This ‘we think only in signs’ (Peirce, 1958); and

This project will critically analyse
two of Antonio Federici ice-cream adverts that were published in 2010, using
the methodology of semiotics.  Roland
Barthes, a French semiologist, pioneered the interpretation of semiotics in the
1950’s, and took the matter to the heart of his own by exploring further into
cultural significance (Barthes, 1989).  Semiotics
is the study of signs and symbols, which modern form developed in the late
nineteenth and early twentieth century from the academic research by two established
theorists, Charles Sanders Peirce (1839-1914) who was an
American philosopher who first coined the word “semiotics” and believes ‘we
think only in signs’ (Peirce, 1958); and Ferdinand de Saussure (1857-1913)
whose lectures became the foundation for “semiology” (Martins, 1994). These theories of semiotics allow an image to be
decoded and bring forth a comprehensive interpretation of how its signs and
symbols construct meaning. A semiotic analytical approach may use some or all
of the following concepts; Signifier and signified, denotation and connotation,
linguistic and visual signs, interplay of signs, referent, arbitrary sign,
distribution across space or time, correlation and transferral, and polysemy.

 

Signifying a sign refers to
studying something to find other meaning than itself (Peirce, 1958). A sign is
interpreted through the form of images, odours, acts, flavours, and object, and
until we invest in the sign it has no intrinsic meaning. Ferdinand de Saussure created a two-part binary model of
the sign which is composed of a “signifier”, and the “signified”. A ‘signifier’
is the form in which the sign takes such as its letters, shapes, sounds and
color, whereas the signified is the concept it represents and what mental image
is interpreted. The ‘signification’ of a sign is created when the relationship
between the signifier and the signified is addressed (Saussure. 1974). Connotation and Denotation are two methods that will
be used throughout this project to describe the meaning of words. Connotation
refers to the positive and negative associations that most words carry such as
the emotional weight of a word, however denotation focuses on the literal
definition of a word and its precise meaning (Chandler, 2017).  The interplay of signs will also be an
approach used through this project which is regulated less by the content it
signifies than by the nature of the signifier. The idea of an interplay of
signs is the action that is testing something to the limits of its regularity.

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In the late 1900’s the rapid
industrial growth enabled the expansion of consumerism, resulting in society
being driven by consumption where individuals are defined by patterns of
consumption and the product types they consume. This consumer culture emerges
the increase of the advertising industry where individuals are being moved away
from mass consumption and mass marketing to focus on the individual trying to
make sense of the choices that are available through the impact of attention,
suggestion and emotion (Southerton, 2011). As a result of the increase of the
advertising industry, marketers believe that advertisement should be more
iconic, challenging and artistic, providing a big place for freedom of
expression, which in this instants can cause offence.

 

Anotonio Federici ice-cream was
founded in 1896 and created in the mountains of Portofino and Rapallo in Italy.
Federici had the idea to use conception to develop the business and communicate
the ‘world’s best’ traditional quality ice-cream. Anotonio Federici advert
conveyed religious sensitivities to the public, especially for Roman Catholics,
resulting in being a victim of advertising campaign ban (BBC, 2010).

By looking at the denotative meaning of advert (1),
the image conveys a consistent theme of black, white, gold, and brown. The person
in the image is a young, heavily pregnant woman wearing nun robes and rosary
beads with pale skin, no make-up and brunette hair tucked behind her wimple.
The woman is standing in a church with a single candle flame. The woman is
balancing a tub of Antonio Federici ice cream placed on her left palm, with her
right arm bent upwards in a position ready to scoop the ice-cream while her
hand is loosely gripping a metal spoon. The woman’s head is tilting down, with
her mouth slightly open while locking eye contact with the tub of ice-cream. To
the middle right of the image positioned over the nuns left breast is
‘immaculately’ written in white, small font size, with ‘Conceived’ written
below in gold, and larger font size. In the bottom right of the image is a picture
of the ice cream presented in a glass, with ‘ICECREAM IS OUR RELIGION’ written
in small white capitals below. To the left of the beautifully presented
ice-cream is a gold circle, with ‘THE WORLDS BEST ICECREAM’ written inside in
black, capital letters.  Below the gold
circle is ‘International ice-cream consortium’ written in gold.

