This highly evocative advertisement is effective in its purpose and speaks with an implicit power. This is clear in the analysis of the denotations and connotations of its components. First of all, the image depicts a motorway landscape, with overpasses designed for a heavy traffic flow. The fact that the roads are essentially empty presents an unusual circumstance, connoting an eerie atmosphere. Furthermore the smog in the sky highlights the stark nature of this location. One would presume it to be in a Chinese city due to the signifiers in the bottom right corner of the image, Chinese characters.
The salient image of this ad. is seen in the woman, tactfully standing slightly left of the centre. The ad. continues to draw attention to her in lining her body up with the parallel vector line of the concrete support for the overpass. Furthermore her blue outfit and bold red and black street sign contrasts with the grey environment she is situated in. All of these visual techniques work together to highlight the meaning of this ad., that being what the woman signifies.
The connection can be made instantly: a one-armed woman holding up a 40 speed limit sign, a signifier in its most literal sense. The sign contextualises the cause of her lost arm, as the target audience would presume that she lost in a car accident. The specificity of the sign details this context, confirming the exact nature of her car accident: speeding. However this image is open to some interpretation, whether the woman was going over the limit or a law-abiding victim is a mystery. Her ethnicity in conjunction with the Chinese characters grounds the campaign in a Chinese context.
The eerie atmosphere mentioned above works in conjunction with the amputee to create mood, as both are recognisable but something is still amiss. The creepy edge to this image is intending to signify a message of warning and fear, a caution for drivers and pedestrians to pay attention to road signs. This point is accentuated by the boldness of the road sign against the still, monotonous landscape; impossible to be ignored by the viewer. Furthermore the vector lines of the distant overpasses are level to that of the sign, drawing the viewer’s eyes back to it and the woman. The overpass in the foreground also causes our gaze to travel across the image.
The seriousness of this message is connoted by the woman’s blank facial expression. Her clothing is quite comfortable, making her seem even more out of place as she looks dressed for a day around the house. This highlights how accidents can happen to any ordinary person, and that no one is invincible. Simultaneously, the vulnerability this evokes returns to the eerie mood of this ad.
This image is simple and effective and when unpacking the semiotics behind it we can gain a fuller appreciation of how this ad is able to communicate its message so clearly. Therefore, it comes as to no surprise that this image was a part of a 2014 campaign by Lowe China for Shanghai General Motors and Buik to raise awareness for road safety, taking out a Gold Lion at Cannes. To view more images from this campaign, click here.