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A semiotic analysis of the Schick Quattro for Women TrimStyle Ad featuring Jemma Hibbert

A popular safety razors brand founded by Jacob Schick in 1926 (Krumholz, 1987), Schick introduced in 2003 a four-bladed razor for men named Schick Quattro with the Quattro Midnight and Quattro Chrome models as well as modified version with a feminine color scheme called Quattro for Women. For the Schick Quattro for Women TrimStyle campaign, five remarkable Australian women were featured with their inspirational personal stories of inner confidence and how they achieved it (Corney, 2010). One of these women photographed and filmed for the campaign was the 20-year-old student Jemma Hibbert. Like the other women, Jemma was wearing lingerie in a very public location in Sydney’s CBD (Corney, 2010).

In the print ad, there were four basic signs included. These were the photograph of Jemma Hibbert, the picture of the product Schick Quattro for Women TrimStyle, a handwritten sentence, and a text that talks about the model in the picture. Despite the many words added in the ad, imagery is still apparently the chief tool used. At the upper part of the print ad is a grayscale photo that shows Jemma wearing a seductive outfit while she stands with a confident smile. Everyone else in the restaurant, the waiter pouring wine on her glass and the customers are all eyes on her.

At the lower left part of the ad is the text that featured Jemma’s story of survival. Having endured chemotherapy and radiotherapy over an intense 3-month period after her Hodgkin Lymphoma diagnosis, Jemma was said to be the epitome of a modern woman embracing confidence. Beside the text at the lower right part of the ad is the colored picture of the Schick Quattro for Women TrimStyle. In between the photo and the text is a handwritten sentence, which says, “After recovering from cancer, to do something like this is overwhelming.”

The Schick Quattro for Women TrimStyle campaign is intended to celebrate the inner confidence of women. It is but necessary to use a model that exudes inner confidence in the print ad. The interrelation of the signs in the advertisement is quite tricky. First, introducing the model to the audience is necessary. In order to persuade the women to buy the razor advertised in the poster, they have to feature a woman they can relate to. Since the model is not a celebrity, hence, not readily recognized by the audience, the handwritten sentence was essential to make the model known to the audience efficiently. Simply by the words, “After recovering from cancer, to do something like this is overwhelming,” it is self-explanatory that quoted sentence is a dialogue of the sultry woman in the gray-scale photo above it. The fact that it is in the handwritten form signifies that it is a personal statement by the model.

Though the handwritten sentence is prima facie a brief statement of the model’s story, the curiosity of the audience to know more about the model is triggered. This is the very reason why a three-paragraph text was added under the handwritten sentence. The handwritten sentence was made considerably larger than the three-paragraph text. With the model’s quoted dialogue alone, the audience can easily conclude that the model is a cancer survivor and her confidence is enhanced by flaunting a flawless skin through the use of the advertised razor. But for those who have enough time and are curious to know more about the model, the added three-paragraph text were deliberately made smaller to indicate that it is just an auxiliary information. In other words, only the handwritten sentence will suffice to tell the audience what the woman in the photo is standing for.

Although the photo takes the largest part of the whole poster, it was given a gray-scale color matching the black-and-white texts. The only part of the poster that has colors is the picture of the product being advertised. This is to show that the campaign is not all about women who survived cancer and became confident after the successful medication. The colored photo of the product indicates that the poster is all about the Schick Quattro for Women razor, and how it helps any woman including a cancer survivor put confidence of her skin. The gray-scale touch of the photo has another implication as well. It indicates that the model is an ordinary woman who has some ordeals in life but manage to overcome it. With the help of the razor, every woman can become confident enough to show some skin in public. The picture of the product itself has a bottom line text which says, “FREE YOUR SKIN”. This relates the involvement of freedom in the confidence that the model is trying to portray.

With such a versatile layout and design, the Schick Quattro for Women TrimStyle campaign poster can be used in various kinds of readings. This print ad can be evaluated in different angles. It can be understood by the audience by simply looking at the gray-scale photo and appreciate how confident the model is with her seductive outfit and smile of satisfaction while everyone else is looking at her. It can also be analysed by focusing on the three-paragraph text that introduces the model, Jemma, and talks about the challenges that she has overcome in life. Moreover, it is still possible to ignore all these basic parts of the campaign ad and go directly to the picture of the product, which is highlighted by having the only colors in the entire poster.

With regards to how the gaze operates in the text, first and foremost, the gray-scale photo, black-and-white text, and colored picture of the product are a simple but nice aesthetic combination. Since the colors are simple and ophthalmologically friendly, the eyes of the audience are more likely to stay longer on the poster. This is better than other loud posters that easily catch the eyes but easily shoo them away. The provocative picture of the model, Jemma, is mostly likely the part of the poster that demands attention. With the finesse of Daniel Federici, one of the world’s top fashion photographers (Corney, 2010), the provocative picture of Jemma does not appear to be risqué. Like the waiter and other spectators in the picture, the audience tends to stare at Jemma in the same way.

Handwritten, the quoted dialogue just beneath the picture demands attention as well as it tells the story of the poster once and for all. For the audience who has time, especially if the poster is featured in a magazine or a coffee table book, the attention can be paid to the three-paragraph text. But most importantly, having the only colors, the picture of the product attracts the audience the most. This is the ultimate goal of the poster.

Through myth and ideology, the text includes and excludes identities and meanings of aesthetics and confidence. What the poster implies is that a confident woman is a woman who can bare some skin. This ideology may apply to some women, as based on the culture and religion, but it may be a myth to others. As backed by the picture, confidence comes from having a body and skin that are gorgeous enough to be flaunted. In other words, being confident comes with the freedom of the skin, which has to be shaved to appear nice. Again, this idea of beauty and confidence can be a myth to others while they can be a principle to some. On top of all that, shaved skin is not a global rule of feminine beauty and femininity. Schick itself has produced male razors originally as razors are attached to masculinity (Feliciano, 2010). Marketing the razor to the female market, then, can be tricky (Newman, 2008). Had the poster shown a woman shaving, this issue could have been tackled. On the other hand, the promotion of shaving skin to boost confidence is implied in the entire poster though not readily noticed. Another important implication that is not readily noticed as well is the fact that the model was a cancer survivor. Needless to say, this young lady has undergone a phase of her life when she was involuntarily losing her hair. After overcoming such an ordeal, the survivor is voluntarily losing her hair with the help of the Schick Quattro for Women TrimStyle razor. What this implies is that even women who undergone traumatic experiences losing hair are confident enough to use the Schick Quattro for Women TrimStyle razor and face the public with lingerie and shaved skin.

Four basic elements comprise the Schick Quattro for Women TrimStyle campaign poster that aims to celebrate inner confidence among women. As black-and-white is back in print advertising (Haser, 2000), the gray-scale photo of the print ad portrays a woman who confidently wears lingerie in a restaurant catching everyone else’s attention with her shaved skin. Below the photo is a quoted handwritten dialogue that indicates that the model was a cancer survivor. A three-paragraph text below that further explains who, Jemma, the model is and the challenges she has overcome. Lastly, the only part of the poster that has colors is the picture of the product that says “FREE YOUR SKIN”. Though not accentuated, these three words say it all.

 

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