Representation and interpretation is a central idea within the formulation of modern media. It is critical for both professionals and audiences to accept that individuals may interpret things differently based on a range of factors, particularly in the field of advertising.
Advertisements are filled with both denotations and connotations. Denotations are the various ‘literal’ aspects of the image, whilst connotations are ideas formed on a variety of influences including already known information, myths or rumors and basic ideology. Critical analysis of advertisements can lead to looking passed the denotations and focus more on the possible connotations of the image.
The science behind this is called semiotics (the science of signs) where the sign equals the signifer over the signified. The signifer refers to the literal features of the sign, such as words, images and other physical characteristics, and the signified relates to the metaphorical and mental aspects.
Looking at a specific advertisement and the signs behind it, in this case, Tiger Woods‘ Nike Victory “Winning takes care of everything” campaign, we can break this down and view both the denotations and the connotations.
The literal aspects of this advertisement include an image of Tiger Woods, the text “Winning takes care of everything” and “World #1”, in which puts the idea in our mind that Tiger Woods is the world number one golfer and that winning is a crucial aspect of his career. It is also interesting to note that the text “World #1” and “Victory” are both written in red, further solidifying the winning nature of the advertisement.
In a more metaphorical sense, the connotations surrounding Tiger Woods aside from his professional golfing career are fairly controversial, such as affairs with various women, altercations and a subsequent divorce with his wife and a hiatus from golf. This Nike Victory campaign was released following Woods’ first win back in professional golf, with the advertisement obviously recognising Wood’s previous faults and PR issues and playing off that with the “Winning takes care of everything” slogan, showing Nike is behind Woods for the future and are basically saying that as long as he is winning, they don’t care what goes on elsewhere.
And whilst this may not be what Nike’s idea behind the campaign was at all, the science of signs leaves this ad open for interpretation from the public and allows connotations such as this to always be possible.
Abad-Santos, A 2013, ‘Nike Tells Tiger Haters To Shove It With ‘Winning Takes Care Of Everything’ Ad’, The Wire, March, viewed 20 March, <https://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2013/03/nike-winning-takes-care-of-everything-tiger-woods-ad/316955/>
Time, Brief History of the Tiger Woods Scandal, viewed 20 March, <http://content.time.com/time/photogallery/0,29307,1966486_2077708,00.html>.