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Saturday, 7 September 2013

The Semiotics of Nintendo's Advertising, Part 3: Nintendo's Ad Analysis

In the third and final part of this essay, I will seek to address the usefulness of Semiotics in analysing advertisements and the ways in which Nintendo have chosen these elements and ideas for their ads to a) create meaning and b) to persuade consumers to purchase their products. Through this, I will utilize and apply Semiotic terminology to my advertising examples and state the wider implications and cultural understandings of what Nintendo are trying to imply and decode their ideas and the hidden messages they are sending out to their readers and audience. 

Therefore, I have chosen 5 different adverts: 4 print ads and 1 TV ad. 

Triple Play

The first ad shows the NES, Super Nintendo and Gameboy systems on what looks like an outer space-like background. There appears to be light rays underneath the boxes. This denotes that it is giving the appearance that they are colliding towards each other, like 3 space ships. The caption, 'Triple Play' signifies that there are not only 3 ways of playing Nintendo games but that you have the choice to pick from the NES, Gameboy and Super Nintendo. The Triple Play logo is red in a Futura condensed extra bold normal -type font, which could denote Nintendo's trademark colour of Red, but also to highlight the Red on a Black background. 

The presentation of the poster is futuristic space -like. With space comes technology, computers and video games; therefore it has that feel to it.  

The official Nintendo seal of quality sign is made bigger than the consoles, thus connoting and emphasising how much more important it is to know that 'quality' is better than quantity. It could serve as anchorage in place of the normal Nintendo logo. 

The White anchorage says 'Nintendo gives you the power to choose. Classic power, Portable Power, Super Power.' Classic referring to and signifying the NES, Super Power refers to Super Nintendo and Portable Power denotes the Gameboy, being a portable system. The use of 'power' suggests that in the context of Nintendo and gaming, gaming is power. With power, you can use it to your advantage and to take control of the characters of the games you play. 


The second ad is an advert for Starfox for the Super Nintendo. Has a dark background with Red and Yellow text juxtaposed onto it. The font for the text looks like it is Arial Black. The caption is like a play on words.Chips as in computer chips that are found in computers, and Chips as in US terms potato chips or UK terms Chips as in chunky fries denoting food. 

Given the text is in Red, the red must be used to emphasise the significance of the Super FX chip, which is a first for a video game. The red text says 'One of these chips gives Starwing (Starwing being the other name for Starfox) the most exciting FX you've ever seen'. FX is an abbreviation of 'Effects', as in special effects. Now think about this; imagine replacing FX with 'taste' and seen with had. It would then read 'One of these chips gives Starwing the most exciting taste you've ever had'. If that was the case, then Starwing would be a brand name for fries, instead of a video game. It gives off the impression that it is selling fries or chips, a type of food product. 

The yellow text, 'the other one gives you spots' underneath a picture of a french fry, which is indexical, could denote that with fries and spots, if you eat too much fried food, you'd end up getting spots, as well as get fat and mouth ulcers. French fries is considered unhealthy and a part of fast food, which is cheap to sell and takes less preparation to cook. 

Underneath it, is a small box art of the game, Starfox with anchorage next to it. The small box art can also be seen as iconic, as it resembles what is being advertised and marketed to the consumer, which is video games. 

The signifier is the FX chip, the signified is the caption 'one of these chips....'

The bottom right-hand corner has the Red Super Nintendo logo denoting that this game can only be played on the Super Nintendo. 

Rhythm Heaven for Nintendo DS

This next advert shows pop star Beyonce playing Rhythm Paradise on the Nintendo DS console. The text looks foreign, though I'm guessing it must be German or some other European language. From her facial expression, she seems to be smiling, thus as a code and indexical code, is denoting that she enjoys playing the game and is having fun at the same time. 

Her dress code is very casual, that of a Grey tee-shirt and blue jeans that connotes her relaxed and calm expression, as she is happily playing on her DS. It also denotes the everyday clothes she wears at home when she is not working and having to look very glamorous on camera for the paparazzi and her fans. Her posture signifies how she might play portable video games at home with her legs folded 

The text at the top of the poster could connote Beyonce's hair colour or the background cover of the game box, which is very brown-ish looking. 

The fact that Beyonce was chosen to advertise this particular video game titled 'Rhythm Paradise', the game itself relies on rhythmic action and having a sense of rhythm and understanding the beat of the music playing. As she is a singer and a dancer and she is advertising a game that involves music and rhythm, using the stylus and tapping buttons in time to the beat of the song, it makes her appearance all the more appropriate really. Rhythm Paradise is a music-based video game. 

Beneath Beyonce are the screenshots of different mini-games included in the game, as well as diagrams of a hand holding a stylus, each one signifying how each game should be played. 

At the bottom of the poster is a picture of the game cover with anchorage next to it. On the bottom right-hand side, is the DS games console with stylus, thus denoting which system this game should be played on. 


This one is more of a holiday promotion held by beverage company Pepsico promoting Pepsi and the Super Nintendo. Mario is dressed as Santa, wearing a Santa hat that has 'M' on it, with Yoshi as a reindeer. Yoshi signifies the reindeer, and his shape and form is reminiscent of a Reindeer.With Mario as Santa, his hat is a dress code and the concepts of Santa and Mario both illicit positive connotations. Santa brings happiness and joy to kids when he delivers presents to them at night when they are asleep, Mario as Santa is an Iconic sign, and like Santa he brings happiness and joy to children, but when they play Mario games. That feeling as a child of opening your presents on Christmas day in the morning and discovering you got a Nintendo Wii, 3DS, Wii U or Nintendo games as gifts, is very much like that. 

