This advertisement above is incorporating semiotics, the study of sign systems, to sell their product; the Gillette Safety Razor. “Anything can be a sign as long as someone interprets it as signifying’ something–referring to or standing for something other than itself. We interpret things as signs largely unconsciously by relating them to familiar systems of conventions” (Chandler, 2007, p.13). The advert above uses a notorious symbol for delicacy and innocence, a baby, to get their point across that the razor is safe. This child in the advertisement is smiling happy while clutching the product. The words, “Begin early,” and, “Shave yourself” are at the top of the page and really hit it out of the park to signify what the ad is saying. The earliest someone could begin is as a baby, and the child is shaving itself. If the baby can shave itself, let alone even handle the razor then it just must be safe .
In my opinion, this advert is kind of genius. Gillette is using a baby which has the connotation of being innocent, delicate, youthful, and pure, and mixing it with the denotations of razors, which are dangerous, sharp, and should be kept out of reach of children. By mixing the connotations of an infant with the denotations of razors, the myth that Gillette’s Safety Razor is safe enough for a baby to use is created. The baby is happily clutching the razor, and is dressed in all white which adds to the symbol of purity and innocence. The tiles in the background allude to cleanliness, which also goes hand in hand with a razor that’s main use is to clean up appearances.
Since a razor is normally labeled as dangerous for being sharp, and is not for children, how do the creators of the advertisement get from the literal denotations of a razor to the connotation that is created in the advert? This is done by taking the razor out of it’s normal “environment” and usage and placing it into an advertisement with a symbol that stands for everything that the razor doesn’t. Putting a robust, healthy-looking, and happy baby into the context along with the razor takes away the danger of the razor. Then applying the image along with the name of the razor, the “Safety Razor” adds to the myth that it’s so safe that a baby can use it.
The signifiers in this ad are that baby, the razor, the way the baby is dressed, and the tiles that are seen in the background. Together, they all come together to create one meaning that the advert wants to present to the viewers. Studying all of the symbols and signs present in this advert and then interpreting what it is trying to tell us is the meaning of semiotics.
This advertisement was found in a list along with other old advertisements that would be banned today. All of the ads either had inappropriate connotations, or would evoke thoughts and behaviors. The ad that I posted above would most likely be banned because the myth that it’s creating could cause a dangerous situation; a child to think that razors are safe for them to handle which is not the case at all. This form of media may cause certain behaviors from those who don’t know any better, and therefore it is banned. The myth could be so powerful in this advert that viewers overlook the denotation.
Begin Early. Shave Yourself. (2016). [image] Available at: http://failworthy.com/23-vintage-ads-that-would-be-banned-today/ [Accessed 18 Feb. 2016].
Chandler, D. (2007). Semiotics. 2nd ed. London: Routledge.