Bottled Beauty: A Semiotics Analysis of Perfume Advertisements

Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Dr. Gerald Markle

Second Advisor

Ronald C Kramer

Third Advisor

Ronald C Kramer

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Abstract Only

Restricted to Campus until



This study assesses the social and cultural meaning of perfume advertisements in the United States published during the time period of December 1989 to June 1990. The theoretical orientation is derived from two sources: Neo-Marxism, particularly the concepts of commodity fetishism and objectification, and Eco's (1979) theory of the lie. The method is qualitative, following the principles of semiotics. Fourteen perfume advertisements taken from a variety of contemporary magazines are decoded and analyzed. The data show that perfume advertisements objectify the human body in a variety of complex ways through the depiction of complex and fantastic imagery; the perfume as a product is fetishized in similar ways, through elaborate thematic and artistic modes which are elucidated in the analysis.

Objectification and fetishization are achieved visually; text plays a lesser role in creating the themes and meanings of these advertisements. The study concludes that that which reflects and at the same time creates cultural wants and needs are encoded in perfume advertisements. Reproduced

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