ESSAY QUESTION: Use a semiotic analysis to discuss the ways that gender is represented in one of the images provided (Nescafe advertisement).

Essay by bzzzbeeCollege, UndergraduateA, May 2002

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Semiotic analysis is useful for examining texts, to "unravel structures of meaning beyond mere presence or absence" (Van Zoonen: 74). In this essay semiotics will be used to discuss ways that gender is represented in a Nescafe advertisement published in CLEO. The idea of first, second and third orders of signification, as outlined by Liesbet Van Zoonen, can be used as one way to analyse this advertisement, by describing the literal elements of the image (denotation), interpreting the associations that the image draws upon (connotation), and finally identifying the manifest expression structuring the overall meaning of the advertisement.

Identification of relevant signs and their dominant aspects is the first step in making a semiotic analysis. This advertisement for Nescafè Espresso Coffee features male Greek/Australian celebrity Nick Giannopoulos (aka 'The Wog Boy'), striking a pose on the dance-floor. He wears a white t-shirt, black pants, shoes, belt, and leather jacket. His pose partly conceals a background logo, with only the words 'Strong', 'Spirited', and 'Dark', being fully recognisable.

In the denotative sense these words represent the strong, dark and spirited flavour of Nescafè coffee. 'Nescafè' is printed boldly across the top of the page with the words 'Express Yourself' across the bottom of the page, denoting that drinking Nescafè allows you to Express Yourself. There is no real mention of coffee in this advertisement - if the audience didn't know what Nescafè was, they may have trouble understanding the ad. There are no pictures of coffee, and no coffee colours, eg brown, are used.

Second order signification examines potential cultural values and beliefs expressed by a sign (Van Zoonen: 76). The denotative signs provoke numerous connotative meanings. The words 'Strong', and 'Spirited' reflect the personality of the celebrity, while 'Dark' could be in reference to his ethnic...