Skyy Vodka Advertisement Essay Assignment

The advertisement on the left is promoting ‘Xeryus Rouge’ a fragrance for men by Givenchy. This example of advertisement emphasizes the various levels of meaning which are present in a sign, as argued by Barthes 1973. To start looking at the signifiers I will turn to lighting and colours, this advert’s softly focused, silver and white photography acts as a signifier which gives a sense of sensuality to the image.

The advertisement uses an image of the product identify it and a human subject which is the key image to give the product a personality, it is important to note that the product is the only thing on the advert which has a burst of colour, based on the mise-on-scene I know that this is for a reason, and the reason is to highlight the product and make it look attractive to the audience.

The position of the couple; their nudity and physical contact are further signifiers of both the theme of the advert and the sexuality of the male subject which leads me to apply Goffman’s theory; here the male subject is shown to be dominant as he is the one shown in control of the situation whilst the female model is portrayed in a sexual, reclining position with her head thrown back in a plateau of joy, she has a ‘chocolate box’ expression; this is a half-smile, lips slightly parted and three quarter face to camera, their smooth perfection lacks uniqueness and/or individuality.

The appearance of both subjects are further signifiers, both are young and in their peak of physical and sexual condition. The signified description of the male subject; who uses his physical strength after gaining confidence by wearing the product to please a woman depict him as the ideal role model for a heterosexual man. The status of the man has been well established but why is this important?

To answer this question we must look at the target audience and where the advert will be placed, it is most likely it will be on a men’s magazine, it is therefore likely that the readers of this advert will aspire to be as confident and powerful just like the male subject is shown to be in the picture. When a sign is present an ideology is too, the ideology behind this advert is one which shows machismo.

There isn’t much writing on the picture; this tells us that more is given away by the pictures. However the writing that is there contains the name of the product and the famous brand: Givenchy. This has been done to add value perhaps as it is a well-known designer brand whose products are retailed at high prices. The name of the product itself: Xeryus Rouge, Rouge is red whilst Xeryus is the name of a Greek god, a lover who embodies masculine strength with his conquering and wild scent.

This already tells me what kind of image the creators want to portray about what the person who wears this perfume will ‘become’. We can apply another theory to this advert: Mulvey’s theory “The male gaze”. The advert is very much in the male protagonist’s point of view, we can see that the woman is portrayed from a male point of view and has been objectified, to gaze means more than just to look at, it implies a psychological relationship of power in which the gazer is superior to the object of the gaze- Schroeder.

In conclusion this semiotic analysis of a product has revealed that the signifiers have been placed in the advertisement to create an image in the potential buyer’s mind, an image which shows them becoming ‘better’ by purchasing this product, it is a clever advert which may have been the reason behind why the fragrance was so popular and the reason why the customers bought into it.

ENG101 -- English Composition I

Prof. Eileen Joy (Fall 2003)

Essay 2

Cultural Critique

In-Class Draft WorkshopWed., Oct. 29th
Final Draft DueWed., Nov. 5th
Format4-5 pages, double-spaced, 1"-margins

In this essay, you are going to practice your hand at cultural critique. By "culture," I mean "the artistic products of a society at any given moment in history," but that is also a broad definition. For your purposes in this essay, "culture" refers to contemporary youth culture and its ideas about style and "coolness," and also to advertising and marketing campaigns that revolve around the selling of products (clothing, food, cars, music, games, etc.) to American high school and college students. For the purposes of this essay, "culture" also refers to the different ways people on the inside and the outside of youth culture perceive its beliefs and values and modes of presentation. By "critique," I mean "a critical judgment or assessment." Therefore, in your "cultural critique" essay, you will demonstrate your abilities to thoughtfully analyze and critically comment upon one specific aspect of the marketing of youth culture.

