Gayness In Print Advertisement: A Semiotic Analysis
Advertisements are ubiquitous; hence, these are seen in different forms such as print and electronic which make the advertisements more interesting, creative, attractive, and persuasive especially in terms of appearance. Cook (1992, p.5) says that advertising is a well-known type of discourse in the society. Moreover, it is well-established and it has also been progressing especially in the modern era that people live in.
Companies advertise in order for the people to recognize and eventually patronize their products. According to Thomas (2016) only 50% of all advertisements are effective in motivating customers to choose or decide on the products that they like or want to buy. After which, they will either stick to the product as their brand or completely change it and they will try to look for a new one. This only means that companies use signs and symbols in their advertisements to attract people. This way, people can consider of buying their products. Fisk (1990, p.43) states that signs carry something that generates meaning. As a matter of fact, Saussure supposes that language is constructed by arbitrary signs. Therefore, signs are physical objects that carry meaning and they can either be signifier or signified. Signifier is the discrete visual element while signified is the meaning or idea expressed by the sign.
Nowadays, advertisements have become a tool for communication that influences people’s attitude toward the product that the company is selling, the brand name of the product, and the company itself, among others (Chand and Chaudhary 2012, p.40). According to Williamson (1983), an advertisement does not initially create meaning; instead, it invites people to make a transaction where is passed from one thing to another. This only exudes the critical role of advertisements in persuading consumers to buying products. To successfully convey meaning of the advertisement, the meaning of signs has to be understood. Fairclough (1962) states that individual signs and their combinations are controlled in such a way that it needs to have a persuasive function in advertisements. Therefore, in doing a semiotic analysis of an advertisement, it has to be thoroughly executed and if there is a need for the signs and symbols to be taken out of the page of the ad, this must be done.
Bignell (1997, p.78) believes that when scanning the print ads, the qualities that bring it together and set it apart from other media are the ones that could be labeled, ‘artistic’; the range of color, the sense of sign, intertextuality and the beauty of the forms. For instance, many print advertisements are found in magazines which are said to be “just a collection of signs.” These signs may include paradigmatic and syntagmatic elements such as the title of the magazine, the fonts used, the layout, the colors, the texture of the paper, the language adopted, and the content of the articles, among others. Each of these signs has been selected because it has a corresponding meaning.
Apparently, advertising can do a lot of things. It is in fact, an agent or some kind of force that moves across culture, race, and various perspectives and ideologies which are motivated just to increase sales at the end of the tunnel. The power and influence brands have toward people cannot be denied but are justified by how much is invested in it. This is why it is imperative to look deeper on how it influences especially when this influence is used to disrupt the status quo. Therefore, a thorough analysis of the signs and symbols is needed to decipher and completely understand the message that the advertisement wants to convey. In the current era, companies use different images, stories, among others to capture the interest of the people. As a matter of fact, one of the hottest issues in the country is gender equality; hence, many companies use this ideology to promote their products.
This paper is anchored on the theory of the grammar of visual design proposed by Kress and Leeuwen (1996) for analyzing visual communication.
Kress and Van Leeuwen (1996) introduce the existence of a visual code or grammar of visual design. This encapsulates the idea that both visual and verbal structures can be used to express meanings drawn from common cultural sources. For instance, linguistic structures and visual structures point to particular interpretations of experience and forms of social interactions (Kress and Van Leeuwen, 1996, p.2). This only suggests that meaning can be both drawn from verbal and visual structures and not just by verbal structures alone. Hence, they debunk the argument of Barthes’ which is, “The meaning of images (and of other semiotic codes) is always related to, and in a sense, depended on verbal text.” (Barthes, 1967, cited in Kress & van Leewen, 2006, p.17).
The present paper focuses on the gayness in print advertisement. Specifically, it seeks to answer the following questions:
The study used the qualitative method to gather comprehensive data and in-depth understanding on the existence of Gayness in Print Advertisement.
This study focuses on the print advertisement that Bench launched in February 2015 which promotes same-sex relationship. Moreover, in this study, ideological concepts combine with semiotic analyzing of these ads to find their interdiscursal features according to what proposed by Kress and van Leeuwen (1996).
According to Bignell (2002, p.32) the first step in analyzing an advertisement is to note the various signs in the advertisement itself. Therefore, it can be assumed that anything which seems to carry a meaning in the ad is a sign.
