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Example of Semiotic Analysis of Advertisements: Chanel 5

For this semiotic analysis of advertising, we have chosen the fragrance advertisement campaign for the Chanel No 5 perfume. Their posters vary significantly in the intricacy and complexity of execution a good deal and offer an excellent platform for semiotic analysis.

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Many questions could be asked. How does the body language of the models on the poster convey the desired meaning of an advertisement? How do facial expressions contribute to that? Can they be considered a part of the sign system? Do the clothes worn in the advert signify any concept? In this analysis, we will examine these and other questions to analyze and figure out how meaning is created.

Semiotic Analysis of Ads

How do you make meaning in semiotics? You will employ a combination of “signs” and “codes.” “Signs” are signifiers, which are the forms you show, and the signified, which are the concepts you represent.

As for “codes,” they are mostly derived from particular societies. Therefore, in a good advertisement, whether it be food, alcohol, or perfume, social and cultural patterns must be thoroughly studied and understood before creating an ad to convey the specific message you need. Print advertisements and media, in general, tend to reflect the contemporary values of society.

The Chanel No 5 advertisement campaign is no exception. Just knowing the current reality is not enough, of course. To make a successful marketing campaign, you will need to understand the secret wishes and desires of your target audience and to appeal to them in the advertisement by utilizing the predominant cultural codes.

These cultural codes, in theory, will act as a transmitter of the sign systems to consumers. In the Chanel No 5 advertisement campaign, the posters depict particular values that dominate the society. The manufacturer needed to reach out to consumers through this perfume ad and to overcome the competition. The image in the poster was created so that the product, Chanel No Five perfume, would act as a signifier.

Semiotic Analysis of a Perfume Advertisement

One glance is enough to notice the following key features of the poster: the model is female, elegant, and strikingly beautiful. If you ever watch Western movies, you will instantly recognize who the model is – no other than the famed, award-winning actress Nicole Kidman. With that, several more visuals automatically spring to mind – rich, famous, desirable.

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What does semiology say concerning the message the advertiser wants to convey? Obviously, they need the viewer to draw the parallel between the qualities of beauty, elegance, and status of the model and the product they are marketing. Those are “the signified” concepts of this campaign. Chanel No 5 stands for these ideals, and so will you when wearing it. Of course, by acquiring this product, one would hope to partake in those desirable characteristics themselves.

What is the primary signifier in this advertisement? Even if you don’t know who Nicole Kidman is, the image of a chic woman will speak to you. Look at the clothes and jewelry she is wearing. Nore the minimalist, almost casual hairstyle, the extravagant, but an elegant cut of the dress. Do you think the diamonds in her necklace are real?

This look signifies the social status and class of the model. Judging by just the dress, the woman is at least upper class. A woman would wear something like that to a corporate event or an elegant dinner. It’s not just the woman who is giving out the status vibes. Note the “No 5” engraved in her necklace. The brand can afford to create something custom like that, and the model, a famous, rich, and gorgeous Nicole Kidman, will proudly wear it. What does decoding it say about the brand?

Shanel’s luxurious and elegant celebrity customers are eager to sport the brand’s perfume as if it’s expensive jewelry. Hence the association: Chanel No 1 perfume = jewelry, wearing which one would display their taste, money, and status.

There’s another factor in play: the model is depicted in a very sensual way. Sexuality is often exploited in advertising, and in this case, the woman’s dress has a sexual element in it. The low cut of the dress exposes a significant portion of Nicole Kidman’s back. People instantly see the flawless, radiating skin revealed through the dress, and feel captivated by the image.

It’s not just the cut of the dress, of course – the very way Nicole poses is another signifier. The demonstration of the back and a slight tilt of the face make the audience perceive the woman’s body language as slightly suggestive. The model is not too direct about it, though – she is ever elegant and subtle. Nicole’s body language embodies the product’s qualities that the advertisers wanted to tell consumers of that Chanel No 5 perfume is seductive but in a classy way.

Another thing to note here is the facial expression of the model. Nicole looks confident but is not overdoing it. The way the photograph is cropped, with the model occupying the entire frame, makes the feminine figure come out healthy and dignified. Female characters that convey subtle rather than outright strength tend to be perceived more positively by societies. Potential customers who are members of the target audience will admire the image of this woman, and many of them will subconsciously want to be her.

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Of course, without knowing who Nicole Kidman is, some of the brand’s message is inevitably lost. Nevertheless, this advertisement does have international appeal due to globalization. The image of an affluent, attractive, prosperous, and classy lady is not necessarily intended to reach audiences of the same qualities. Instead, this image is meant to create a certain fantasy for consumers. It’s evident that a regular customer can never look like or be Nicole Kidman. But if they use Chanel No 5, why might they draw a little closer to this fantastic image.


The analysis of the Chanel No 5 advertising campaign reveals the importance of semiotics: the brand conveys the intended message through the portrayed images, which are a woman and a bottle of perfume. The idea about the product that the brand is promoting is classy femininity, which many perfume customers desire.

In terms of gender expectations, the image portrays a stereotypical woman (feminine, subtle, suggestive) in a non-stereotypical role (she is an affluent, successful celebrity who is living a glamorous lifestyle). The ultimate message is to show the target audiences that they can also be like celebrities.

Semiotic Analysis of Advertisements: FAQ

❓ What is semiotics in communication?

Semiotics investigates how meaning is created and communicated. It’s the academic study of how signs and symbols, both visual and linguistic, create meaning. By interpreting these signs, we are able to understand each other and navigate society.

In communication, a “sign” might be a word, a gesture, a facial expression, etc., that stands out to the other person.

❓ What is semiotic analysis?

Semiotics is a discipline that explores signs in the context of individual cultures and society at large. Semiotic analysis aims to analyze and interpret symbols, to understand how signs and sign systems interact, and what the meanings behind them are. Semiotic analysis involves the use of semiotic concepts and models.

❓ How to write a semiotic analysis?

Conducting a semiotic analysis, you need to “dig deep,” figuring out the motifs, ideas, and themes below the “surface.” Here’s how you do it:

  1. Write the introduction
  2. Introduce the sign you’re analyzing
  3. Write a thesis
  4. Interpret the sign in the body of the essay
  5. Conclude your semiotic essay, focusing on the significance of the sign in its context

❓ How to analyze an advert?

Advertisements are highly calculated, and at their best, they manage to “strike a chord” in the desires of the target audience. Ask the following questions and uncover the hidden meanings in an ad:

  1. What mood does the advertisement create?
  2. How is the advertisement designed visually?
  3. What signs and symbols are there? In what way do they enhance the message?

❓ How to do a semiotic analysis of an image?

Semiotics is a study that interprets messages and symbolism behind signs. A sub-domain of semiotics, visual semiotics, conducts semiotic analysis of images. It answers the question of how visual images communicate a message. In an image, a sign can be a human figure, the way the picture is cropped, the amount of space left unused, the writing, etc.


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StudyCorgi. (2020) 'Example of Semiotic Analysis of Advertisements: Chanel 5'. 5 November.

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