I will be decoding the given advertisement using a semiotic analysis focussing on main points such as indexical and symbolic signs, denotative and connotative meanings, photographic codes, implied narratives and anchorage. I will be describing the advert at first glance and noting and describing all that can be seen such as the two models, words and image of the fragrance. I will further be expanding on the connotations that come along with this advert by explaining how the woman in the advert is exploring the fragrance.
I will then further go on to discuss the different photographic and cultural codes and conventions such as the black and white imagery used, as well as the choice of clothing that each model is wearing and what each item of clothing signifies. Furthermore, I will be noting the importance of paralanguage and be providing an explanation on how the body language of the models help bring across the intended message of the ad and how it links to the text found in the advert.
I will conclude my semiotic analysis by providing my own personal implied narrative, as well as describing how the subtext and slogan help anchor the image and bring across the message of how by wearing this particular fragrance, women will flock to you in abundance.
A semiotic analysis can be defined as If you use semiotic analysis (involving semiotic concepts and models) your aims are to analyse, understand and interpret signs, the meanings of signs, and the interaction of signs and sign systems. Semiotic analysis views the sign and use of signs as a part of a sign system. A sign system directs the use of the sign and thus, the system always has an effect on the contents of individual signs. A sign is never independent of the meanings and use of other signs. Semiotic analysis uses both qualitative and interpretative content analysis involving semiotic concepts and terms. (Koppa, 2010)
In order to conduct a thorough semiotic analysis of the given advertisement, it is beneficial to know some background knowledge on the given brand, Giorgio Armani. Emporio Armani was founded in 1975 by Giorgio Armani, fashions most influential and celebrated fashion designer from Italy. Armani provides quality, sophisticated and timeless style clothing ranging from luxury garments, apparel, jewellery and aftershaves. The company describes themselves as providing quality, sophistication and style-timeless values with global appeal. (Sandford, 2016)
When looking at the denotative meaning of the advert, we are greeted with a black and white photograph consisting of a male and female figure. Upon further investigation, it is now known that the advert features two models of Caucasian descent, Enrique Palacios and Mini Anden. The woman looks to be other kissing or caressing the mans neck while her eyes are closed, and the man is stretching out his neck and looking into the distance. The woman is seen to have a lace strap over her shoulder while the man is wearing a shirt, blazer and tie.
Towards the right side of the advert is a bottle of the Giorgio Armani fragrance. This can be seen as an iconic sign. An iconic sign is a symbol or image which physically resembles what it stands for (Port, 2000). In the centre of the advert are the words Armani Code, the ultimate code of seduction for men, Giorgio Armani, discover the fragrance and these are all features of symbolic signs. Symbolic signs can be defined as signs where the relation between signifier and signified is purely conventional and culturally specific (Streeter, n.d.). It can be seen as a symbolic sign because symbolic signs have no relation to the thing it represents. In this case, it is symbolic because of how society and media have portrayed Giorgio Armani to have this culture of being an elegant and classy brand in the world of fashion. Now whenever one reads the words Giorgio Armani or even the subtext of Armani Code, the ultimate code of seduction for men, Giorgio Armani, discover the fragrance, we automatically associate those words with the brand and with elegance and class.
This ad is filled with multiple connotations with the most notable being the woman sniffing or caressing the mans neck and this relates to the subtext which states discover the fragrance. Here the woman is seen to be discovering the fragrance on the man. The slogan the ultimate code of seduction for men also contributes to the connotative meaning as it relates to the actions of the female as she is seen to be seduced by the fragrance of the man and is now caressing his neck.
In order to get the most effect out of the Advert, companies apply the advertising technique of making reference to knowledge which viewers already have acquired through either cultural knowledge or associations (Keren Ye and Adriana Kovashka, 2017). They then also make use of photographic codes and conventions to further enhance the message they trying to get across.
One notable photographic code is the fact that the advert is a black and white photograph. Black and white photographs usually have the connotative meaning of affluence, sophistication and class (Rosalind, 2010). Here the majority of the colours used in this advert are darker colours which help add to the theme of seductiveness and mystery. Also, the large contrasts of the blacks and whites as well as the shadows helps to add to the seductive mood of the image as darkness can often have sexual connotations with most sexual acts often taking place when the lights are switched off.
