Semiotics | Optical (D)illusions

The Image cannot lie | Optical (d)illusions.

Advertising companies frequently adopt the use of subliminal messages, designed to manipulate their audiences. The sale of cigarettes between the 1960’s and 1990’s was significantly influenced by a continual ability to ‘justify’ their consumption. Incorporating positive outcomes has seen underlying issues such as lung and heart disease eventuate into a familiar aspect of modern culture.

Semiotics explores the relationship between symbols and their interpretation. This is expressed through denotation and connotation; the signifiers and the signified.

denotation is what is photographed, connotation is how it is photographed.’’ – John Fiske

The masterminds behind these seductive campaigns would often target people on the basis that smoking would somehow enhance image.

      “Smoking was the common tie between lust and love.” – David Chapman

The image cleverly makes use of a foreground and background. In the foreground the audience is subject to the salient image; the packet of cigarettes. These are held by presumably the hand of a male, due to the hardened nature of the hand, as well as the arm hair – which adds an aura of masculinity. Complementing this feature is the woman in the background, who is drawn to the fact that the man is smoking. The eye contact made between the man and the woman is evident – and acts as a key focus of the advertisement.

This unmistakable eye contact establishes a somewhat intimate relationship between the male and the female. The underlying messaged conveyed is that smoking attracts female attention, therefore enhancing the male image. The seemingly simple concept of smoking is more or less a ‘selling’ point to males who are targeted to believe that women identify smoking to be a contributing factor to a man’s sex appeal. Quite simply, the advertisement connotes the relationship between cigarettes and sex.

Such innuendo could only lead one to believe that the classical way to a girls heart is to stand by a jukebox inhaling a pack of Kool cigarettes. Although in hindsight the modern ‘lady’ could denote that not only do cigarettes cause cancer, but men who smoke them, leave a rather awful taste in your mouth.

Aside from the ‘subtle’ portrayal of intimacy within the advertisement, the Kool cigarette company manage to include a typical scene from presumably a bar or nightclub, plastering the brand name through the reflection of a window. Additionally, the clearly labelled packaging reinforces the brand name of the cigarette, and allows the audience to distinguish the relationship between the cigarettes, the woman and the setting.

I’d love to admit that there are several different interpretations of this image, however when blokes want a smoke – they’ll have a smoke. The very simplicity of the advertisement, as well as the message it sends, ensures that blokes will be more than satisfied after a night out.

With their smoke that is?


About alexdebs

Second year Bachelor of Communications and Media studies student at the University of Wollongong. I am an aspiring journalist with a passion for sport, music and travel.
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4 Responses to Semiotics | Optical (D)illusions

  1. rsg32 says:

    Very smart post which I enjoyed reading. First off the Title, it immediately gives the reader an idea of what you will be writing about, that images can use illusions to get their point across to an audience. The image used was a very good one to get your point across of optical (d) illusions. Throughout the post the detail you used to explain the image was very well written followed up by your own personal thoughts on why the image used this technique. The two quotes used I believe were very well placed and helped with your message you wanted to get across. The John Fiske quote after an intro on the definition of semiotics. Then before you started talking about the meaning behind the photo using the David Chapman quote about smoking. The conclusion was very well thought out that most images can have different interpretations but the image used was simple and straight to the point, and it was only hoped to be interpreted one way. Maybe if you could have added another image of a smoking advertisement to show how times have changed and explain a few differences. But besides that loved it, well done Alex.


  2. zoematina16 says:

    Alex, this blog post contains quite a strong meaning and I believe you have been successful in explaining the relationship between images and the way in which they are perceived (semiotics). The image of a woman standing at a cigarette machine is a fantastic example and you have clearly explained the message the media is sending out through this image, although it may seem ridiculous to some people. How can a smoking advertisement relate to the attraction of a man and a woman? The idea of semiotics is extremely relevant and you have clearly explored the relationship between the image and the meaning it is conveying.

    I found your first sentence to also be particularly accurate as you stated, “advertising companies frequently adopt the use of subliminal messages, designed to manipulate their audiences”. Throughout your blog post this point becomes clear and relevant. The cigarette advertising company has designed an image aimed at influencing consumers to try their product, as they believe it may come across as “attractive” to others. This is an issue that has many viewpoints and you have succeeded in stating yours and providing evidence to support it. A fantastic an interesting post!


  3. Aimee Claire says:


    The concept you conveyed here was satisfactory and well written, you’re understanding of the elements of semiotics is evidently proven through your argument. The use of the visual representation you provided as evidence for your argument was exceptional, especially how you could speak about the composition elements of the representation, furthermore showing your efforts to critically analyse the interpretations of the advertisement. I also gained a better understanding from your explanation of semiotics and the relationship between a symbol and their interpretations, for instance, the eye contact in the visual and your justification that this gives an illusion of the intimate relationship between the two, which shows that the advertisement is suggesting that men would feel as if they were attracting women by smoking. A suggestion to improving the quality of your piece I would say is to make sure you are including references to your piece, preferably by hyper-linking where you got your information from. I will attach a link below on how to hyper-link, which will help you improve the value of your posts in the near future.


    Liked by 1 person

  4. trisht5 says:

    nice post, it was very easy to understand, it was well explained and covered majority of the questioned asked. you used good images that worked well along side the written material. you explained the image and the meaning conveyed through it really well. overall really good points raised and a good read, good job!


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