Semiotic Analysis of a Stouffer’s Ad

Semiotics is the study of sign, signifier and signified.  A sign is a symbol or an icon, a signifier is the form a sign takes, and a signified is the concept a signifier represents.  Roland Barthes provided an example of semiotic analysis of an advertisement for Panzani food products in “La Rhetorique de l’Image.”  Following his lead, I will begin to analyze an advertisement for Stouffer’s macaroni and cheese that appeared in the July/August 2010 issue of AARP magazine:

Stouffers advertisement

Stouffer’s advertisement in July/August 2010 issue of AARP Magazine

This advertisement contains images that suggest a warm relationship of a married couple enhanced by comfort food easily available from a supermarket shelf.  The advertisement asks, “Are oven mitts the key to a successful relationship?”  Here the important sign is the oven mitt.  What is it a sign of?  Here it seems to be a sign of marital bliss.  What is the signifier?  This particular oven mitt is white with red polka dots.  The red polka dots are the same color as the words “successful relationship.”  They are also the same color as the Stouffer’s banner at the bottom of the advertisement.  This is an example of how an image is anchored by the use of color to signal related items in an image.  The signified is the concept that Stouffer’s macaroni and cheese can provide what is needed to create marital harmony and a sense of joie de vivre for a married couple.