Sega Saturn Ad Analysis

Posted on June 30, 2011



Final Exam
Sexist Ideology in SEGA SATURN Printed Advertisement
(Semiotic Analysis)

Submitted by:

Sebelas Maret University

SEGA SATURN controversial advertisement

SEGA SATURN official advertisement


Media has a great power in influencing our way of life. With the main function as means of communication, media contains also the ideology of the informer. One of media products is advertisement. Advertisement is the product of communication that typically attempts to persuade the potential customers to purchase or consume more of a particular brand of products or services ( When we use media for a purpose, it becomes part of that purpose. Thus, inside the advertisement we can find the ideology of the producer. The ideology is interesting to analyse because it reflects the purpose of the producers to the consumers. Moreover, the ideology also reflects the social values that the producer believes.     A successful advertisement should accommodate the correct social paradigm relates to the product. The desired effect is shown through the use of symbols in the advertisement itself. In revealing what is intended beneath those symbols, semiotic theory is required. Semiotics works by interpreting signs and signifier embedded in each symbol. Those signs have ideas of what we called the signified of the symbols. The analysis of the construction symbols together will bring us to a comprehend understanding of the social reality depicted by the advertisement.
The paper will analyse the Sega Saturn console official advertisement which was published on 1996. The advertisement features a naked woman with blonde hair and blue eyes. It used screenshots from the games to cover her breasts and pubic area. The ad was very successful in attracting buyers. Even the Electronic Gaming Monthly selected the campaign as the best ad during the 1997 Buyer’s Guide. The selling power, however, is not as successful as the ad campaign. Sega Saturn’s selling point was beaten by Sony Playstation after 1998. The analysis will reveal the intention and ideology of the producer and the reason why such symbols are used to persuade the prospective buyers.


Sega Saturn was first released in Japan in November 1994 with code name Sega Satan. The console then released in USA markets at ‘Saturnday’ on September 2, 1995.While it was popular in Japan, the Saturn failed to get a similar market share in North America and Europe against Sony Playstation and Nintendo 64. Gamepro magazine even categorized Sega Saturn as one of the 10 worst-selling consoles of all time (on 8th position). However, the sexy ad campaign for USA market share got its hall of fame by getting the best ad campaign by Electronic Gaming Monthly. On Gamepro features article, the ad was considered as one of the most controversial video game advertisements, along with the other nine (
The advertisement, physically, shows a picture of a beautiful naked woman with long blonde hair and blue eyes. Her pose is titilating since she is intentionally showing parts of her body, including curves, breasts, and pubic area. However, the screenshots from Sega Saturn games covers those parts so that the viewer, instead of directly seeing her private parts, look at the screenshots. The texts that accompany the picture are:



When you’ve got Sega Saturn’s triple 32-bit processing power

She’s got blonde hair, blue eye and the best body her money can buy. SO WHAT! There’s no time for distractions when you’re deep into Sega Saturn. Besides, check out those screenshots. Ba-dab-boom, ba-dah-bing, know what I mean?

You want curves? Try Sega Rally! Want a thrill? Panzer Dragoon II Zest. Want a real knockout? Check our Virtua Fighter II. And lots of other incredibly cool games you can play on Saturn. But don’t be fooled. Sega Saturn games offer more than just great looks. Like those 32-bit processors (that’s two more than PlayStation, if you’re scoring at home- at even if you’re alone). Saturn’s triple processoring power means better gameplay and better graphics. So, if you’re looking for some real actions, HEAD FOR SATURN.

At the first look, the advertisement wants to show us that playing Sega Saturn is so delightful that gamer will not be distracted by any means, even beautiful woman naked in from of him. Of course the effect was intended to boost the selling points of the consoles. This is the denotative meaning of the advertisement.
There are three important images which will be analysed; the woman, the game screenshots, and the texts. These three images together construct the real meaning of the ad. The real meaning shows the ideology of the producer. Looking at the woman image it came into conclusion that ad contains the ideology of women objectifications. Gaye Tuchman argued the phenomenon as:
It assumes a direct correspondence among media organizations, their content, and the everyday world. It states:
1. Few women hold positions of power in media organizations, and so:
2. The content of the media distorts women’s status in the social world. The media do not present women who are viable role models, and therefore:
3. The media’s deleterious role models, when internalized, prevent and impede female accomplishments. They also encourage both women and men to define women in terms of men (as sex objects) or in the context of the family (as wives and mothers). (Tuchman, 1979: 531)

The long blonde hair and blue eyes symbolize typical American woman. The stereotypes of blonde women are dumb and ignorant. A study once said that blonde women make men dumb because people confronted with stereotypes and mimic the unconscious stereotype of the dumb blonde ( The decision to put blonde woman in the ad reinforces the idea of women as sexual object and passive creatures. On the other hand, the blonde-haired woman is also considered as attractive and desirable (Sherrow, 2006) thus it works with the idea of Sega Saturn gaming console as an electronic device that offers attractive gaming experiences. In addition, blonde woman is also the symbol of American beauty.

The games screenshots that covers the woman private parts strengthen the tagline “NOTHING ELSE MATTERS”. A normal man would prefer to take a look at the nude woman but here the games are far more attractive than the woman. Interestingly, this puts the woman as means to distract the gamer. She is seen as an interruption to gamer’s joy. According to this phenomenon, women are treated as sexist. It suggested that, in critical thinking, women do not have enough power to distract men attention from playing games even they use their body to attract them.

The narrative that comes along with the picture describes Sega Saturn superiorty (mainly over its competitor, Sony PlayStation). It tells in what way Sega Saturn is better than Sony PlayStation; better gameplay and graphics. It also offers various game genres; e.g. Sega Rally for Sports game, Panzer Dragoon II Zest for Simulation game, and Virtua Fighter II for Fighting game. The preview of these games is shown through the screenshots. The texts serve to persuade the prospective buyer to buy the console. This is the marketing strategy of the producer.

The analysis of the advertisement using semiotic theory reveals two levels of meanings. In denotative meaning, the producer of Sega Saturn console wanted to persuade the prospective buyers by offering the attractive gaming experience through the metaphor of a blonde woman and tagline “NOTHING ELSE MATTERS”.
The connotation meaning is derived from the relation of images and cultural stereotypes of blonde-haired woman as typical American women. It reveals that the producer had the ideology of women as sexist and sexual object. Interestingly, the ideology, although it got approval from society, did not affect the selling points as expected by the market. This draws the conclusion that a successful ad campaign does not always go along with successful selling points.


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