This project will critically analysetwo of Antonio Federici ice-cream adverts that were published in 2010, usingthe methodology of semiotics. RolandBarthes, a French semiologist, pioneered the interpretation of semiotics in the1950’s, and took the matter to the heart of his own by exploring further intocultural significance (Barthes, 1989). Semioticsis the study of signs and symbols, which modern form developed in the latenineteenth and early twentieth century from the academic research by two establishedtheorists, Charles Sanders Peirce (1839-1914) who was anAmerican philosopher who first coined the word “semiotics” and believes ‘wethink only in signs’ (Peirce, 1958); and Ferdinand de Saussure (1857-1913)whose lectures became the foundation for “semiology” (Martins, 1994). These theories of semiotics allow an image to bedecoded and bring forth a comprehensive interpretation of how its signs andsymbols construct meaning. A semiotic analytical approach may use some or allof the following concepts; Signifier and signified, denotation and connotation,linguistic and visual signs, interplay of signs, referent, arbitrary sign,distribution across space or time, correlation and transferral, and polysemy.
Signifying a sign refers tostudying something to find other meaning than itself (Peirce, 1958). A sign isinterpreted through the form of images, odours, acts, flavours, and object, anduntil we invest in the sign it has no intrinsic meaning. Ferdinand de Saussure created a two-part binary model ofthe sign which is composed of a “signifier”, and the “signified”. A ‘signifier’is the form in which the sign takes such as its letters, shapes, sounds andcolor, whereas the signified is the concept it represents and what mental imageis interpreted.
The ‘signification’ of a sign is created when the relationshipbetween the signifier and the signified is addressed (Saussure. 1974). Connotation and Denotation are two methods that willbe used throughout this project to describe the meaning of words.
Connotationrefers to the positive and negative associations that most words carry such asthe emotional weight of a word, however denotation focuses on the literaldefinition of a word and its precise meaning (Chandler, 2017). The interplay of signs will also be anapproach used through this project which is regulated less by the content itsignifies than by the nature of the signifier. The idea of an interplay ofsigns is the action that is testing something to the limits of its regularity. In the late 1900’s the rapidindustrial growth enabled the expansion of consumerism, resulting in societybeing driven by consumption where individuals are defined by patterns ofconsumption and the product types they consume.
This consumer culture emergesthe increase of the advertising industry where individuals are being moved awayfrom mass consumption and mass marketing to focus on the individual trying tomake sense of the choices that are available through the impact of attention,suggestion and emotion (Southerton, 2011). As a result of the increase of theadvertising industry, marketers believe that advertisement should be moreiconic, challenging and artistic, providing a big place for freedom ofexpression, which in this instants can cause offence. Anotonio Federici ice-cream wasfounded in 1896 and created in the mountains of Portofino and Rapallo in Italy.
Federici had the idea to use conception to develop the business and communicatethe ‘world’s best’ traditional quality ice-cream. Anotonio Federici advertconveyed religious sensitivities to the public, especially for Roman Catholics,resulting in being a victim of advertising campaign ban (BBC, 2010).By looking at the denotative meaning of advert (1),the image conveys a consistent theme of black, white, gold, and brown. The personin the image is a young, heavily pregnant woman wearing nun robes and rosarybeads with pale skin, no make-up and brunette hair tucked behind her wimple.The woman is standing in a church with a single candle flame. The woman isbalancing a tub of Antonio Federici ice cream placed on her left palm, with herright arm bent upwards in a position ready to scoop the ice-cream while herhand is loosely gripping a metal spoon. The woman’s head is tilting down, withher mouth slightly open while locking eye contact with the tub of ice-cream. Tothe middle right of the image positioned over the nuns left breast is’immaculately’ written in white, small font size, with ‘Conceived’ writtenbelow in gold, and larger font size.
