Orientation Observation In-depth interviews Document analysis and semiology Conversation and discourse analysis Secondary Data Surveys Experiments Ethics Research outcomes



Social Research Glossary

About Researching the Real World



© Lee Harvey 2012–2020

Page updated 29 April, 2020

Citation reference: Harvey, L., 2012–2020, Researching the Real World, available at
All rights belong to author.


A Guide to Methodology

CASE STUDY Semiotic analysis of a cigarette advertisement


Anderson, Dewhirst and Ling (2006) offer the following example of the semiotic analysis of a printed cigarette advertisement, referring to the figure above.

To convey masculinity, a male model is depicted, and the
model's rugged appearance is evident with his physical
features, clothing worn, and the geographical setting. Freedom—defined as the condition of being free of restraints—is represented by a landscape of wide-open space that includes a predominant skyline, which is blue-coloured to match what is seen on Player's packaging. The physical setting suggests a lack of restrictions and an opportunity for free will relative to an urban environment dense with people, traffic lights, regulations, and police surveillance. A secondary meaning of freedom is bluntness, outspokenness, and boldness, which is suggested by the tone of the tagline, the reputation of Player's as a strong tasting cigarette, and the brand's longstanding association with risk-taking, adventurous
activities (for example, windsurfing, kayaking, hanggliding, and auto racing). Both the tagline (the use of ''you'' makes it more personalised) and showing one person in the advertisement communicates independence, autonomy, and self-reliance. Player's advertisements have traditionally depicted individual sports rather than team sports, and it is commonplace that activities are shown during non-strenuous moments. The hiker, for example, is shown taking a break rather than during an arduous instant that might link the model with heavy breathing and lead readers to counter-argue
that such an athlete is unlikely to be a smoker or a smoker is unlikely able to competently pursue such an activity. Branding refers to the use of a name and logo to identify a product,38 67 68 and in this case, the Player's brand name conveys tradition by paying homage to John Player, a main founder of Imperial Tobacco, and the sailor logo, complemented by ''Player's Navy Cut'', embodies masculinity, independence, and freedom. Finally, the advertisement is pictorial (the sky encompasses the most text space), with the ad copy limited to the tagline statement and a ''branding'' orientation.



Return to Social semiology (Section 5.10.3)