Discourse and Digital Media

A Multimodality Analysis of Perfume Advertisements

In this exercise I will apply elements of multimodality analysis to two perfume adverts found in 21st century fashion magazines. The first advertisement was featured in French magazine ‘Elle’ promoting the brand Dior. The fragrance ‘j’adore’ is targeted at women between the ages of 18-25 years old who match the demographic of ‘Elle’ magazine. The second advertisement belongs to style magazine ‘GQ’ promoting Paco Rabanne’s aftershave ‘Invictus’ targeted at men between the ages of 18-25 years old. Though both of these products are fragrances the way they are being marketed to appeal to men and women differ in some ways due to the representation of gender within modern society. 

Dior’s ‘j’adore’ has a sepia tone colour palette featuring warm shades of gold; using Kress & Van Leeuwen’s semiotics of colour, at associative value the colour gold has connotations of luxury and affluence (Machin 2007: 67). This reinforces the high-end brand Dior has created for itself which uses elegance to appeal to a female audience. In contrast, ‘Invictus’ uses a cool, dark colour palette that features shades of blue. Within modern societry the colour blue is associated with masculinity which makes it instantly recognisable for its male audience.

In terms of iconography Barthes’ semiotic theory of how images can denote and connote can be applied (Machin & Mayr 2012: 49). Dior’s ‘j’adore’ denotes a young woman posed gracefully in front of a crystal chandelier; the meaning of ‘j’adore’ translates to ‘worship as a deity’ and has connotations of ‘love’ placing the product in a world of divinity and emotion. Dior connotes women are more in touch with their emotions and therefore use this approach to appeal to them. The perfume bottle for ‘j’adore’ takes after a thin, hourglass shape connoting elegance, the model also shares similar features such as a long neck and small mid-section. Designers have made this choice to appeal to an audience of young women as social expectations teach them to take after this shape thus grabbing their attention. Paco Rabanne’s ‘Invictus’ also refers to elements of a higher power though they focus on traits such as confidence rather than personal emotions. ‘Invictus’ presents an athletic, heavily tattooed man resembling a Grecian gladiator suggesting this is modern society’s expectation of men. The name ‘Invictus’ translates to ‘undefeated’ in Latin and refers to the 19th century poem written by William Ernest Henley that discusses bravery at the doors of death. The shape of the bottle resembles a trophy connoting victory which creates coherence with the gladiator Grecian theme. This all helps to appeal to a male audience as stereotypical masculine traits such as bravery and strength are portrayed creating the implicature the product will increase your masculinity.

Main action vectors help direct the audience to the focal points of images (Jones 2012: 121). ‘Invictus’ features naked Grecian women on either side of the product; the direction of their face’s point toward the model above. This indicates the narrative within the advertisement presenting the model as a dominant God. The naked women are seen clutching their chest similar to the models pose in Dior’s ‘j’adore’ portraying women as vulnerable yet sexual. Mulvey argues that women are portrayed as passive beings in media and are often objectified sexually referring to them as the ‘leitmotif’ of erotic spectacle (Mulvey 1989: 19). Though Dior is targeting women we see the model from the perspective of a male presenting her as a sexual being through the imagery of her dress strap falling down. ‘Invictus’ uses this approach through the Grecian women and objectifies them by relying on their presence to appeal to a male audience therefore implying the product will increase men’s attractiveness.

Halliday’s model of context can be applied to the choices made by the designers to attract their intended audience. Halliday’s ideational metafunction explores what is going on in a text (Halliday & Hasan 2013: 26). Both adverts feature the serif typeface to reflect the professionalism of the brands however the heavy typeface used in ‘Invictus’ grabs the viewers attention and conforms to the expectation men should be dominant. The interpersonal metafunction refers to the roles and relationships of participants (Halliday & Hasan 2013: 26). Both designers are promoting their product to their intended audience; this is achieved through the organisational layout of the advert as both main models create eye contact with the viewer thus using synthetic personalisation to communicate to their audiences.

In conclusion my analysis has revealed a persistent theme when it comes to perfume advertisements; this is due to the fact it is difficult to market a product that relies on scent. Designers therefore create fictional atmospheres with a strong sense of emotion and portray ideologies that viewers will be able to relate to. Paco Rabanne presents the ideology that men should be dominant and courageous while Dior uses emotion to express the importance of physical appearance. Designers therefore use gender stereotypes to market their products to men and women; this is an effective approach as using recognisable gender conventions is the easiest way to grab your intended audience’s attention. ‘Invictus’ presents men as active participants shown through the models dominant stance while female participants are portrayed as passive with a focus on appearance rather than traits. Though both products are fragrances and use similar features to advertise themselves such as limited text, gender stereotypes are enforced to appeal to their specific audience.

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Domain Self-Reflection

January 11, 2019