In the bottom right of the image is a pictureof the ice cream presented in a glass, with ‘ICECREAM IS OUR RELIGION’ writtenin small white capitals below. To the left of the beautifully presentedice-cream is a gold circle, with ‘THE WORLDS BEST ICECREAM’ written inside inblack, capital letters. Below the goldcircle is ‘International ice-cream consortium’ written in gold.Focusing onadvert number 2, which also is promoting Antonio Federici ice-cream shares anumber of similarities with advert number 1. By looking at the denotativemeaning of advert (2), the image presents a theme of black, white, gold, redand brown. There are two men in the image; one who is black, who is standing upon the left hand side of the image with his body angled towards the other man, andone who is white, who is standing up on the right hand side of the image withhis body angled the same way; both of which are eating a tub of ice-cream. Bothmen are wearing clerical clothing of a catholic priest. The man on the left iswearing rosemary beads.
The two men are standing in very close proximity toeach other, both of which hold a seductive pose in a position like they areabout to kiss passionately. The man on the right hand side of the image isholding a tub of Antonio Federici ice-cream, while the man on the left isholding a spoon. The 2 men are standing in a church, with a single candleflame. Written in small, white, gothic print are the words ‘We believe in’,followed by ‘salvation’ written in larger, gold, gothic print. Identical toadvert 1, In the bottom right of the image is a picture of the ice creampresented in a glass, with ‘ICECREAM IS OUR RELIGION’ written in small whitecapitals below. To the left of the beautifully presented ice-cream is a goldcircle, with ‘THE WORLDS BEST ICECREAM’ written inside in black, capitalletters.
Below the gold circle is’International ice-cream consortium’ written in gold. Both adverts (1 and 2) present an old themed setting,suggesting that the ice cream is traditional, therefore long established andsuccessful. The Antonio Federici ice-cream adverts theme relates to religion,ice-cream, temptation, sin and innocence. Both adverts 1 and 2 have ‘THE WORLDS BESTICECREAM’ written inside in black, capital letters.
The black capital letterssymbolizing someone shouting, suggesting that Anotonio Federici is shouting to aware everyone about how irresistibleand urgent his ice-cream is. Related to the imagery of the nun(advert 1), the signifier, signifies rebellion. The first thing that is noticedin advert (1) is a pregnant nun. Nuns are expected to live in simplicity,suggesting that it is inappropriate for the nun to be behaving like she is inthis particular advertisement. Nuns are seen as ‘Brides of Christ’ and offer astate of celibacy to God, however the nun in the advert is heavily pregnant,causing offence to the catholic community as it portrays the idea that althoughthe nun is pregnant, she is still rebelling by practicing religion.
Therefore,the advert attempts to suggest that Antonio Federici ice cream is able toinfluence everyone, even nuns, so that they can be true to themselves. The nun is looking seductivelywith her mouth slightly open at the tub of Anotonio Federici ice-cream like sheis attracted to the product that is balancing freely on her left palm. Thiscreates the idea that the nun has surrendered her beliefs in order to be happy,which lies upon the tub of Antonio Federici ice-cream. Federici creates this image in attempt toportray the idea that Antonio Federici is irresistible, however wrong it maybe. Rebellion is also expressedthrough the gothic font used throughout the advert, presenting viewers with adevilish theme that is grasped by the morbid looking font. Written on the nunsleft breast in very small, white, gothic font is the word ‘Immaculately’,almost like it does not want to be seen. This creates controversy as theadvertisement is displaying awareness about the responsibilities of a nun, andare humiliating the roman catholic religion by associating such innocence withsuch rebellion.
Shockingly, written underneath in much larger, gold, gothicfont is the word ‘conceived’. The gold text may be a symbol of the sun,representing the light of life, however the gothic font suggests that becauseof the nun’s sins, a devil will be born. The advert is set in a churchwhile the nun’s head is tilting downwards, potentially in shame because theice-cream is sinfully good. The image has a consistent theme of light vs darkby using different shades of black and white, symbolising Good vs Evil,potentially being religion vs ice-cream. This suggests that the nun may not bein the church practicing religion, but to confess her sins to God, being herundying love for Federici ice-cream. However, the nun is intentionallypresented to have white, natural, glowing skin symbolizing purity and morality,suggesting innocence.
