White or Wrong?


Whether it be Nationwide or Worldwide, people interpret media messages differently based on their ideological position. The exact same picture viewed by many people could be read very differently by varying audiences. In the world of advertisment, it is this difference of opinion that leads to an image being ‘controversial’.

Images can be analysed using ‘semiotics’; the study of signs and symbols which can be anything referring to something in the real world. In semiotics, a sign is regarded as being made up of denotations (the signifiers); which are the actual words and images being viewed, and connotations (the signified), which is what the word or image refers to in the real world.

While researching controversial advertisements I came across Dash’s advertisement for their washing powder. The denotations of this image identify a dark skin coloured person dressed completely in white surrounded by a bright white background. Although, it is the connotations within this image which make it controversial, as the man dressed in white signifies a member of the Ku Klux Klan and the connotations suggest racism, white supremacy and the disregard of respect towards American history.

Many people could view this add as racist, as it promotes a product, using an image that mocks the exploits of black Americans. Ironically, the person under the white clothing is actually coloured. In some ways, this add could be seen as satirical, in a way, mocking itself in an attempt to make the connotations slightly more light-hearted and less offensive. In a second satirical attempt, the slogan used in the add, ‘whitepower’, is obviously suggesting white supremacy in reference to the KKK, which would no doubt be offensive to many viewers.

Yet while this image was deemed controversial, its shock value, use of satire and historical connotations has gained attention, making the add quite successful. The primary message this add endeavors to convey is that their brand makes your clothing ‘whiter than white’ with the obvious references to white supremacy groups. But although the issue in the real world referred to by the image, is controversial, does it work?

This advertisement is shocking, politically incorrect and satirical all at the same time and controversial or not, it gains peoples attention- the add works!


One thought on “White or Wrong?

  1. It is interesting to see how the more controversial an advertisement the more effective it is in terms of semiotics applied in consumer society. I’ve never seen this ad before but it surely isn’t very tasteful and the marketers must have been fully aware of the controversial implications upon the sale of their product.
    In light of discussion of semiotics this image successfully identifies the historical and cultural factors that influence the audience’s perception, ultimately producing a reaction that may or may not be offensive depending strictly on the context of the community or individual.

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