What?! Metaphors can be in form of pictures too?! YES. I am using the advertisement below as an example to analyse and demonstrate the validity of a visual metaphor. If the word metaphor is new to you or you need a quick refresher, I suggest you check out my last blog post: The Four Master Tropes. Now without further a due, let the analyzing begin!
This anti-smoking advertisement depicts a young woman smoking a cigarette whose fumes are forming a noose around her neck.
The shot is a medium close up at eye level, which allows the audience to focus on the subject. The woman’s face is centered, therefore, violating the rule of thirds. This draws the viewer’s attention to her face and gives them a place to look. On the other hand, the cigarette and the noose knot are complying with the rule of thirds and help balance the composition.
The message is that smoking is detrimental to your health and will shorten your lifespan. The metaphor used is the smoke shaped like a noose surrounding the woman’s neck. The basis for this comparison is that nooses are often used for suicide and smoking is essentially a form of suicide, suggesting that when you smoke you are killing yourself.
The tagline which says “Kill a Cigarette and Save a Life. Yours.” personifies the cigarette, as cigarettes are not actually alive and therefore, cannot be killed. This play on words is referencing the noose and its notion of death. The tagline is also hidden in the bottom right corner, satisfying the rule of thirds, so the audience notices it after they grasp the metaphorical message. This strategic placement of the tagline helps to solidify the advertisement’s message.
The advertisement is black and white to emphasize to the audience that this is a serious topic. The color white usually represents things that are good like purity, life, and innocence. Whereas, the color black is often associated with evil and death. The fact that the noose itself is white could have been done on purpose to accentuate that smoking might not seem evil at first, but once it becomes a regular habit, death is always looming nearby, as shown by the black background.
The woman is looking at the smoke shaped noose with an amused expression. This could symbolize that she is not acknowledging the consequences of smoking seriously, the same way she is not acknowledging the noose.
The smoke around the woman creates a frame within a frame shot which symbolizes a limitation of power and agency. The frame within a frame is showing that she is trapped and powerless against her addiction.
Nooses are generally made out of sturdy rope and are hard to break, similar to addictions. The opening of the noose may seem large now, but with every smoke, it will only get tighter, and before the woman knows it, it will be too late.
Now that we have covered the visual metaphor it is also important to touch upon another important marketing tool; reputation (ethos).
There does not seem to be any situated ethos (a pre-existing reputation) in the advertisement like a logo or name, but invented ethos (the quality of execution) is present.
The creators of the advertisement show the audience that they care about their message by executing their advertisement with a high degree of quality. The shot distance and angle are well accounted for, the editing is impeccable, the image is sharp, and they took the time to consider things like color, by choosing to make it black and white. These small, yet important details give the viewer a sense of respect for the advertisement, as it is apparent that a lot of thought and time went into making and delivering it.
The advertisement also demonstrated ethos in the tagline, as it is referring to you and your life. This instills trust within the audience, as they know that this advertisement is for their sake and it’s trying to help them save their own life.
Logos, the logical appeal is also present in the tagline, as through rational thinking the audience can derive that the advertisement is saying, kill the cigarette before the cigarette kills you. Logically this makes sense as if you don’t smoke the negative effects can’t harm you.
Lastly, pathos is present and the most dominant mode of appeal in this advertisement. This advertisement is trying to elicit a sad and shocked response from the audience. The solemn mood is set by the black and white motif, which seems to take out any life from the image. The shock and sorrow come from seeing the chilling metaphor of cigarette fumes forming a noose, as suicide is a very sad thing and it is shocking that the advertisement is referring to smoking as a form of suicide.
In addition, the irony of the woman smiling at the thing killing her, appeals emotionally to the audience, as they begin to question with shock and sorrow: why is she knowingly doing this to herself? Based on the way the advertisement uses the 3 artistic appeals, it is most likely targeting young adults. The metaphor shows the ultimate consequence of smoking which is premature death, therefore trying to discourage young adults from making smoking a regular habit.
The fact that the woman is young makes it more relatable for young adults and her ironic smile makes the viewer question her decision of smoking.
Overall, the advertisement did a phenomenal job of delivering it’s message, as the metaphor is easy to grasp and the tagline helps drive the message home. By educating young adults on the effects of smoking, they have the power to make an informed decision of whether to put the noose around their neck or not.
Let me know in the comments what you think of this advertisement, and feel free to share any interesting visual metaphors you have come across!
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RGB Art productions. Kill A Cigarette and Save A Life. Yours. 2011. [Poster] Web. 11 Nov.