College Work

CA2 – Semiotic Print Advertisement Analysis


(Figure 1.1 Hunky Dory Advertisement 2010)

For the purposes of a semiotic analysis of a print advertisement, I have chosen this Hunky Dory advertisement from 2010 (Fig 1.1). This image, as well as many others in the campaign, faced much criticism for its depiction of women in sport. A second campaign appeared a year later but with GAA sports instead of Rugby which sparked more outcry.

“the Advertising Standards Authority of Ireland (ASAI) ruled that similar ads for Hunky Dorys, but with a rugby theme, had caused grave and widespread offense and should remain permanently withdrawn from all media, including the advertiser’s website.” (Independant, 2011)

This content has been rejected by the audience as state above, so to fully understand why this may be the case, I will take a semiotic approach to analysing the above print advertisement.

Pierce talks about the 3 types of Signifiers when discussing a sign:
An icon is the direct depiction of the event. In this instance, the icon is the photo itself.

The index is what is represented by this image. For example, Smoke is suggestive of a fire. The use of uniformed colors is indicative of sports attire. The presence of a rugby ball furthers this idea that the image represents a sporting event.

The symbol is culturally learned before it can be understood. To someone unfamiliar with the sport of rugby this image would fail to communicate its message. However, to those who understand the sport and the sport of rugby imparticular can understand that a person with shorts, mud or dirt on their skin, in a crouching position holding an oval ball can understand that this is the action of participating in a game of rugby.

Paradigmatic relationships

Following on from the above, the paradigmatic relationship is clear in this image. The previously mentioned posture and clothing of the model in the advertisement are indicative of playing sport. Furthermore, the environment in which the model is situated gives lends more elements to this “sport” image. The grass, the blurred out crowd in the background. Perhaps the two most important elements are the goal posts and the top of the rugby ball. Without these two, this could be any sport. The text further confirms this is associated with rugby, blatantly stating “Proud sponsors of Irish rugby.” If any element was to be substituted, it might create confusion to the receiver. For example, if the model were to hold a tennis ball, the image wouldn’t create the same narrative. Or if the crowd was replaced with a beach scene, the idea of a sporting arena would be lost.

Syntagmatic related signs 

The language used in the advertisement is suggestive when connected with the image. “Are you staring at my crisps” suggests that the model is asking the questions. The use of “my” in this sense is possessive, as in she has crisps in which one could be staring at. However, the absence of crisps in her possession in the image suggests that the sentence has a different meaning. The criticism of this advertisement is its sexualisation of women. The sentence then takes on this ‘tongue in cheek’ meaning with the model questioning if one is looking at her breasts with the substitution of the word crisps.

Narratives and Myths within our culture

The narrative has been discussed above, but what is perhaps most interesting about the advertisement is the failure to create an effective narrative. Rugby is a part of Irish culture, so an advertisement depicting rugby in action should resonate with the receiver. Perhaps the failure is in the dress of the model. Members of the Irish rugby team have been featured in advertisements in the past As seen below an advertisement for Dove Men Care (Fig 1.2) and advertisement for Guinness (Fig 1.3)





(Figure 1.2 Cian Healy – Dove Men Care )



(Figure 1.3 Guinness Ad)

Men in both of these advertisements are dressed in standard sporting gear. Whereas the model in the original image is a highly sexualised version of a female rugby player. The breakdown in the narrative is in its realism.  As a result, the advertisement fails as an effective representation of Irish Rugby, yet may have sucess in using provocative imagery to sell crisps.




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