Iconography of an Advertisement

Advertisements are created to sell a product but advertisements rarely focus on the specific benefits of the
product itself. As John Berger argues, Instead, they sell us fantasies based on who we want to be, or they
tell us who we should want to be.
Advertisements persuade us by creating associations through the use of connotation and iconography.
Visually compelling advertisements also make effective use of formal elements to draw our attention to
certain objects/subjects, create a sense of energy or tension, and form subtle visual relationships between
the different components.
Denotation is what is depicted or represented while connotations are the associations that create
meaning through repeated themes, motifs, and symbols (iconography). For instance, Fitz and Roesch
were renovated to denote red brick. It is because of the connotations of the iconography of a
prestigious academic institution (Harvard) that UD decided to invest millions of dollars in these
For this assignment:
• pick two still advertisements from magazine using Flipster. They do not have to be for the
same product but should be related in some way.
• Note: Magazine covers are not advertisements
• Write a comparative 4 page analysis in which you analyze the iconography of: wealth, race, and/or
gender in two advertisements. (A comparative essay constructs an arguments around similarities and/
or contrasts between two works.) You must engage with Berger’s ideas of transformation, envy, and
• November 1: upload your essay. Include the images and include the magazine where you found it.
In order to receive an A on this paper you must:
– have a clear thesis which applies some of Berger’s ideas;
– apply Berger in a thoughtful and meaningful manner to the ads under analysis through the use of
quotes with page numbers;
– move beyond the surface function of the ad through a visual analysis of the iconographical
connotations of the ad and discussion of the vision of self its really selling us;
– Use the tools of formal analysis to support your argument.


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