Into the Image World / by Lasma Poisa

In this weeks material we are looking at the semiotics of advertising images. Within this we can experience three types of reading:

  1. Dominant reading - what the advertiser wants
  2. Oppositional reading - directly conflicts against what the advertiser wants
  3. Negotiated reading - partially confronts or is at least plausible and understandable to us

When exposed to advertising images for a period of time, consumers get used to metaphor and develop a much more sophisticated visual language therefore are more open to Negotiated reading. I remember in Latvia in the early 90s after the collapse of the Soviet Union we started to get western adverts on TV and our minds were blown away by all the sparkly, gorgeous, extraordinary products. I remember watching the advert for Mars bar and it was the most desirable, magical and delicious thing I had ever seen. I learned later that it did not look quite as sexy in real life. It didn't taste quite how I had imagined it either. 

I guess we were quite naive and took these advertisements at a face value. An old lady in the neighbouring farm destroyed her Palmolive soap bar with scissors in search for the essential oil she saw being pored in on TV. She didn't find any. 

 Palmolive TV Advert from early 1990s

Palmolive TV Advert from early 1990s

My example of an Oppositional reading is not entirely an advertising image in the traditional sense, but it is the header from The Guardian Facebook page posted during the 2017 General Election. 

The guardian header.jpg

Initially this might look like a straight forward image of a British newspaper portraying the Prime Minister and the opposition leaders. However, on closer observation there are many subtle messages that are being communicated here, whether this is deliberate of a left leaning paper, is unclear. Theresa May in the warm glowing light, holding important Brexit papers, looking calm, controlled and quite large, taking up half of the image. The opposition don't get to have colour or hold important papers in their hands. They are ghostly and much smaller in scale, decreasing depending on their opposition status; blue and cold with awkward expressions, grouped together like the unwanted other they represent. Big Ben is erect, hard and reassuring, glowing warm in the evening sky, even though it is slightly toppling over, so who knows.