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Southern Comfort

"The old ball-and-chain" is a phrase that many Americans are familiar with. Oftentimes we imagine it spilling forth from the lips of some distressed, fatigued, overworked man who is with his nagging wife. It is this image that the advertisers for Southern Comfort are trying to reproduce. They want the person looking at the ad to sympathize with the man in the image, the man dragging his imaginary "ball-and-chain". We associate the ball and chain with oppression, hard labor, and unfairness. These connotations are probably derived from the images that we have seen in old prison movies where the convicts are forced to work the fields, shackled by a ball and chain. Let us back up for a moment though and look at just how this Southern Comfort ad takes us from the image of a man to the labor intensive fields of old prison movies.There are many denotations in this ad. There is a man, three women, bags, sides of buildings, a chair, writing on a window, a sidewalk-like walkway, a bottle of Southern Comfort, some white lines, and two lines of copy. The first line of copy reads, "Your free time may have changed. Your drink doesn't have to." The second line reads, "Hang on to your spirit." There is also a division in the ad, the top two-thirds of the ad being the photo image and the bottom one third being a black background.How is it that the advertisers take our mind from the image on the page to the thoughts that progress in our head? To figure this out let us more closely examine the images, or signs, that have been presented to us. Let us first examine the image of the man in the ad. He is dressed casually "preppie", wearing khakis and a blue, collared shirt. Tucked under his left arm is a box and his hands are full of shopping bags. On his right foot is the image of a ball-and-chain created from dashed white lines. On the man's right (the direction in which he is looking) is a woman wearing a short black dress with black heeled-shoes. The wo...

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