Semiotic Analysis of a Dove Advertisement

Essay, 2016

7 Pages, Grade: 70,00


Semiotic Analysis of an Advertisement

By Erica Mateus

Abbildung in dieser leseprobe nicht enthalten

Advertisements are everywhere and in every form. Each company, brand, shop, etc. has at least one advert to launch it’s new products or services. This adverts consist of an image, a message, name of product being sold and a hidden meaning. In media we use semiotics to analyse an advert, with that method we are able to find the sign, the signifier and the signified items of the advert. In this essay I will denaturalise the ideological messages in a Dove hair advertisement above.

This advert was made to introduce the new anti-frizz cream from Dove in the USA, Marge Simpson was not the only cartoon character used to promote this product. What we see in this image is Marge Simpson with her natural, curly and afro hair; she has a worried look on her face that gives the impression that she is not happy with her hair. Right next to that we have Marge Simpson with straight hair. The look on her face gives the impression that she is happy with her new look. On the top right corner we have the dove (logo) and Dove written. There is text at the bottom and a bottle of the Dove product at the right hand bottom corners. The caption reads ‘New Dove Anti-Frizz cream. A new movement in hair is here. Turn unruly hair into foxy momma hair. New Dove AntiFrizz Cream with our weightless moisturisers makes hair smooth, shiny and doesn’t leave it greasy. Welcome to the blue heaven. Unstick your style.’ There is writing on the left side of the image

which is unclear. That is the denotative meaning of this advert.

The denotative meaning of this advert could be that curly, upright hair is not beautiful or attractive. It is unruly and not manageable. The fact that they are not using real humans could mean that the product doesn’t actually work for real people’s hair. The use of cartoon was probably used to run away from using the common white models. Using cartoons that are loved by many people may make people more susceptible to try out the product. The advert is targeted to all women that have curly hair and desire to have and anti-frizz hair. This advert links women’s desire for anti-frizz hair to the product dove is advertising. Women with curly hair will easily put themselves in the place of Marge. The advert is on the internet, Pinterest, google, etc. and although it may appeal to someone it does not address all women. This advert provides an example of symbolic interactionalist theory and it touches on the race aspect of the SEARCH analysis.

Dove is a company that sells products for both male and female, but their main focus is on women.. Their vision is “of a world where beauty is a source of confidence, not anxiety. We want to help the next generation of women develop a positive relationship with the way they look. We want to help them raise their self-esteem and realise their full potential.” ( Their vision lead them to create a self-esteem project that was founded in 2004. Their goal is to help women feel happy and confident about the way they look and reach 15 million with their self esteem project. According to Doves research only four percent of women find themselves beautiful and six out of ten girls have concerns about their image.

As I opened the Dove SA website I saw both black and white women dressed in underwear and and braless tank tops. None of the black ladies had their own natural hair on, they all had either a straight weave or synthetic curly hair. The message I get from that is that we have been so influenced by this ads that show straight soft hair is beautiful, that we no longer have our own afro hair on our heads. We head our hairs under wigs and weaves that are soft because we think they are easier to handle. On their website is that they used women of all ages because Dove sells products for women of all ages. From people remover to anti ageing creams.

Dove has a variety of hair care products and they have a special line for curly hair.Turn to Dove hair care for products that nourish hair day after day. From shampoo to hair masks and styling products, we’ve got everything you need for nourished, beautiful hair. “With Dove hair care products, beautiful hair is more than just gloss and promises. It’s real, nourishing care that lasts. It’s care you can trust. Since the most beautiful hair is healthy hair, we’ve combined advanced hair care science that delivers both instant results and progressive nourishment for hair that gets better and better over time. So there’s no more choosing between hair looking great and being cared for. Treating damage, quenching dryness, restoring vitality to ageing hair - whatever you need to bring the best out of it. Lift and volumes fine hair, moisturise and define curly hair, add fullness to thinning hair: we’ve got it covered. And to keep that care going right to the end of your routine, we’ve created styling products that nourish as well as keep your hair looking amazing.” (

