4b Advertising imagery

Rip out an advertising image from a newspaper supplement and circle and write on as many parts of the image as you can. Comment on what it is, what it says about the product and why you think it’s there. You could use this as the basis for your assignment if you feel it’s taking you somewhere interesting. Or you could adopt this method for your assignment preparation.
Come back to this exercise when you’ve reached the end of Part Four and see if you can add anything to your analysis.

C&N [Boothroyd p. 101 [1]]

Fig. 1
Aramco advertisement

[27Mar20, (Boothroyd, p.101)] The advertisement chosen (fig. 1) is from the back cover of this week’s Spectator magazine. The following observations are made:

  • it is for Aramco, but the corporate presence on the page is very understated
  • I was aware that Aramco is an oil company but I know very little about it.
  • Superficial research reveals that its full title is ‘the Saudi Arabian Oil Company’, formerly ‘the Arabian American Oil Co’ . It is the world’s biggest oil producer and the world’s most profitable company (Investopedia [2])
  • the page is trying to tie in with the current trend for ecological responsibility and the urgency of changes to support this
  • it refers to oil extraction in Shaybah, of which I have never heard – it is an area of desert controlled by Saudi Arabia, but ownership is disputed
  • there are three images on the page:
    • a small Aramco logo
    • a clear photograph of three creatures (presumably antelopes) with a backdrop of sand dunes
    • a nondescript textured red background
  • It may be supposed that its purpose is to reassure those who know of Aramco and Shaybah that both entitles are aware of and striving to address ecological concerns and, for those unaware of them, intrigue them enough to make them want to find out more, while laying a foundation of implied ecological propriety.

All viewers, knowledgeable about the company or not, would need the text to gain any inkling of what the page is trying to portray. The text is far more important to the aim than the imagery, for which any number of furry images would suffice. It might be argued that this is not an anchor because the image is not particularly important to the image.

Here are some more ads from inside the magazine (Spectator [3]), in descending in complexity of imagery from the high-concept to the ordinary.

Figs. 2-5
advertisements from The Spectator. 28 March 2020
Julius Bär Int., A.J. Bell, Jaguar, University of Buckingham

Julius Bär, wealth manager, (fig. 2) makes it clear what sort of clientele they seek, a corner office on an upper floor. Presumably the swirling lights are suggesting that their services will whisk the wealthy to even higher levels thereof. Without the swirls, the image conveys a straightforward message – if you look like this or aspire to look like this then we can deal to mutual benefit. The text, ‘what matters to you’ emphasises a bespoke service.

A.J. Bell (fig. 3), originally a stockbroker, now expanded to the provision of ‘award-winning investment platforms’ [4] is specifically marketing self-select pension plans, so that is necessarily a group with excess income; the photograph suggests the young aspirational; the text, ‘old pro or an investing newbie’ expands this to make it clear they will take anyone’s money; the inclusion of the Which and Trustpilot logos suggest both reliability and a less exclusive stance than Julius Bär.

The Jaguar ad (fig. 4) is simple and designed to attract people who appreciate that brand. Despite the fact that the car (to these eyes, at least) looks just like many others, the text claims ‘a sculpted bonnet, muscular rear haunches’, a strange mix of metaphors.

The Buckingham offering (fig. 5) takes ordinariness to new levels by the simple association of the statue of a Greek (?) classical philosopher in a Rodin Thinkeresque pose to a post-graduate course in philosophy. Unlike the Jaguar, this is probably a stock photograph (as might fig. 3 and even fig. 2 be).

[31Mar] Returning to consider these ads after reading Part 4, let’s examine the imagery in the light of Barthes’ methodologies.

AdDenotedConnoted Comments
Aramcoantelopes, sandecological responsibilityGiven a general assumption that oil companies are ‘bad for the planet’, this is trying to suggest that Aramco do a ‘bad’ thing responsibly.
Bäroffice, highrise, suitwealth, aspirationIf you need a wealth manager try Bär, if you don’t move on.
Bellyoung, happywhatever the viewer’s reaction is to a young, smiling, ladythere is no visual connection to financial services – the image is to attract attention
Jaguarshiny new cardesire, for those who like cars
BuckinghamthoughtfulnessThis is a smaller ad with the image, though vaguely relevant to the product, mainly intended to provoke curiosity.

 These might be the connotations for only the target audience. Some, for example, would never buy a new car these days: the ad is intended for those who might buy a car and is saying ‘make it a Jaguar’.

In most of the cases, the vendor is selling one product (be it oil, financial expertise, education) and advertises in a magazine that they think will be read by potential customers. The image, which might or might not be connected to the product (a car, a smile) is designed to attract the attention and the text to hold that attention for the pitch.


1. Boothroyd, S (2017) Context and narrative. Barnsley: Open College of the Arts.

2. Delventhal, S. (2019) What Is Saudi Aramco? [online]. investopedia.com. Available from https://www.investopedia.com/what-is-saudi-aramco-4682590 [Accessed 27 January 2020].

3. The Spectator (2020) advertisements from The Spectator. The Spectator. 28 March 2020, pages 17, 10, 6, 21.

4. A.J. Bell (n.d.) A.J. Bell Youinvest [online]. youinvest.co.uk. Available from https://www.youinvest.co.uk/ [Accessed 28 January 2020].