Northern Ireland coastline

Denotation and Connotation in Advertising


Funded by the government, Visit Britain is an organisation which raises the profile of the country around the world to encourage tourism and travel. Their #OMGB campaign was designed to promote the “amazing moments you can only get in Britain”. Places such as London and the Lake district featured in the advertisements, but this poster comes from the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland, a landscape of outstanding natural beauty and an area full of terrific legends.

The dramatic coastline and lexical codes are a good example of a combination of signifiers being used to convey a complex message to the audience, making it a great text to apply Roland Barthes’ denotation and connotation concepts.


Analyse the following print advertisement in terms of denotation and connotation.

Travel Campaign
Travel Campaign

Points to Consider

Roland Barthes argued there are two different orders when it comes to the way we use language and objects to communicate our ideas. The first order is the denotation (the simple and literal definition of the word) and the connotation (the additional meanings associated with the sign). In this advertisement, you should describe the different aspects of the image, such as the beauty of the sun on the horizon, the white wash of the waves against the rocks, and the unusual rock formations. Remember, you need to identify the physical form of the sign to support your interpretation of its meaning.

Why has the agency created such a beautiful and impressive representation of the landscape? What are trying to connote?

You should also look at the lexical codes and how they provide anchorage which help shape our understanding of the advertisement. For example, how does the headline persuade the audience that the Giant’s Causeway is an “amazing” place to visit? How is this reinforced by the “great” logo in the corner.

Explain the connotation of #OMGB. How does this hashtag function as a call to action? In other words, what is it asking the viewer to do next?

What message are the producers trying to convey to the audience? Is the image appealing and will it catch the interest of the viewer? Put simply, does the advertisement persuade you to visit Northern Ireland?

Finally, make sure you have stated the preferred reading of the text so you can evaluate the success of the product.

Although the question does not refer to the second order and Barthes’ signification process, you might wan to comment on any myths used in the advertisement.

Further Reading

Thanks for reading!