In February 2015, Bench, one of the biggest local clothing lines in the country launched its billboard in EDSA titled, “All kinds of love.” The advertisement became controversial because it was about gayness or homosexuality. Tsai (2006) writes about the crucial nature of advertising for LGBTQIA+ community formation, “Advertising targeting gay consumers manifests marketing ideologies that attempt to define and shape the contemporary conception of gayness” (p. 27). Obviously, the goal of Bench’s advertisement was to promote the mantra, “Loving all kinds of love” which means love has no boundaries and this includes same-sex relationship.
In the advertisement, Bench which is the advertising company used a large, capital, white text, and bold letters in highlighting its slogan which is, “Love all kinds of love.” It is also placed in the center of the advertisement and written on the image. This is perhaps to draw the readers’ attention and trigger their curiosity about the message of the advertisement. This way, the readers will be eager to know more about the advertisement, read more information about it, and eventually go to Bench and buy its products.
Kress (2010, p.88) states that meaning can be drawn through the quality of font such as its color. Moreover, the color of the advertisement in general is dark. According to Scott-Kemmis (2018), deep and heavy colors suggest control, steadiness and conservatism or sophistication, or drama and boldness or combination of all. Thus, meaning is socially made, socially agreed and socially and culturally specific. This is very much applicable to the Bench advertisement for the reason that the two men in the advertisement seem sophisticated yet bold because they are not afraid to show the public about their status.
Color is the first thing that the readers notice; hence, this plays an important role especially to the success of the advertisement. Advertisers use color to reflect a specific brand, as well as to communicate a certain mood dictated by the product and the meaning of the advertisement that the advertiser wants to send across.
The advertiser used an image of two men who look good, neat and decent. Both of them are wearing a suit which exudes that they are from a well-off and known family. They are Vince Uy who is a creative director and his boyfriend Nino Gaddi who is a makeup artist. Beasley & Danesi (2002) believe that the ads are usually endorsed by celebrities to make the product appear reliable. This is a strategy on the part of the advertiser to capture the attention of the people especially the members of the LGBTQIA+ community. Looking at the advertisement, the two men are both smiling and it seems that they are close and have known each other for some time. However, if the reader pays close attention to the details of the advertisement, then, it is noticeable that the left arm of the man on the left side of the advertisement is wrapped around the neck of the other man while his right hand is holding the right shoulder of the man on the right. Looking at this, the readers would have an idea that the two men in the advertisement are not just friends. It is also noticeable that they are holding hands. Moreover, their faces and bodies are touching each other’s. Albeit, there is no lascivious gesture in the advertisement but based on the position, space, and distance of the two men in the advertisement, it is confirmed that they are couple.
The couple in the advertisement is smiling which only exudes that they are happy and probably content with the relationship or status that they have. Their names are even written below the slogan of the advertisement. Although the size of it is small but this does not matter for the reason that the main goal is to send the message of the advertisement across to the readers which is, “Love all kinds of love.” Apparently, this promotes same-sex relationship.
The logo and name of the advertising company are written at the lower left corner of the advertisement. This can mean two things. First, the company supports the LGBTQIA+ community which means that they advocate gender equality and diversity in the society. Second, this is a good marketing ploy. This specifically targets the members of LGBTQIA+ as well as people who are open-minded when it comes to same-sex relationship. This also implies that the advertising company welcomes and accepts diversity.
As a matter of fact, there were certain groups of people who negatively reacted on this advertisement; therefore, the advertising company put a black paint on the hands of the men on the advertisement to cover that they are holding hands a few days after the issue came up. This only implies that there are still a lot of people who cannot accept this kind of relationship. In addition, this also strengthens the fact that conservatism among Filipinos is still observed.
This study exudes that different advertising companies use signs, symbols, and colors to successfully communicate the message of the advertisement. The effective use of signs, symbols, and colors highlight the ideologies that are found in the advertisement. Moreover, there are advertising companies who are creative enough and come up with some advertisements that break the old and stereotypical norms such as the use of LGBTQIA+ community which is very timely and relevant especially that a lot members of this community are fighting for their rights as well as equality. Doing this is effective so that the advertisement would catch the attention of the people which is a good marketing ploy.
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