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Let’s take a look at an easy way to analyze the advertising image.  Developed in 1976, it is called iconic lexicalization and was proposed by L. Porcher.  It is free of any communicational, psychological or sociological element.

It is part of a theory called radical structuralism.

It is composed of four parts.

The first part is that of a separation of significants and significations:  a group of people is asked to note what an image suggests to them.  Then they are asked to isolate the significants and significations: parts of the image that suggest a certain idea.

The second part is a control of the initial results.  Certain parts of the image are retrieved and then a verification is made: does the image still suggests the idea?  In an ad for Winston, the idea of holiday is produced by a number of significants: snow, mountain, trees, skis.

Now we make certain connections:

  • If it were no snow in the image, the idea of holiday would be absent.
  • If it were no mountain, the idea of holiday would be absent.
  • If there were no trees, the idea of holiday would holiday would be present.
  • If it were no skis, the idea of holiday would be present.

So a first conclusion is that the images of snow and mountain constitute the nucleus of the image.

The third step is that of the construction of sense.  In our case, the sense is holiday as it is constructed by snow and mountain.

The fourth step is the organization of sense.  Here some chains of signification are realized.  The example is a Marlboro ad and its significance, MASCULINITY.

What suggests masculinity in this ad?

  1. The presence of the man’s body
  2. The robust air
  3. Man’s haircut
  4. The fact that his head is covered by hair
  5. The fact that his hair style is somehow negligent
  6. The fact that his eyes can be seen
  7. The fact that his eyes look sharp

That leaves us with the conclusion that the significance of MASCULINITY is powerful enough and it gives a structure to the way we look at it.


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