Todorov’s Narrative Theory – Weight Watcher’s


Most stories will have a start, middle and end. Even print advertisements.

Marketing agencies will often emphasise the ability of their service or product to repair our disequilibrium and offer consumers a new equilibrium. In this way, Todorov’s narrative theory is quite a useful framework to understand how advertisements appeal to the audience.

This particular product was first published in 2005 by the German agency, DraftFCB.

The workshops and plans offered by Weight Watchers are designed help consumers manage their weight by becoming more aware of nutrition and healthy eating choices. Many of their meetings take place in community halls and public buildings so the location choice in this particular ad is appropriate.

The unusual difference in door sizes is certainly eye-catching, but the use of narrative makes this product perfect to explore the relevance of Todorov’s theories to modern texts.


Analyse the narrative elements of the following advertisement in terms of Todorov’s theory of equilibrium.

one wide door and one narrow door
WeightWatchers Advertisement

Points to Consider

Todorov argued narrative was the movement from one balance to another. For example, the equilibrium of a character’s initial situation is ruptured into a disequilibrium which they then have to repair to create a new balance, or new equilibrium, in their lives.

Although Todorov was referring mainly to fiction, many contemporary media texts, especially advertisers, will use storytelling techniques to encode their message so an understanding of narrative can help our appreciation of the methods used by producers to construct meaning.

Semiotic Analysis

This advertisement for Weight Watchers certainly has a three-part structure. The target audience is anyone who is looking for support in their bid to lose weight. In terms of Charles Peirce’s approach to semiotics, the representamen is supposed to create an interpretent, or mental concept, of weight loss because we will be able to use the much thinner door when we leave the room. The object of the media product, therefore, is to become inspired by this change and sign up to the Weight Watcher’s program. Of course, this is the preferred reading.

You should begin your semiotic analysis by explaining the narrative created by the labels on the door: “entrance” and “exit”. What equilibrium is conveyed by the larger first door? What is the new equilibrium suggested by the thinner second door? You need to comment on the difference in size between the two doors and then describe their connotations.

Does the disequilibrium occur in the room? Losing weight through a healthy diet and effective exercise is not straightforward. Perhaps hiding those challenges makes the club more appealing. However, by placing the two main signifiers side by side, we are able to compare that difference and what can be achieved if we join Weight Watchers.

Since Todorov defined narratives in terms of syntax, which means the shape of a sentence, it might be useful call the three beats of the story clauses.

How does the written code “WeightWatchers” help anchor our interpretation of the narrative?

You could also comment on the wooden floor, the white skirting board and white architrave around the doors, the brass handles, and the panelled doors themselves. If you are not too sure why the producers decided to use these styles, consider the choice in terms of paradigms. In other words, what other types of door could they have selected? Does the preferred reading of the message need these fancy options? Most importantly, what do these signifiers suggest about the consumer’s situation or equilibrium?

How does the green wall also help support the brand?

Further Reading

Thanks for reading!