How do us humans get so sucked into following trends? Is it the psychology behind advertising?
The above 1950’s advertisement is a significant reflection of manipulation in mass media and advertising. Decoding the image, we can see a complexed sign containing other signs. The ‘Denotations’ of the above advertisement is a smoking campaign, a manipulative one, in a positive light.
Wintson Tastes Good like a cigarette should!
Then, once we look beyond the text, we find a system of functional distinctions operating within. The cigarette is being carefully marketed to women as a symbol of power. Edward Bernays, the influence of these manipulative campaigns had taken advice from a psychoanalyst, whom said cigarettes were ‘a symbol of the penis and male sexual power’.
Sex, popularity and power is clearly resembled in this advertisement. Originally, it was considered inappropriate for women to smoke. This double standard meant cigarette companies were missing a huge portion of profit due to marketing to half of the population.
We can see consumer behaviour has been deeply considered as mainstream fashion trends are present and feminising of the cigarette reels’ women into wanting to take up smoking. There are strong connotations of ‘erotic desires’, tapping into the sexuality of women, creating the idea of smoking being sexy. These connotations of erotic desires are still used today in mass media, marketing and advertising (H O L L Y W O O D) to sell pointless, materialistic, expensive things that most of the population can’t afford. Since we live in a mass mediated society, we have been shaped to idealise sexy, beautiful people we see in blockbuster films. The point that I am getting at, is, the influential impact that media, marketing and advertising has on society; even dating back to the early 20th Century.
Various meanings can be interpreted depending on who is interpreting and what they are experiencing at the time. There is contrasting meanings within the culture during that period and today’s culture. We are now flooded with the horrendous realities of smoking. However, it is visible the significance of signs and understanding them in a form of communication.
So, looking at this now creates an overall reality of mass advertising being unhealthy for society, it doesn’t seem morally correct either; using psychoanalysis to tap into vulnerable minds in order to gain profits from the missing population. Women were sold cigarettes for the idea of independence and power, however, they are just smokers depending on their addiction.
- Lland, R 2013,’Penis Envy? Try Tobacco!’,Ladybud, weblog post, June 26, viewed 26 March 2019 <https://www.vintage-adventures.com/vintage-tobacco-ads/2176-1961-winston-cigarettes-ad-up-front.html>
- Chandler, D 2017, Semiotics for Beginners, D.I.Y. semiotic analysis,<http://visual-memory.co.uk/daniel/Documents/S4B/sem12.html>.