It is a custom for Dove to keep the background of their advertisements free of distracting colours, this keeps the focus on their main subject. When people look at the advert their eyes will immediately be directed to the bright colours, blue, green and yellow, which is marge their main subject. Cutting out the rest of her body allows for the focus to be more on what the advertisers want to advertise, the hair in this case. The white background symbolises that with dove you can look forward to a brighter future. The orientation of the ad is set up in a front view perspective to put emphasis Marge’s facial expression. Marge’s body is positioned to direct the audience and this gives the advertisement some sense of power. Dove’s products and advertisements tend to focus a lot on outer appearance which leaves the inner beauty dormant.

Many advertisements in the media, nowadays, focus mainly on using models. However, for this ad Dove used a cartoon character, many women may identify themselves as Marge Simpson. Marge is a wife and stay at home mom, who has to take care of the house while her husband is at work and the kids are at school. She also has to take care of her infant daughter, with so many duties to fulfil Marge barely has time for herself. That is the situation of many stay at home moms, they get so busy taking care of others that they don’t have time to take care of themselves. The message Dove is sending here is that Dove will take car of you while you take care of your family. That is pretty much what women wants to here “let me (us) take care of you!”.

Looking at this advertisement it is important to take note of how Dove has changed their advertisement to leave an impact on society. The use of ethos in this advertisement shows that dove is trying to heighten their reputation. With this advertisement Dove is sending out the message that soft and straight hair is more appealing. Dove thought outside the box of average media for this advert, it ran away from the norm of using real people. The fact that dove in it’s other adverts uses normal women and not models gives the company a good reputation. It gives it’s costumers the impression that Dove is an honourable and ethical company that is concerned about their viewers. People tend to buy products that they can relate to.

Esteem - Dove is obviously trying to boost us “average” women’s self-esteem by placing a character that many women can relate to in their advert. I think Dove’s strategy is to make their products relatable to everyday women, because we are more likely to buy something we can personally connect with. When I look at this ad, I see an everyday common women just like me but she has great hair (according to dove). “A 2006 Dove advert showed the evolution of a photograph of a real women after she has her hair and makeup done, lighting adjusted, and after she is heavily photoshopped before her face is printed on the billboard. This advertisement was part of Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty. The tagline was “No wonder our perception of beauty is distorted”. The advert functions as a way to show how unrealistic and unattainable beauty is as depicted in magazines and on billboards.”

Since 2004 Dove has an ongoing campaign entitled Campaign For Real beauty and their mission has been “to make people feel more beautiful every day by challenging today’s stereotypical view of beauty.” This campaign has boosted Dove’s recognition and we can pose a question are they promoting “Real beauty” or Real Marketing? As much as we would love to believe that Dove is concerned about their customers, their real interest is in making profit. The only reason they are running away from social media norms of using models is because they want top gain the media’s attention. The truth is that Dove still portrays beauty in the way the society has viewed it, as we see in the advert above. Society does not view curly, coarse hair as beautiful.

The crowd that this advert does not appeal to may argue and say that this advert is not real. They may say that it is offensive or demoting. They may say that dove has double standards because they also put makeup on their real humans before the shoot. This crowd would not see Dove as an honest company. Dove seeks to be different but nothing in the media is natural nowadays, there is no single advert that is printed or aired without the slightest use of makeup. In the advert above we see Dove conforming to societies norms. It has become difficult to keep people natural on media because society no longer finds it attractive.

When beautiful hair is promoted by society, we see hair with volume, long, sleek and shiny and that is exactly what Dove is advertising. Marge is portrayed with societal beauty, the message Dove is sending is that people need their products to attain societal beauty. Although Dove is trying to go against society and promote natural beauty, they are falling short of their word and they are actually being hypocrites with their advertisements. We do not only see this hypocrisy in this advert but in other adverts as well. Dove cannot stay away from society's view of beauty.

