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Essay Example: Visual Rhetoric as Depicted in Advertisement

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Carnegie Mellon University
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Following advancements in technology, different companies have adopted the use of visual rhetoric to market their products and services. Newbold (n.p.) describes visual rhetoric as part of a communication process where we interpret and make meaning out of the world around us. In essence, Newbold implies that visual rhetoric is the use of graphic images to communicate meaning. It falls under a broader category referred to as visual literacy,' which refers to as the capability of an individual to read and decode images thereby extracting the meanings portrayed by those images. Visual rhetoric communicates more than the meaning of the contents of a picture, as it also conveys how culture is mirrored, communicated, and transformed by images and motion pictures. Even though different academics have exhaustively explored the concept of visual rhetoric, Susan Bordos chapter titled Beauty (Re) Discovers The Male Body captures the attention of many as she takes a different twist on the topic matter. In the chapter, Bordo analyses the use of the male body on advertising. The authors main argument is that most companies employ the use of the male body on their adverts to promote their products since the male body serves as an attraction to both the female and male audience. On that note, this paper will entail a review and in-depth analysis of two different ads while echoing Bordos school of thought, to analyze the visual rhetoric of the ads and extract the explicit and implicit messages.

Advert 1: Coca-Cola | Pool Boy Ad

The Pool Boy advert is a production by the Coca-Cola Company that was released in March 2017 to champion for the brands Taste the Feeling campaign. As such, the ad depicts two siblings, a brother, and a sister, who have their eyes stuck lustfully on a bare-chested, chiseled pool boy while he cleans their swimming pool. In the hopes of offering the pool boy an icy Coke bottle, they both race downstairs; where they knock each other out on their way in a contest to reach the pool boy. However, to their surprise, someone in their family, a female, beats them to the punch as she is the first to deliver the Coke to the pool boy (Coca-Cola, n.p.).

Reflecting on the said Coca-Cola commercial, it employs the use of visual rhetoric to convey different messages to the viewers in a fresh and inclusive twist manner. First, it expresses the explicit message of the advert that, Coke is an amazing drink that should be taken for its incredible taste and sensation if not to quench thirst. On the other hand, the advert suggests a different meaning altogether regarding culture, art, and diversity.

The imagery of a sweaty, well-built, sun-kissed, bare-chested pool guy who is coveted upon by the two siblings presents the viewers with various cultural messages. For instance, the advert implicates that it accommodates the controversial gay relationship as one sees the brother lusting on the pool guy. The advert uses the male body as an attraction for both women and men hence promoting heterosexuality. This depiction assimilates to Bordes stance that advertisers are using the male body as an attraction site. In her book, she narrates, This ad made no such pretense. It caused me to knock over my coffee cup, ruining the more cerebral pleasures of the Book Review. Later, when I had regained my equilibrium, I made a screen-saver out of him so that I could gaze at my leisure. Im sure that many gay men were as taken as I was, and perhaps some gay women too (Bordo, pg 168). What Borde implies is that the picture she had seen in an advert in the New York Times Magazine said more than just to advertise, as she recounts that the picture seemed to deliberately provoke her into erotic consciousness, a scenario she found a bit strange to her.

Other than that, the Coca-Cola advert indicates that it strives to achieve cultural diversity, inclusion, and equality in its business endeavors. By inclusion of both the girl and the boy lusting over the same pool boy, the advert indicates that it offers equal opportunities to both sexes, as well as accommodating people from all walks of life. Thus, the Coca-Cola Pool Boy advert recognizes the presence of the minority groups in the society, strives for diversity, inclusion, and equality, besides using the male body tactic as an attraction factor to promote its brand.


Below is an attached image that shows the Coca-Cola Pool Boy advert.

Image retrieved from,c_fit,w_630,f_auto/ 2: Dolce & Gabbanas Intenso Cologne

Back at the start of the year 2015, the Dolce & Gabbana Company, popularly known as D&G, launched an advertisement for a new fragrance, the Intenso, to its esteemed customers. Colin Farrell, a renowned Irish actor, was used as the face of the advertisement. In line with the official advertisement photograph, Farrell sits on a faded black and white rocky background, showing part of his upper body that is covered in a white t-shirt while the cologne rests in front of him. His hair seems to be well shampooed and is neatly combed backward. He stares directly to the observer with his prepossessing, enticing eyes (The Fashionisto, n.p.).

The D& G Company employs the use of visual rhetoric features to gather a large market share by conveying both the explicit and implicit messages to the public. That is, the direct message delivered to the mass is that which portrays the fragrance as a great and interesting spray that one should consider buying it. However, a closer look at the picture presents a different message. It makes one develop strong erotic sensations towards Farrell, for he looks extremely hot and sexy. The advertisers use visual elements that create a traction factor that compels buyers into purchasing the spray. For instance, the dimly lit setting of Farrell infused in a black and white setting, the use of make-up to enhance Farrells beauty, and the employment of a hot model/actor all work together to contribute into confusing the viewer in a sexual manner. The advertisers beautified Farrell portraying him somewhat heterosexual as a gay can also covet him.

As such, the advert echoes Bordos sentiments concerning culture that, today, good-looking straight guys are flocking to the modeling agencies, much less concerned about any homosexual taint that will cleave to them. Its no longer necessary for an ad to plant its tongue firmly in cheek when lavishing erotic attention on the male body (Bordo, 144). Bordo implies that it is no longer surprising for males to engage in cultures that can depict one gay, as the society is slowly assimilating these cultures. Therefore, the advertisement proves that the use of male body has become a trend for most companies so that they can advertise their products, and in turn, modified how people perceive the gay community. On the other hand, the advertisement insinuates that the D&G Company is inclusive and diverse as it uses a person of Irish origins to be the face of its advertisement.

Below is an attached image of Dolce & Gabbanas Intenso Cologne face, Farrell.

Image retrieved from


In summary, the essay has explored the use of visual rhetoric by advertisers to communicate various messages to the society while echoing Bordos narrations and opinions. The first advert, Pool Boy ad, endorses the use of a hot, bare-naked boy who is lusted over by a brother and a sister, a scenario that depicts Coca-Cola using the male body tactic as an attraction factor to promote its brand. Additionally, it shows that the company recognizes the presence of the minority groups in the society, strives for diversity, inclusion, and equality. On the other hand, the Dolce & Gabbanas Intenso Cologne advert employs the face of a beautified hot and sexy Farrell to promote its brand. In any case, the different messages communicated to the viewer contribute towards the promotion of the brand.



Bordo, Susan. The male body: A new look at men in public and in private. Macmillan, 2000, Pp. 168-201.

Coca-Cola. Pool Boy. YouTube. 2017. Accessed 30 Nov. 2017.

Newbold, Curtis. What Is Visual Rhetoric?, 2014. Accessed 30 Nov. 2017.

The Fashionisto. Colin Farrell is Intense for Dolce & Gabbana Intenso Fragrance Ad Campaign., 2015. Accessed 30 Nov. 2017.


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