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Advertising Strategy Essay

1216 words - 5 pages

The United Colors of Benetton, a clothing company known for its unconventional, shocking, and sometimes disturbing advertisements aims to market its clothes by marketing social and global awareness. Whether the ads are effective in selling the product will not be the question addressed here. Instead, one particular advertisement will be analyzed using the language of semiotics in an attempt to reveal the depth of socially constructed meaning in a single photographic image. (Cohn, 2005)In this ad, two young girls of perhaps four or five years of age hug each other with their gazes meeting the camera's lens. Denotatively, it is apparent that one girl is white and the other is black, though their citizenships are unknown. The white girl has blond ringlets, blue eyes, a button nose, and chubby, rosy cheeks. The black girl has coarse hair sculpted into two points and large, dark eyes. The white girl smiles, but the black girl does not. Both are naked (at least from what the viewer can tell based on the top halves of the girls' bodies). The background is left plain white. And the only copy is the United Colors of Benetton green-box logo (not seen in this reproduced image, but verified to be present by other reproductions). (Allen, 2003)Messaris starts his evaluation of images in advertising with a little lesson on semiotics (icons and indexes, in particular). It's true that images 'speak' to viewers in fundamentally different ways than language does. I was reminded of a media studies class I took in which we discussed a powerful and very controversial ad campaign by the United Colors of Benetton-a clothing company. In these ads, there are no words, and the company's clothes do not show up anywhere. The name of the company appears, but only subtly, very much overpowered by the images chosen: images of social, cultural, racial, and environmental causes and injustices. For example, one ad was a duck caught in an oil spill; one was a man (who looked a lot like Jesus) dying of AIDS; one was of a burning car (viewers got to decide for themselves in which country this act of terrorism was taking place). (Allen, 2003)The denotative elements in this ad are simple and few. However, on the connotative level, this advertisement is quite complex. Although the meaning of signs differs for every individual viewer based on his culture, society, and experiences, the signs in the Benetton ad interpreted here will be based on contemporary Western perspective, myths, and ideology.The white girl with her blond curls and pink cheeks is perfectly cherubic-the signifier of a small angel. In Western Christianized societies, there is nothing sweeter or more innocent than the representation of a cherub. On the other hand, the black girl with her dark skin and hair forming two points is quite the opposite of an angel-her hair signifies the horns of the devil. Ideologically, white and black, light and dark, have always been the abstract color symbols for good and evil, angel and...

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