Focusing on
advert number 2, which also is promoting Antonio Federici ice-cream shares a
number of similarities with advert number 1. By looking at the denotative
meaning of advert (2), the image presents a theme of black, white, gold, red
and brown. There are two men in the image; one who is black, who is standing up
on the left hand side of the image with his body angled towards the other man, and
one who is white, who is standing up on the right hand side of the image with
his body angled the same way; both of which are eating a tub of ice-cream. Both
men are wearing clerical clothing of a catholic priest. The man on the left is
wearing rosemary beads. The two men are standing in very close proximity to
each other, both of which hold a seductive pose in a position like they are
about to kiss passionately. The man on the right hand side of the image is
holding a tub of Antonio Federici ice-cream, while the man on the left is
holding a spoon. The 2 men are standing in a church, with a single candle
flame. Written in small, white, gothic print are the words ‘We believe in’,
followed by ‘salvation’ written in larger, gold, gothic print. Identical to
advert 1, In the bottom right of the image is a picture of the ice cream
presented in a glass, with ‘ICECREAM IS OUR RELIGION’ written in small white
capitals below. To the left of the beautifully presented ice-cream is a gold
circle, with ‘THE WORLDS BEST ICECREAM’ written inside in black, capital
letters.  Below the gold circle is
‘International ice-cream consortium’ written in gold.

Both adverts (1 and 2) present an old themed setting,
suggesting that the ice cream is traditional, therefore long established and
successful. The Antonio Federici ice-cream adverts theme relates to religion,
ice-cream, temptation, sin and innocence. Both adverts 1 and 2 have ‘THE WORLDS BEST
ICECREAM’ written inside in black, capital letters. The black capital letters
symbolizing someone shouting, suggesting that Anotonio Federici is shouting to aware everyone about how irresistible
and urgent his ice-cream is.

Related to the imagery of the nun
(advert 1), the signifier, signifies rebellion. The first thing that is noticed
in advert (1) is a pregnant nun. Nuns are expected to live in simplicity,
suggesting that it is inappropriate for the nun to be behaving like she is in
this particular advertisement. Nuns are seen as ‘Brides of Christ’ and offer a
state of celibacy to God, however the nun in the advert is heavily pregnant,
causing offence to the catholic community as it portrays the idea that although
the nun is pregnant, she is still rebelling by practicing religion. Therefore,
the advert attempts to suggest that Antonio Federici ice cream is able to
influence everyone, even nuns, so that they can be true to themselves.

 

The nun is looking seductively
with her mouth slightly open at the tub of Anotonio Federici ice-cream like she
is attracted to the product that is balancing freely on her left palm. This
creates the idea that the nun has surrendered her beliefs in order to be happy,
which lies upon the tub of Antonio Federici ice-cream.  Federici creates this image in attempt to
portray the idea that Antonio Federici is irresistible, however wrong it may
be.

 

Rebellion is also expressed
through the gothic font used throughout the advert, presenting viewers with a
devilish theme that is grasped by the morbid looking font. Written on the nuns
left breast in very small, white, gothic font is the word ‘Immaculately’,
almost like it does not want to be seen. This creates controversy as the
advertisement is displaying awareness about the responsibilities of a nun, and
are humiliating the roman catholic religion by associating such innocence with
such rebellion. Shockingly, written underneath in much larger, gold, gothic
font is the word ‘conceived’. The gold text may be a symbol of the sun,
representing the light of life, however the gothic font suggests that because
of the nun’s sins, a devil will be born.

 

The advert is set in a church
while the nun’s head is tilting downwards, potentially in shame because the
ice-cream is sinfully good. The image has a consistent theme of light vs dark
by using different shades of black and white, symbolising Good vs Evil,
potentially being religion vs ice-cream. This suggests that the nun may not be
in the church practicing religion, but to confess her sins to God, being her
undying love for Federici ice-cream.

