A Semiotic Analysis of an Advertising Image

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The advertisement analyzed in this study features a woman’s body holding a perfume bottle between her breasts. The image is analyzed using Roland Barthes’s theory of the image, which suggests that the signified concept of the advertisement is communicated through specific attributes of the product. The linguistic message of the advertisement is present in the sign title, which reveals that the fragrance is the first for men from Tom Ford. The image is composed of several signs, including the placement of the perfume bottle between the woman’s breasts, which suggests a sexual connotation, and the woman’s red lipstick and nails, which enhance her sex appeal. These signs emphasize the intended hidden identity of the advertisement.

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Illustrating a female body in an advertising image is a common case. I have chosen to implement a semiotic analysis of the men’s fragrance advertisement based on Roland Barthes’s theory of the image. On the layout of the advertisement by Tom Ford appears a part of woman’s body. Cutting half of the head off from the top and everything beneath the breast from the bottom it is only possible to see her open mouth with red lipstick and her hands with red nail polish squeezing the breasts together to hold between them the iconic image of a perfume bottle, which is supposed to be the advertised product.

The parts of a woman’s body and the fragrance bottle are all components of the advertisement’s signified concept. As Roland Barthes describes in his text “the signifieds of the advertising message are formed a priori by certain attributes of the product and these attributes have to be transmitted as clearly as possible”. The linguistic message of an advertisement is present in every image.

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The only linguistic message that appeals to the viewer is the sign title Tom Ford ‘The first fragrance for men from Tom Ford. The sign gives the name of the brand of fragrance, but also underlines on the advertisement image that it is the first released fragrance of Tom Ford. There is no strong relationship between the signifier, in this case the image of the woman’s body and the linguistic message beneath the image.

But as Barthes writes, that only a photograph can communicate the ‘literal information’ of the image without any signs and ‘rules of transformation’. A number of signs are hidden behind the image. The fragrance bottle is placed in one of the most sensitive parts of the woman’s body – between her breasts, where a man’s hand or head would most probably be aimed during a sexual interaction. The perfume is usually applied either on the neck or on the wrist.

This brings a conclusion that the bottle of fragrance might be imitating a man’s part of the body. The second two signs are visible on the woman’s appearance in the image. The ‘red’ colour of her lipstick and nails boost the sex appeal, and the shining body conveys her stimulant and passionate mood. As Barthes discovered, there are ‘various levels of meanings between signs and there are specific signifiers emphasise the adverts intended hidden identity’.

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A Semiotic Analysis of an Advertising Image. (2017, Feb 14). Retrieved from


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