Although smoking cigarettes has declined overall, 38 million American adults were still smoking as of 2016. Smoking cigarettes is a habit that many people disapprove of, especially because of the impact it has on teenagers and young adults in today’s culture. The danger of this habit to the lives of young people has led many to campaign against smoking by advertising. There are three anti-smoking advertisements specifically analyzed for their impact on viewers in this essay.
First the denotation of these images will be stated. Denotation is the first and most literal level of meaning. Then the connotation of these images will be analyzed. Connotation is diving deeper into the level of meaning, considering context and cultural symbolism. Both imagery and text are aspects analyzed for meaning and how they affect a viewer. An advertisements impact on a consumer is measured on how well it appeals to senses and emotions. Anti-smoking advertisements are constructed in a way to discourage and prevent smoking cigarettes, captivating a smoker by making one consider the consequences of how the habit affects oneself, pets, and children.
In the first advertisement, the image displays the consequences of smoking and how oneself can be damaged. The image is black and white; the background provides a dark contrast for the cigarette smoke in the image. There is a woman holding a cigarette, which has a stream of smoke floating off it. The cigarette smoke transforms, taking the shape of a noose, which then is placed around the woman’s neck. The text in this advertisement says, “Kill a cigarette. Save a life. Yours.” All the elements of this ad come together to give the consumer a deeper meaning. The black background gives a backdrop that gives a heavy and dark impression to a viewer while also giving the smoke a higher contrast. This draws more focus to the important subject of the advertisement: the smoke. This gives an impact of how serious and important this topic is to the consumer. The noose is a bold symbol, comparing smoking cigarettes to suicide; anyone smoking cigarettes is killing themselves. The text of this ad gives short statements filled with a lot of meaning because of the mention of life and death. Such a heavy topic exhibited in such a short time causes a viewer to be drawn to a quick conclusion about the subject of smoking. The main goal of this advertisement is to inform the consumer the consequence of smoking cigarettes is death, and it does so in a quick and efficient manner.
The second advertisement is focused of how the consequences of smoking cigarettes affects pets. It displays a kitten in the foreground, contrasted by a black background, with some gray smoke present in the scene. The text in the advertisement says, “You smoke, I smoke. Don’t let pets suffer from second-hand smoke.” Overall, this advertisement appeals to a fear of consequences for others, in this case, pets. It uses a kitten as a focal image, making a viewer feel sympathy. This feeling of sympathy is drawn from the youth and cuteness of the animal; most people cannot resist the appeal of a small kitten. The text tells the danger of second-hand smoke and how it affects pets as much as it affects smokers themselves. Pets have no way to prevent damage to themselves; this calls upon the owners of pets to take responsibility to take care of their animals instead of harming them. This advertisement’s overall message is to take responsibility and prevent the damage smoking can cause to others who cannot make a choice of smoking.
The third advertisement puts its focus on the effect of second-hand smoke and its consequences for children. The black and white image shows a young child in the foreground against a black background. She is blowing bubbles which transform into smoke rings. The text in the advertisement says, “You smoke. She smokes. Do not snatch her right to live. Stop smoking for her sake.” This image’s visuals and text are both powerful as they show the danger and consequences of second-hand smoking. The text is especially powerful, using phrases such as “her right to live” and “her sake”, it demands the viewer to really consider how their choices may have consequences for others. It could bring about a feeling of guilt to some and they would feel the consequences of how they could be damaging the lives of loved ones, in a way that their loved ones did not have a choice in. This advertisement shows a young child, perceived as innocent to a viewer, who will suffer from the consequences of someone else smoking. This visual is the most powerful of the three, because it reaches into our emotions, and causing fear of losing loved ones. Anti-smoking advertisements are all similar in their purpose; they focus on fear and consequences of the habit of smoking cigarettes.
Overall, all three advertisements made their point, but the most impactful was the third one. It appealed to the emotions the most, causing the viewer to think outside of themselves. The text especially evoked fear of damaging a loved one’s life. The first advertisement was powerful because of its bold imagery of death. The second advertisement was the weakest because its visuals were not strong; there was only a kitten in the image with no other meaning to it. All these advertisements made a point of causing fear of the consequences of smoking.
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