Semiotics: The Science of Signs and How We Use Them to Convey Meaning

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I will be conducting a semiotic analysis on the Loreal “This Is an Ad for Men” lipstick advert, by focusing on the heteronormativity of beauty standards and patriarchy placed behind this advert. When majority of people look at this lipstick advert, the perceived notation that arises is that the more females placed into leadership roles in companies, the higher the company’s profitability will be. Considerations of hegemony, discourse, and ideology will be analyzed, including factors such as paralanguage and preferred meaning, implied narrative, symbolic signs, denotative and connotative signs, anchorage, codeplay and photographic codes. 

I will furthermore conclude my analysis by supplying my own personal implied narrative. A semiotics analysis aims to understand and interpret signs and sign systems. Signs cannot stand by themselves because they use their settings to preserve meaning. Advertisements use signs to transfer a message or to promote a product that may appeal to the public. Through the use of semiotics, it is clear that the Loreal advert “This Is an Ad for Men” is used to challenge society's stereotypical beliefs of men running a workplace. To conduct a rigorous analysis of the advertisement, it is helpful to retain background information on the given brand, Loreal. 

According to Wikipedia, “It is the world's largest cosmetics company and has developed activities in the field concentrating on hair color, skin care, sun protection, make-up, perfume, and hair care.” When analyzing the advert on a denotative level, we are greeted with four images of Loreal red lipsticks with a bright gold casing, we see percentages under each lipstick which represents the quota of women in a company. The lipstick is seen to get rolled up higher every time the percentage of women increases in the company. 

This indicates that revenue in the company increase when there are more female leaders. The background of the advertisement goes from a bright red to darker shades of red towards the bottom of the advert, so that the smaller text at the bottom can be read easier. At a first glance the words “This Is an Ad for Men” stand out in big, bold, white letters, suggesting that this advert is directed to males requesting their immediate attention. This is a clear indication of paralanguage whereby meaningful behaviour accompanies language. This advert could basically be viewed as a bar graph, instead of bars lipsticks are used to indicate the statistics due to Loreal being a cosmetic company.

Codes operate through conventions in order to communicate meaning. Red lipstick conatively holds a symbolism for women and is the focal point of this advertisement. The colour red is a major colour used in this advert, it symbolises passion, danger and sexuality in western culture. When women wear red, they are associated with seduction and sensuality, red is seen as a sexual symbol for males. This highlights how men sexualises women in the workplace and on a daily basis. Red could further symbolise empowerment of strong women “Red lipstick is a source of strength” says Poppy King, leading us to believe that a woman is capable of getting the job done just as well as a man. 

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Gold is often a colour linked to wealth and power, it used to symbolise powerful women. For years there have been stereotypes placed on women, people believed that beautiful women could not hold positions of power due to them not being as smart as a male. Historically women have been overlooked in most economic fields. Women were given a ‘Barbie girl’ image. Therefore the use of lipstick to represent women and to show the increase in revenue in companies, as well as the indicated message of placing women in power has a great connotation, This indicates that a woman can be smart and beautiful, knowledge should not be defined by a woman’s outer appearance. The words “This Is an Ad for men” Connotatively highlight the patriarchy in a workplace, showing male dominance of power.

The lipstick is placed in a progressive manner across the centre of the advertisement, this is an iconic sign with modality, as these are signs which resemble what they are signifying. Women are associated with lipstick and cosmetics; they are stereotyped to be self-conceited. However, the advertisement indicates the increase of women holding leadership positions results in an increase of revenue- this goes against societal beliefs and reinforces the purpose of the advert. The statistics are in yellow text positioned adjacent to the lipstick and are therefore emphasized. They have syntagmatic relations to each other, which signifies they acquire meaning from their sequential order. 

Anchorage is apparent in the secondary headline “Hire more women in leadership roles. We’re all worth it.” Linguistic elements ‘anchor’ images because they validate their meanings “. The secondary headline reinforces the image of the lipsticks and statistics, it supports the idea that women are successful leaders in the workplace, regardless of the stereotypes placed upon what the image already depicts. This indicates the broader concept of gender equality within a workplace, as women are unfairly marginalized. A story/event is created due to the sequence of the statistics, indicating the progressive revenue due to female leaders in a workplace.

When closely analysed, the viewers eyes are drawn to the small yellow text resting at the bottom of the image. It speaks of Peterson Institute for international economics which conducted a global survey to inspect if gender diversity is profitable. This could be seen as a symbolic sign linked to “Loreal Paris”, which is written above this in large white lettering. Loreal Paris is a brand associated with women, due to it being a cosmetic/beauty brand. These closely associated texts depict the concept of women standing together against gender inequality in the workplace. These signs contain a paradigmatic relation, this is due to the communication of signs through mutual association. These texts are written in yellow and white against a red background, further emphasising the motive of gender equality and empowerment of women in the working world.

This advert is a utilized collective voice for all females out there that are not taken seriously at work because their skirts are too short, they are wearing too much make up, their outfit is too tight or their perfume smells too nice. Certain standards of beauty have been placed on women that they have been forced to conform to. The add as a whole speaks of gender injustices and discrimination. Women are the focal point of this advert, characterized as the victims. 

The statistics are strengthening this idea as it shows the quotas of women in a workplace. Women/females are continuously mentioned and talked about in this advertisement. In recent years we see masses of women standing together and using their voices in order to bring about change in the stereotypical views of society. “Around the world, women are working together to dismantle barriers, challenge perceptions and improve the lives of women and girls in their communities.”

“We erroneously assume beautiful women are dumb.” Sheena Sharma Women today are taking control of their own futures and trying to put an end to gender injustices. The outbreak of feminism throughout the world is changing perceptions of society. However, we still ask ourselves, is our fight enough? This ad clearly indicates that men still dominates the world, women are not fully liberated. This is evident in the leading caption “This Is an Ad for Men”, which directs our situation to males, indicating that we cannot be fully liberated until they liberate us. 

Therefore, this shows us that they will contain immense power over women. The lipstick connotatively is a symbol for women, the escalation of the lipstick depicts the reader to notice that the statics show a 15% increase in revenue is due to a 30% quota of female leaders. These signs compliment each other in a paradigmatic way, which suggests that women should feel proud and empowered of their womanhood disregarding the expectations of what men and society expect them to be. In conclusion we can deduce that by using a semiotic analysis, the essay above was able to reveal gender injustices which exist the workplace and in daily life. Additionally, we could also convey the heteronormativity of beauty standards and patriarchy placed on women since the beginning of time.  

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