Semiotic Analysis of 3 Magazine Advertisements

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In this modern world that allows consumers access to dozens of instances of media advertisements per day (consciously, or sub-consciously), it is important to be able to recognize and interpret advertisements on a deeper level. These advertisements are comprised of several codes and conventions that are designed to attract attention to certain attributes of a product in order to sell it to the chosen target market. One effective method of targeting and selling a product to a specific demographic is through magazine advertising. Magazines have very specific niche markets in which consumers purchase a magazine based on their individual hobbies, wants, needs, social class etc. This allows marketers to target a specific market by placing an ad in a magazine that their target consumer may purchase on a frequent basis. Magazines in many cases are gender specific; this allows advertisers to target their ads and products to a specific sex. A magazine such as Cosmopolitan is aimed at young, professional women and their advertising reflects as such, whereas, an example of a magazine aimed at males of the same age and social status is Maxim. These magazine's advertisements utilize very different codes and conventions to appeal to men or women in the gender specific text. Male magazine ads are generally power and status themed, while on the other hand women's advertisements are usually aimed at self improvement through beauty products. Semiotics, which utilizes the analysis of signs in a societal context, is a very useful theory when dissecting various media content. Specifically, this essay will examine the usefulness of semiotics in reference to magazine advertising through the analysis of three advertisements. The use of Barthes' ideas regarding myths will also be utilized in explaining how mythic signs reinforce the dominant values of our culture in advertising (Griffin, 364). These ads will be from women's magazines aimed at young, professional women. This paper will argue that advertisements appeal to women through semiotic methods concerned with physical self improvement in an attempt to fit into society's image of the ideal woman, thus utilizing and confirming Barthes' semiotic theory.

Women's advertising in many magazines is strongly focused with the idea of physical self-improvement through the use of beauty products such as make up and with the utilization of weight loss products. A semiotic analysis of advertisements located in a magazine targeted at women can reveal the use of signs that pray on societal myths which encourage women to strive and fit the status quo of a thin, pretty woman through the use of self-improvement products (Clare, 1998). The first Ad to be analyzed was located in a Cosmopolitan magazine from March 2007 and is for the product Brava which specializes in a natural breast enlargement product. The advertisement uses a variety of signifiers which publicize both the identity of the brand and an image which is in line with the ideology of the text in which it appears, which in this case is the youthful, glamorous, female targeted Cosmopolitan magazine. The syntagm of this ad - which is described as an orderly combination of interacting signifiers which forms a meaningful whole (Chandler. 1997) - features a close up of a shirtless woman covering her breasts with her crossed, raised arms (figure A). The woman appears to be rather young although a majority of her face is left out of the ad so it is impossible to tell. The content of the ad is overtly sexual as the woman's breasts are the visual focus of the ad and the remainder of her body is cut off which would cause the reader to mentally expand the frame of the photo. Superimposed on the image of the woman's midsection is the main text of the ad which reads "add size where you really want it", together the image of the woman and the text form a unified message or sign. Although when the text is looked at of the ad on a basic level, it is easy to see...
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