Games that are fun for all the family and do not contain violence. It's about fun and enjoyment. The M on his hat denotes 'Mario'. Mario is holding a yellow package, presumably with Super Nintendo written on it, we can presume he is delivering a Super Nintendo console as a present to a child. 

'Win a Super Nintendo Entertainment System' denotes and signifies it is a competition to win a SNES games console. The anchorage, 'Just in Time for the holidays' denotes that the competition takes place a week or so, before the week of Christmas Eve and Day. 

The colour code is mainly Red; Santa wears red, so does Mario along with his Blue overalls. The Red clothing of Mario's connotes Nintendo's trademark colour at the time, which used to be Red, in contrast to Sega's Blue and Sega's mascot, Sonic The Hedgehog, who is also blue. 

Mario and Yoshi's smiles are also a form of non-verbal code. 

Mario and Yoshi are signs emphasizing they are central to this promotion. The small house may connote the house that they left to drop off one of the presents. 


Here is the advert for the Wii home console that was released in 2006 in North America. It shows the Wii Remote in what looks like liquid rising upwards, and you can see the buttons on the controller. It then shows the D-pad, 3 circle buttons moving about. This denotes that Nintendo have taken a different approach to video games than they did before and are trying to do something that caters to everyone. It then switches to a hand and of a guy grabbing the remote. The way it is shot and edited gives off a sense of suspense. He uses it to play video games. The 2 people, the guy and the girl appear to be playing a game of tennis. Even though we don't see footage of a tennis game, we hear tennis sounds in the background. We then get footage of 2 guys - who look like they are chefs holding Wii remotes and using them as if they were knives to chop up food. It is assumed they are playing a cooking game.

An elderly couple is now shown, each one holding Wii remotes. Classical music is playing in the background. They are moving sideways, too -ing and fro-ing and holding the controller as if  it was a baton and they were conductors of an orchestra. Their appearance signifies Nintendo's aim to create and deliver a product that has mass market appeal, so that anyone, regardless of age, can pick up a Wii remote and play. It switches to a man who is sitting on a chair. He is holding 2 remotes, one in each hand, as if they were drumsticks and he was playing the drums with them. He is then wearing a black baseball cap, Blue shirt and uses the remote to swing it as if it was a bat and he was playing baseball.

A young boy and an elderly man, who appears to be his grandfather are playing a fishing game on the Wii. It is assumed that they connote the father and son bond of getting together and spending time over a particular past -time. which in this case is video games. Shot then switches to a bespectacled guy, who seems to be a dentist holding the remote and looking inside someones teeth. A young woman is lying on the couch with sound effects in the background. Sounds like she is playing New Super Mario Bros Wii. She moves the Green Wii remote up and down. Green is also a referent and the colour of  Super Mario Bros' Luigi's clothes. An image of the Wii nunchuk in milky liquid then appears, and is plugged into the back of the remote. A family, who look like they are having a party with birthday decorations on the wall, are playing a game with remotes. What this game is we do not know for certain. However, one may connote that it is polysemic; therefore, it could be Wii Party or some other party-type game. Shot switches to a guy lurking behind a chair, who then pops up and uses it like a gun to shoot enemies. He then sits down. It is assumed that he was playing a first-person shooter type game. A trio of girls, 2 Japanese/Asian, 1 Caucasian with the Caucasian holding the red Wii remote and of whom are trying to trap a fly. Another guy uses the remote as a sword. You can hear slicing sound effects in the background. The phone rings. He then presses the D-Pad to pause the game, so he can answer the phone.

We get a shot of a Wii remote and see that one of the lights is blue, signifying the game that he'd been playing is paused.

The Wii console is on a table alongside the nunchuk and Wii remote. Image fades. Then 'Coming 2006' appears, signifying the worldwide release date of the console. Then the advert fades and ends.


Each of these 5 advertisements all have very different ways of selling the Nintendo brand to the consumer. I'd also like to point out that although Nintendo is a Japanese brand by nature and has Japanese and Asian cultural values, the characters of Nintendo, most of them are not Japanese, solely by origin or ethnicity. Legend of Zelda's Link, Samus from Metroid, Mario, Kirby, though were created by the likes of Shigeru Miyamoto, Masahiro Sakurai, Gunpei Yokoi, they each have personalities and images that are western- related that resonate with Nintendo fans, who aren't Japanese themselves. And that alone, is what makes Nintendo stand out from other so-called Japanese games developers, of whom some or most of their characters cater and appeal towards Japanese audiences, moreso than Western audiences.

Final Thoughts:

Semiotics, and the significance of Semiotics in advertising, is crucial in understanding how messages are read and perceived by us, and as to how the creators creation of that text input that message, in order to sell a particular product or service.

Semiotics operates on a level that is firstly denotative by means of seeing what is already presented in front of us and then explaining it, descriptively, and secondly connotative and implicit and hidden meanings that we ourselves interpret from the given image/text. It is about analysing images, signs, logos, symbols, posters etc for the purpose of understanding its meaning. But semiotics isn't just limited to visual media and things, it includes anything and everything. We can analyse anything, and anyone in Semiotics, just as long as it is visual and can be seen by everyone. 

Images and signs operate on different levels, depending on their context, and we only know it is what it is when the signified (word of the image/object) and signifier (image/object) meet together. It is only from then onwards that the coming together of the denotation and connotation makes sense to us, and alas, from that we draw upon our own conclusions.

Nintendo has a variety of ways in conveying their image to audiences and fans, to encourage them to buy video games consoles and games. And it is through advertising, both on TV and print, that they use numerous selling techniques, visual signs and codes to enable them to spread their message across, as well as to emphasize that Nintendo is about fun, enjoyment, and being happy, through the medium of gaming.

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