It is important here to understand that when you undertake a "cultural critique," you are not commenting upon something only to determine whether or not you "like" or "dislike" it--that is critical writing at its most simplistic, and is similar to what a movie or music reviewer does. However, even a "reviewer" has to make some kind of value judgment based upon certain criteria--in other words, the writer has to make an evaluation ("good" vs. "bad" or "entertaining" vs. "boring") and also provide the reasoning behind that evaluation, and the same thing has to happen in your cultural critique. So, yes, a "cultural critique" involves evaluation and judgment, but it is first and foremost an "analysis": a "taking apart" and "explaining" how, for example, the Abercrombie & Fitch website actually "works"--how is it presented to us (image-wise, text-wise, audio- and video-wise, the arrangement of all the elements, etc.), what signals and messages does it convey, what kind of "brand essence" does it present, what "world" or group does it invoke, what kind of response is it trying to trigger, how is it trying to "connect" with your needs and desires on a psychological or social level? Further, what does the website look like on the surface, and what lurks underneath--what messages are overt (obvious), and what messages are implied (hidden)? And so on and so forth. And after commenting on how the website actually "works" to display/convey itself to its niche market--high school and college students--you could evaluate and judge it on any number of levels. For example, is the advertising racist? Is it sexist? Is it successful? Is it truthful (and on what level or levels)? Is it socially harmful in any way? Is it immoral? Does it matter if it's immoral or socially harmful? Does it, as O'Neill might argue, "reflect the values and motivations of the real world?" And for the purposes of THIS assignment, the question is: does the website reflect the values and motivations of your generation?

But here's what you really want to know about how to get started:

  1. First, you begin with a debatable question: does the website of [fill in company's name here] reflect the values and motivations of my generation?
  2. Second, analyze the website itself (how, exactly, does the advertising actually "work," in the ways I have outlined above, in order to connect with your age group?).
  3. Third, articulate, with a full and detailed explanation of your reasoning, how you ultimately answer the question.

And here is how an outline of the essay might look:

  1. An introduction providing some basic information about the company and website you will be analyzing and what the debatable question is--this is what we call the THESIS QUESTION approach, because you are going to withhold your answer to the question until the conclusion; also, I want you to spend some time in your introduction (which can be more than one paragraph) describing what you think your generation's core values, motivations, and ambitions are (granted, this is mainly your opinion related to your own beliefs and what you see around you every day, and I know you are not a social scientist with all sorts of statistics to draw upon, but I still expect to see you take a thoughtful stab at this, and you might want to even interview your friends and fellow students, who you can then quote in your paper). You might also address the issue of what you and your friends consider to be the essential "cool" products to have.
  2. Some background information (we call this CONTEXT) about how companies go about targeting and attempting to connect with "youth culture" (this is where the Frontline documentary, "The Merchants of Cool," plus the interviews on the website syllabus and the links under "Resources for Students" will be most useful to you)
  3. The analysis of the website itself, with paragraphs built around specific points you want to make about what different aspects of the website are actually saying/doing; keep in mind that even though your analysis needs to be objective (on one level, you're simply reporting what you see), it is also ARGUMENTATIVE, because you ultimately want to make a value judgment (which you will get to in conclusion) about what the advertising is doing on a deeper level, and therefore, your analysis should focus upon those aspects of the advertising most relevant to your main issue--please refer to Chapter 10, "Analyzing Images," in your Allyn & Bacon Guide to Writing (pp. 218-34), for assistance with this part of the essay
  4. A conclusion that indicates to your reader how you ultimately answer the question you first posed in your introduction--please refer to pages 541-543 in your Allyn & Bacon Guide to Writing for some assistance with crafting your conclusion

NOTE: I obviously expect to see you utilize the information you learn about how different companies market and advertise to young adults to aid you with your thinking and the writing of the essay itself, and you will want to quote directly from the website links provided on the syllabus as well as under the "Resources for Students" webpage. Because this is not a fully-fledged research paper, I will not be asking you to formally cite your research resources (that will happen in Essay #3), but I do expect to see you use quotation and paraphrase of sources, and I do want you to introduce, in the body of your paper, where your quotations are coming from, and to enclose them with quotation marks. For example: According to Sharon Lee of Look-Look Company, in an interview on PBS's Frontline show, "We live in an adult-centered view of the world." And if you paraphrase information from one or more of the website links (in other words, you get information from a website and put it in your own words), please indicate where you got your information from in the body of your paper. For example: According to the About Face website, which is dedicated to combating negative images of women in advertising, about one out of every eleven advertisements has some kind of message about beauty.

For assistance with how to integrate quotations from outside sources into your writing, please refer to the following link: The Nuts and Bolts of College Writing: Effective Quoting.

Website Options (if there is a company you are more interested in, that you also think has an interesting and multi-faceted website, let me know in advance and I'll review and approve it)

Abercrombie & Fitch


Apple Computer







Sean John


SKYY Vodka




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *