Introduction to Semiotics and Communication
Course Assignment – An Analysis of an Advertisement
August 6, 2002

The advertisement is one for ‘Silken Vodka’ (a made up company). The Vodka bottle was taken from the ‘Smirnoff’ website and the model for the ad was taken from ‘Cosmopolitan’ magazine (June 2000 issue). Additionally, the slogan was taken from the ‘Find Your Voice’ campaign for ‘Virginia Slims’. The meaning that is being sent out is a statement of female independence and self-sufficiency while still retaining the exterior beauty and luxury associated with being female.

‘Silken Vodka’ attempts to make the advertisement as ambiguous as possible in order to add power to the ad. Through minimalization of the positive space, the negative space (and its lack of detail) enhances the subject. The first impression of the ad implies any number of suggestions that discreetly hint at every possible product targeting women, including makeup, perfume, jewelry, or beauty aids. However, upon closer inspection, the article is in fact an advertisement for alcohol.

Initially the viewer’s eye is first drawn to the face of the women. From there, a subtle string of font leads the viewer’s eye to towards the product name and slogan. This small line of words acts as a visual guide (an index), rather than as text, finally pointing the way to the iconic signifier (i.e. the vodka bottle). The icon seems to gleam silver (a colour often associated with sleek, subtlety and strength) greatly drawing the attention of the viewer towards the product.

When the viewer finally focuses his/her attention on the text, he/she will encounter a vague catch phrase that can be interpreted on infinite levels. This message willfully strikes the consciousness and provokes thought. “NEVER let the goody two shoes get you down.” One can only assume that the woman in the ad is the speaker since there is no other person present. With whom is the narrator communicating with? One conclusion would be that the narrator is speaking to herself. However, the viewer of the ad may also take it as a personal message to himself/herself and adopt the message as his/her own.

The general message sent out to the public by the ad is self-empowerment and independent thinking. The capitalization, larger font, and the differing direction of the word ‘NEVER,’ in relation to the rest of the phrase, helps to emphasizes a strong drive and resistance to a particular object or action. The text has several possible connotative meanings. In general, ‘Goody two shoes’ represents a person who always does the “right” or moral thing.  The ‘goody two shoes’ could be both an external or internal force. Denotatively, the word “down” implies a direction. However, connotatively, “down” can also mean to feel badly or to be upset. How then, can a ‘good’ and moral person (i.e. the ‘goody two shoes’) cause another person to become guilty or upset? One can only conclude that the action contemplated or completed by the other person must have been ‘wrong’ or socially unacceptable to receive reprimanding from a ‘goody two shoes’. The text can be interpreted for one not to feel guilty over a decision already made, or it can involve a decision to be made in the future: whether to drink at all. Since neither of these actions are clearly defined as the "immoral deed", the text connotes that the woman in question employs this attitude in many other aspects of her life. Sex, food, money, cigarettes; all of which could easily substitute alcohol in this ad, easily identify themselves as borderline controversial subjects in modern society. Therefore, due to the vague of the text, the ad may be connoting a broad, pseudo feminist lifestyle approach. By using the concept of “holding to your choices” the text may be hinting at broader issues than just the alcohol seen in this ad.

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The positioning of the text also can be interpreted to show that the model in this ad had been freed of the confinement of the ‘goody two shoes’ attitude. The initial word of the text, ‘NEVER’, is read vertically as opposed to the remainder of the text, ‘let the goody two shoes get you down’, which is read horizontally. The verticality of the word can be iconic of someone standing up. One can almost see in one’s mind a person standing up in aggressive opposition in order to voice their opinion. This adds further meaning to the catch slogan ‘Find ...

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