As previously discussed on this blog, semiotic is the study of the various signs and symbols that convey meaning in forms of media. In this blog post, I will be applying semiotics to analyse the messages within a printed advertisement.


Above is an advertisement for Crisis Relief Singapore, a charitable, christian organisation. The campaign that the advert is a part of takes aim at online ‘slacktivism’ .

The first thing that is obvious about the image is that it features a child with a missing leg. The fact that the leg is missing tells us that the child was possibly a victim of war. The most likely cause is a landmine which is a common cause of limb loss in warzones. The fact that the leg stump is freshly bandaged and the stain on the bandage indicates that this is a recent injury. This implies that the war in which the leg was lost could still be going on.

The next aspect of the image is that it’s in black and white. The use of black and white photography is considered to be artistic. However, it is also used to convey unhappy situations. The lack of colour indicates a lack of joy or happiness. this is why it is often used by charities to convey their subjects desperate situations and to evoke empathy.

Surrounding the child are several hands giving the thumbs up signal. This is a striking image that contrasts heavily with the image of the injured child. The thumbs up signal is one that indicates approval in common parlance. However, in the context of the injured child, it seems in very poor taste.

The text of the advert, ‘Liking isn’t helping’ is presented very subtly. This is to bring as much attention to the image as possible. The stunning image of the hands giving the thumbs up to the injured child draws people in. It is only when they focus on the image that the text becomes clear. The font of the text gives the effect of a typewriter. Such imagery evokes thoughts of war as many documents from World War 1 and 2 were typed on typewriters.

The intention of the phrase ‘liking isn’t helping’ is to bring to attention the fact that social media campaigns that invite people to ‘like and share’ a post to increase awareness of an issue, don’t actually mean much if you don’t actually go out and do something to help.