Seeing Ourselves: An Analysis of Ideology and Fantasy in Popular Advertising

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Seeing Ourselves: An Analysis of Ideology and Fantasy in Popular Advertising

In the arena of advertising in modern Western society, the consumer can become numb from over-saturation. Advertising stretches over all forms of media, with independence that critic Judith Williamson says intentionally reflects our own human reality (Lord, 263). Advertising becomes a natural presence for consumers; it overwhelms us until we stop trying to understand and decode the images and slogans presented to us. In "The Rhetoric of the Image", critic Roland Barthes uses particular advertising images as dissection models to systematically extract the meaning of cultural codes. In her essay "Decoding Advertisements", Judith Williamson discusses the
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If advertising does in fact "sell us ourselves", then it is important to detect and scrutinize the messages that reflect our perceived desires, and not simply accept these messages as "given" and representative of us.

In "The Rhetoric of the Image" Roland Barthes begins his analysis of the advertisement by identifying the linguistic message. The linguistic message has two functions within the ad that Barthes' terms as "anchorage" and "relay" (175). The anchorage function acts as an anchor between the possible signifieds, or meanings, and the meanings the advertisement wishes you to identify. In other words, the anchor helps you choose "the correct level of perception"(175). The "relay system" works in a complimentary relationship between text and image, where text (such as a cartoon speech balloon), explains the image (176). Linguistic meaning has the most significance in the cologne print ad, as the television ad relies almost exclusively on images. One page of the two-page magazine ad is dedicated to an image of the cologne bottle with the words "Ralph Lauren Romance", and in smaller letters, "men". The prominence of the manufacturing label in the ad is the first linguistic anchor for the consumer. The text quickly identifies that the product is from Ralph Lauren, a designer name that may connote (to the average male consumer) a high degree of class and social good standing. Williamson argues that products provide a structure of meaning that may be

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