 

However, the nun is intentionally
presented to have white, natural, glowing skin symbolizing purity and morality,
suggesting innocence. The written tagline ‘immaculately conceived’ may not be
deliberate to offend the catholic community, but may be there to encourage the
idea that the nun is free from flaws or mistakes, yet the advert displays a
pregnant nun which is entirely unconventional. The signs and symbols being
expressed in the image give the idea that the woman in the picture is
deliberately being presented as the Virgin Mary, and during the pregnancy she
is craving Antonio Federici ice cream because it is so delicious.

 

The nun may not be looking down
with shame, but looking down with respect to what she believes in, being the
tub of ice-cream.

 

Related to the imagery of the two
priests (advert 2), the signifier again, signified rebellion as the image
portrays a sexual relationship between the two men, which cannot be approved as
priests make vows of celibacy at their ordination, meaning they are to remain
unmarried and withdraw from sexual activity throughout their lives. Anotonio
Federici presents the men as irresistible to each other, suggesting that the
ice-cream is sinfully good. The 2 priests in the image are poised in a way that
they are about to kiss passionately. Antonio Federici has linked the temptation
of ice-cream, with the temptation of the kiss.

 

 

 

 

The first thing that is noticed
in advert (2) is the two men poised for a kiss which consumes the bulk of the
visual in the advertisement; expressing difference and acceptance. Statistics from
2010, the same year that Antonio published both ice-cream advertisements, show
that the majority the population in England and Wales have the sexual
orientation of straight (Office of National Statistics, 2010). Therefore,
Antonio has used something to grab the attention of the viewers as it is common
for a man and women to be sexually attracted to each other, however it is much
less common, and extremely rare, for two male priests to be sexually attracted
to each.

 

The second thing that captures
the viewer’s eyes is the difference in race, showing one white man and one
black man. Black and white is a consistent theme throughout the advertisement,
with a hint of red and gold. Antonio may have used red to show intensity and
love, and gold to show royalty.

 

Antonio Federici promises that
his ice cream is the best in the world and that the ice- cream is a religion,
which is a very bold statement. The religion may be that they only care for
ice-cream. Things that are wrong or forbidden catch the eye of viewers. For
example, if you tell a young person that smoking is harmful, then the
likelihood of them continuing to smoke because it is wrong, is very high.
Therefore, Antonio Fedirici displays to his viewers something that is perceived
as wrong, with the hope of influencing more worshipers to follow his ‘religion’,
being the ice-cream.

 

As “We believe in” is written in
such small, white, gothic font suggest that the two priests believe in
something pure and precise; followed by “salvation” which is written in larger,
gold, gothic font, suggesting that they believe in the ice-cream because it
protects them from harm, because it is so irresistible they forget their sins.

 

Although Antonio Federici has
only presented two homosexual middle aged priests, does not mean that Antonio
Federici ice-cream only aims their product at men aged 20-30 years of age, the
gay community or catholic religion. The advert aims to capture the attention of
all viewers, because it is bold, different and something new. The advert shows
one man carrying ice-cream, while the other man holding a spoon, with the
ice-cream brand displayed in the corner with the phrase “we believe in
salvation”. This suggests that the ice-cream is not only enjoyed by just one
group, but everyone regardless of race, colour or gender.

 

To conclude, Antonio Federici
ice-cream is presented as high quality, luxurious ice-cream that is
irresistible to everyone. The temptation of the ice-cream is too strong,
regardless of how wrong or unwise it may be. Anotonio Federici uses conception,
as a strategy to develop the ice-cream and uses religion to express how
strongly they feel towards their product, however this approach may be
offensive to some viewers. Both adverts use a challenging approach that attack
cherished beliefs as a form of art and self-expression. The ultimate message
that Antonio Federici is trying to spread is that the ice cream is so amazing
that it will cause the consumer to decipher it from other brands as it is so
unique and rare. 

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