Clever semiology struck a chord with voters

In today’s market-driven, consumerist culture, the excess of images produced and circulated by the media has created an increasingly complex semiotic environment. The codification of meaning through the use of visual and linguistic signs can both augment and challenge our ideological positions (Bowles, 2010).

The image to the right is part of a controversial advertisement campaign run by the federal Liberal Party during 2010. At the denotative level, the text shows former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s face superimposed on a lemon (‘Liberals launch new’, 2010), wearing his trademark rimless glasses (Atkins, 2010). Yet it is at the connotative level that the text becomes a negative image, drawing on the shared insecurities of Australian voters to suggest that the man we had believed to be a promising political leader in 2007 has in fact failed to deliver on his promises or, in colloquial terms, has proved to be “a lemon”. This is signified by the intratextual elements including the satiric line that turns the “07” in Labor’s “Kevin 07” campaign upside down to represent the “L” in lemon (‘Liberals launch new’, 2010), as well as the clenched facial expression of Kevin Rudd which gives the connotations of leaving a bad taste in one’s mouth.

The colours and font employed are of further connotative significance in that signify the logo of Rudd’s successful 07 campaign, thus forcing the Australian public to reflect on his failure to deliver the extensive promises he made (Rehn, Farr, 2010). This highlights the importance of engaging with individual’s prior knowledge to decoding this advertisement as readings will be framed by one’s political ideals as well as shared cultural ideologies (Turnbull, 2014). In fact, this representation was so powerful that, within two days of the ad airing, Kevin Rudd was ousted (Atkins, 2010). In this way, the dominant or preferred reading of this text was achieved, and the fact that it has been credited as a catalyst for leadership change (Atkins, 2010) suggests how representations form social judgments which, in turn, contributes to social and political change (Bowles, 2010). So successful was this image that it was revived again in 2011 as part of the Liberal’s election campaign (‘Kevin O’Lemon returns’, 2011).

No matter your political persuasion, you have to admit…this ad was clever!


Watch the full ad here:

Reference List

Bowles, K., 2010, ‘Representation and Textual Analysis’ in ‘The Media and Communications in Australia’, Allen and Unwin, pp. 52-54, 62.

Atkins, D., 2010, ‘Libs credit their Kevin O’Lemon ads as a catalyst for Labor leadership change’, The Courier Mail, retrieved March 21 2014, <>.

‘Liberals launch new Kevin O’Lemon advert’, 2010, The Australian, retrieved March 21 2014, <>.

Rehn, A., Farr, M., 2010, ‘Kevin Rudd’s 795 days of empty promises’, The Daily Telegraph, retrieved 21 March 2014, <>.

Turnbull, S., 2014, ‘Media Mythbusting: The Image Cannot Lie’, notes from Lecture 3 of Introduction to Communication and Media Studies at The University of Wollongong.

‘Kevin O’Lemon returns in zesty Liberal Party ad’, 2011, mUmBRELLA, retrieved  22 March 2014, <>.

‘Kevin O’Lemon. Liberal Party Ad.’, 2010, video, mrmonster481, retrieved 22 March 2014, <>.


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