The written tagline ‘immaculately conceived’ may not bedeliberate to offend the catholic community, but may be there to encourage theidea that the nun is free from flaws or mistakes, yet the advert displays apregnant nun which is entirely unconventional. The signs and symbols beingexpressed in the image give the idea that the woman in the picture isdeliberately being presented as the Virgin Mary, and during the pregnancy sheis craving Antonio Federici ice cream because it is so delicious. The nun may not be looking downwith shame, but looking down with respect to what she believes in, being thetub of ice-cream. Related to the imagery of the twopriests (advert 2), the signifier again, signified rebellion as the imageportrays a sexual relationship between the two men, which cannot be approved aspriests make vows of celibacy at their ordination, meaning they are to remainunmarried and withdraw from sexual activity throughout their lives.
AnotonioFederici presents the men as irresistible to each other, suggesting that theice-cream is sinfully good. The 2 priests in the image are poised in a way thatthey are about to kiss passionately. Antonio Federici has linked the temptationof ice-cream, with the temptation of the kiss. The first thing that is noticedin advert (2) is the two men poised for a kiss which consumes the bulk of thevisual in the advertisement; expressing difference and acceptance. Statistics from2010, the same year that Antonio published both ice-cream advertisements, showthat the majority the population in England and Wales have the sexualorientation of straight (Office of National Statistics, 2010). Therefore,Antonio has used something to grab the attention of the viewers as it is commonfor a man and women to be sexually attracted to each other, however it is muchless common, and extremely rare, for two male priests to be sexually attractedto each.
The second thing that capturesthe viewer’s eyes is the difference in race, showing one white man and oneblack man. Black and white is a consistent theme throughout the advertisement,with a hint of red and gold. Antonio may have used red to show intensity andlove, and gold to show royalty. Antonio Federici promises thathis ice cream is the best in the world and that the ice- cream is a religion,which is a very bold statement. The religion may be that they only care forice-cream. Things that are wrong or forbidden catch the eye of viewers. Forexample, if you tell a young person that smoking is harmful, then thelikelihood of them continuing to smoke because it is wrong, is very high.Therefore, Antonio Fedirici displays to his viewers something that is perceivedas wrong, with the hope of influencing more worshipers to follow his ‘religion’,being the ice-cream.
As “We believe in” is written insuch small, white, gothic font suggest that the two priests believe insomething pure and precise; followed by “salvation” which is written in larger,gold, gothic font, suggesting that they believe in the ice-cream because itprotects them from harm, because it is so irresistible they forget their sins. Although Antonio Federici hasonly presented two homosexual middle aged priests, does not mean that AntonioFederici ice-cream only aims their product at men aged 20-30 years of age, thegay community or catholic religion. The advert aims to capture the attention ofall viewers, because it is bold, different and something new. The advert showsone man carrying ice-cream, while the other man holding a spoon, with theice-cream brand displayed in the corner with the phrase “we believe insalvation”. This suggests that the ice-cream is not only enjoyed by just onegroup, but everyone regardless of race, colour or gender. To conclude, Antonio Federiciice-cream is presented as high quality, luxurious ice-cream that isirresistible to everyone.
The temptation of the ice-cream is too strong,regardless of how wrong or unwise it may be. Anotonio Federici uses conception,as a strategy to develop the ice-cream and uses religion to express howstrongly they feel towards their product, however this approach may beoffensive to some viewers. Both adverts use a challenging approach that attackcherished beliefs as a form of art and self-expression. The ultimate messagethat Antonio Federici is trying to spread is that the ice cream is so amazingthat it will cause the consumer to decipher it from other brands as it is sounique and rare.