Typology of Visual Rhetoric

Hey everyone, sorry for this delayed post I’ve been really sick for the past few days despite stocking up on medication and undergoing hibernation-like states of sleep. I’m still under the weather so bear with me as I try to write in a cohesive manner. In the meantime (and on a more positive note) I’d like to share a few ads I’ve been looking at and their relevant analyses.

Before I begin sharing these ads I’ve noticed that Phillips and McQuarrie’s classification of visual rhetoric is best applied to advertisements that only have relatively few levels of signification (in terms of semiotics). I’m bringing this up because Prof O’ Gorman briefly brought it up in class when we first looked at the article. Anyhow, I’ve noticed that the less steps that a viewer has to undergo to derive meaning from the image makes it a more likely candidate for Phillips and McQuarrie’s method of analysis. For instance,

I would argue that this advertisement has difficulty finding itself into the nine categories because there are at least three levels of signification at play here. Firstly, the viewer must associate the meat product with its animal counterpart in its natural environment; secondly, the viewer must associate the cheetah as the referent of the term “carnivore”; and thirdly, the viewer must associate the cheetah in the winter jacket with the frozen food department. Whereas Phillips and McQuarrie can only offer us an analysis that posits A in relation to B, this ad might require processing that puts A in relation to B as well as to C and so forth depending on each ad’s “layering” of meaning.

Moving onwards – the first ad (of the three that I will post for now) is this one:


This ad depicts the destruction of two ceramic figures and the super glue bottle with the word “Rewind” suggests that the super glue can make the destroyed figurines as good as new. I would say this image is a Replacement because it represents the act of reparation and subsequently, its meaning operation is Connection since the act of repair/product is associated with moving backwards in time. The reason I say it’s Connection is due to the relationship between the degree of destruction and the passage of time and here, the product serves to modify the passage of time. What do you guys think?

Second ad:


This one is interesting. At first it appears to be a Fusion of chocolate and grumpy woman perhaps through Opposition but on second thought, Kit Kat isn’t trying to assert itself in relation to the woman, it is trying to position itself in relation to the breaking of the woman and more specifically, with the aim of dismantling her grumpiness. The ad might be trying to say that Kit Kat chocolate dismantles tense people/situations. If the latter is true, then this ad might be Replacement – Connection? I would not go so far as to suggest that this would be Replacement – Similarity since the literal breaking of humans does not bode well for chocolate goodness.

Third one:


This is the last Replacement example I will post for now, I promise. The mini camera is replacing the much larger, standard DSLR cameras which explains why the model’s nose is contorted. The ad is telling the consumer that the mini camera has all the functionality of high end cameras despite the absence of physical bulk. In some ways, it can be said that this add connotes both Similarity and Opposition because in some ways it is both similar and dissimilar to the bigger cameras.

Here’s a link which you guys might be interested in checking out for more ad ideas – http://www.presidiacreative.com/75-award-winning-creative-advertisements/


One thought on “Typology of Visual Rhetoric

  1. I think I’m leaning towards similarity for the Sony camera advertisement, since it seems to be comparing the stats of the product to another, even though it isn’t present in the image. I’d probably call it opposition if the DSLR was visible – though I can definitely see how it could still be an opposition in its current state. Really, this chart is far too restricting.

    The Kit Kat ad is, as you said, obviously an example of fusion, but the meaning operation is confusing. Again, I’m going to steer away from opposition and go with connection, mostly because the action of breaking has already happened – and again I can’t say I’m sure. She’s had the break, she’s had her Kit Kat, and now she has broken out of her bad mood. Connection? Maybe.

    That just brought up more questions than answers, whoops. Seems like layers of meaning really complicate the structure…

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