This advert is deceiving and not a good representation of beauty, it upholds the standard of beauty that society has accepted and it is bias against people with curly hair. Although Dove had good intentions, a person that takes time to analyse this advert will completely discard their good intentions. I myself feel discriminated, I love my curly hair and I believe that it is beautiful. Dove and all other companies will sweet talk people simply thinking of the money that will be coming in, that’s their marketing plan. It is unfortunately how we have become brain washed to accept everything we see on media. We have adopted societal standards that we, as the society, did not come up with. We accept things without questioning them nor analysing their significance.

We are living in a recession and due to that companies will go through every extreme to market and sell their products. Even if it means deceiving their customers. Doves hidden intention was to increase sells, and from the perspective of a spectator they have achieved their goals. Their profits have increased so much that they enlarged their range of products and they have companies scattered in many countries. “Although Dove did a phenomenal job in their marking strategies to appeal to a more vast audience, they consistently fail to follow through with their mission to promote “Real Beauty” and damage the idealized societal view of what beauty truly means.”

The audience of this advert would be any female with knowledge and understanding of hair,

students or working class, that wants to look appealing. We live in a capitalist society were the

interests of the rich and the people in power are protected and emphasised. Because the rich and the powerful set the rules, they will obviously advocate ideologies that complement their lifestyle. They lure into believing that a materialistic and consumeristic lifestyle is normal. Buying into this lifestyle makes people feel that they linked to the life of success (O’Shaughnessy, M & Stadler, J, 2012). Adhering to that type of lifestyle means that we agree that wealth is a measure of success.

Looking at the SEARCH acronym we can take a different perspective in the analysis of this advertisement. Let’s look at the relevant letters, Sex - this advert will make man believe that no frizz hair is attractive and they will begin to believe and start creating a stereotype against women with curly hair with frizz like me. Age - this advertisement may have it’s main target group to be females aged 13 to 40 years old because that’s the age range of women that will be concerned about their hair being attractive. Therefore, they would be accepted into society or seen as beautiful in the eyes of society. Race - I would like to believe that this advert is targeted more to black women because let’s face it our hair is curly, coarse and frizzy, nevertheless it is beautiful. Class - their target class would be the middle and high class, the working class. Handicap - this would be appealing to handicap people because most handicap women feel that they are not attractive because they have a part of their body missing. They have low self-esteems and having their hair look like the society beautiful would make them feel more of a women.

Media does not always reflect the world and in this age I believe that it affects society more than it reflects it. Media changes events rather than just reflect them. The user is being influenced to use a product that will supposedly enhance their beauty according to society. Everybody wants to be accepted by society. So we accept and confine ourselves to accepting that which we are exposed to. Even if it is our desire to refrain from being influenced the media will always find a way into someone’s life. This advert is not a good representation of true beauty.

To conclude I would like to emphasise the fact that we have signs and for that sign to be reflected there needs to be a signifier and a signified. In this advert women with curly course hair are the signified and Marge Simpson is the signifier. Also the bottle of Dove product on the image is a mere representation of the product, it is not the product itself. The flying dove is a sign for hope for a better future.

Reference list

O’Shaughnessy, M & Stadler, J. (2012) Media and Society, 5th ed. Oxford University Press. Australia

Roelofse, J.J. (1987) Signs and Significance. Lexicocon Publishers. Johannesburg

Hall, St. (1997) Representations: Cultural representations and Signifying practices. Sage Publications Ltd. London


Excerpt out of 7 pages


Semiotic Analysis of a Dove Advertisement
Media Theory
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
File size
847 KB
Semiotics, Adverts, Semantics, Signs, Symbols, Signifier, Signified
Quote paper
Erica Mateus (Author), 2016, Semiotic Analysis of a Dove Advertisement, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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