There are many cultural codes open for interpretation as well in the advert with the most notable cultural code relating to what the models are wearing. The male model is wearing a blazer and tie and the female model is wearing a what looks to be a lace dress. The suit signifies that he is professional in nature, as well as being in charge and being powerful. It should also be noted that his top button is not buttoned, this could have the meaning that you can be both professional and cool at the same time. The woman, on the other hand, has a lace strap over her shoulder. This could either signify her wearing a lace dress or a lace bra. Both the lace dress and bra have the connotations of being a seductive item of clothing. A lot of the womans skin can also be seen which gives off the notion that she is not wearing much clothes and is in a playful and seductive mood. Gill Rosalind describes this code by stating, Many studies have highlighted the ways in which womens bodies are fragmented in adverts, visually dissected so that the viewer sees only the lips, or the eyes, or the breasts, or whatever. (Rosalind, 2010).
This raises the issue of how women are depicted in adverts and how they are in general, sexualised in society. We often hear of the phrase sex sells and this is a perfect example of it. We have an attractive woman who is seen to be falling helplessly into the realms of the man all because she was seduced by his fragrance. Many male consumers will likely heavily be influenced by this advert as they would feel that if they wear this particular fragrance, they will have the ability and powers to summon women at their command, however realisation will soon hit as them as they would come to understand that it is all just a marketing campaign which worked successfully to sell the product.
One also needs to take into account paralanguage when analysing the advert. The man is looking away from the camera and has a serious facial expression which helps bring out the concept of assertiveness and dominance, almost as if he is the alpha-dog or is in some position of authority. This also links and adds on to what is being said in the advert as the slogan the ultimate code of seduction for men shows how women are seduced and will fall into your lap if you wear the fragrance. The woman is seen to be posing with her eyes closed and is submissively resting on the mans neck almost as if she is dependent on him and as if she has this slightly helpless pose and is falling into his neck. Her body language and pose could also represent her love and admiration for him and that she sees him as this figure that all women would dream of but also showing her dependence on him. Dawn Currie explains this concept perfectly when she said, Taken at face value, the representations in women’s magazines seem to imply that we become women naturally through domestic and sexual roles meaning over the years, many adverts have portrayed women to be completely dependent on men if they want to survive and that women are just placed in society to see to the household/domestic needs of the family, as well as to the sexual needs of her spouse (Currie, 1997). However, one can also see the woman in this advert to be attracted to the man because of his scent that attracted her. This could explain as to why she is caressing his neck in a very seductive manner. Gill Rosalind explains this concept perfectly by saying, Another key transformation in the portrayal of women has been the shift from showing women as passive, mute sex objects (of an assumed male gaze), to depicting them as active (hetero)sexually desiring subjects (Rosalind, 2010).
When looking at the implied narrative, one could say that the setting was at an exclusive upmarket bar as both models could be seen to be wearing expensive clothes, the man wearing a formal suit and the woman wearing a lace dress. While at the bar counter, the woman walks past the man and smells this fragrance or scent that she is instantly attracted to. She turns around to try and sniff out where the smell was coming from and ends up by the man and starts flirting with him. The man flirts back and soon they are off back to his apartment and she cant stop complimenting his smell and how she has discovered the fragrance and is completely seduced by it. The night ends off with them engaging in sexual activities and the morning after, the man solely thanks his fragrance for the events which unfolded during the night.
The subtext and slogan really anchor the image well. When referring to anchorage, we are referring to when a piece of media uses another piece of media to make it easier for the viewer or reader to interpret the advert (Wilson, n.d.). In this case, the slogan the ultimate code of seduction for men and discover the fragrance links well to the image. The women can be seen to almost be seduced by the fragrance which attracted her to the man in order for her to discover more what the man has to offer. It is almost as if the roles are reversed this time round because, in modern-day media, it is usually the man that chases after the woman. But in this case, it is the woman discovering the man after being seduced by his fragrance. Guy cook explains the importance of discourse and anchorage as by saying, Discourse is text and context together, interacting in a way which is perceived as meaningful and unified by the participants (who are both part of the context and observers of it) (Cook, 2001).
We can, therefore, conclude that it is very important to approach adverts and other media texts with a critical mindset. Being a critic of perfume ads, which are usually sexual and displayed everywhere in the world is very important. Advertisers expose us to these ads all day and make us believe that if we wear a certain product, then women will flock to us in abundance. This is why it is important to critically examine media text and not just believe everything we see in the media as the goal of advertising is to draw us in and make us spend our money. Also, it is important for us to be able to note and pick up how advertisers make use of certain cultural codes and conventions especially when it comes to how women are portrayed in adverts, as women are always used as a sexual object to help sell a product and we should take the advertisers to task for doing so.