In all forms of advertising, there are connotations, denotations, hidden signs and other related issues that interact with us on a subconscious level. As part of my continuous assessment for this module, I have chosen an advertisement to analyse under the heading above and discuss it with relation to theories learned in class, such as types of signifiers, paradigmatic relationships, syntagmatic related signs and narratives and myths within our own culture.
The advertisement I have chosen was taken and scanned from a copy of the RTÉ guide which is a weekly television guide sold in most Irish newsagents. The magazine features few full-page advertisements and chooses to focus on competitions related to breaks away down the country, among other things. The advertisement itself (shown below) is a nicotine chewing gum advertisement which would replace cigarettes in a smoker’s day-to-day life.
Visually, the ad is very simple; featuring two boxes of the gum against a backdrop of white and green with a red badge and banner over the top. Below the banner is the brand name, nothing out of the ordinary here. Again at the bottom, there is nothing out of the ordinary, save for the small inclusion of an image: a pretty woman with gleaming white teeth. Beside this woman with unusually white teeth is the text “Making life better…”, as if she is saying it to the viewer. The pose with her head tilted is playful and her big smile and friendly eyes are inviting to a potential viewer. It’s safe to say that this is a ‘happy’ advertisement.
Now I’m not against the idea of promoting the sale of nicotine chewing gum. As a smoker who has recently quit I’m all for it, but no one’s teeth are ‘naturally’ that white. Even someone who never smoked a day in their life wouldn’t have gleaming white teeth. Naturally, our teeth are an off ivory or cream colour as opposed to the commonly seen ‘glowing silver’ depiction in most advertisements. The inclusion of this smiling lady signifies to the viewer that if you smoke and if you chew this gum your teeth will be white and clean just like mine are, so buy this item and make your life better.
As an ex-smoker, the largest stigma associated with it is the yellowing of teeth; the idea that a smoker can be spotted a mile away by the colour of their teeth alone. This is a common stereotype associated with smokers and is often played with by the media to promote the sale of anti-smoking paraphernalia. The reality of this is that I could pick 10 non-smokers and compare their teeth to the ad below and none of them would have teeth like the lady pictured unless they had work done recently. The reason why I chose this advertisement over others is the inclusion of the smiling lady alone and nothing else.
The myth that all smokers have yellow or black teeth is played with here, whereas, in reality, no one’s teeth are that perfectly white unless you have celebrity levels of money to keep them that white. Of course, below the image of the woman is a small logo for Clonmel Healthcare. A quick Google search reveals that Clonmel Healthcare is a private company which supply both prescription and over the counter drugs such as the nicotine gum pictured, so of course, they’re going to play with the stigma of ‘smokers teeth’.
To talk about the title ‘Making life better.’ in terms of linguistics in media, this can be broken up into its separate parts. ‘Making’: The item pictured makes something or changes something in some way. ‘Life’: The item pictured affects life in some way. Whose life though? My life? Your life? Life in general? The entire populace of life on Earth perhaps? Finally ‘Better’: This is my favourite because it’s in bold. The item pictured is somehow better in some way, or it will make something better, in this case, your life, or the life of the woman.
In actuality, the title is not clear at all. Whose life is it making better? My life? Will it pay my taxes or help me win the lottery? Of course not, but it is only when it is juxtaposed with the image of the smiling woman and the large image of the gum that it suddenly makes sense. If we were to impose a paradigmatic relationship on the title, perhaps swap the words for synonyms and change their order slightly, let’s say “Creating superior existence…”, we suddenly have a title that suggests something darker and more nefarious, especially with the image of a smiling caucasian lady.
It appears that the only way a syntagmatic relationship is formed is by using the words given in the ad along with the large images of the nicotine gum and the smiling lady, giving us the full message of “If you chew this, your life will improve and you will have teeth like her,”. By imposing a paradigmatic relationship between what can be changed in the title and what the images imply already, something much darker can be drawn from the advertisement as a whole, but luckily, the designer over the ad had chosen the right wording.
In short, the message that is portrayed on to me from this ad is exactly what I mentioned above: “Chew this and get white teeth, just like this woman here”.