Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Semester of Degree Completion


Thesis Director

Melanie Mills


This study examined print advertising as a visual communication method by focusing on five of Calvin Klein's jeans advertisements and the themes that are expressed to determine what realities or social meanings Calvin Klein's jeans advertisements constructed and/or reflected. To uncover the themes within Klein's advertisements, the following three-methods were applied: Content Analysis, Informal Focus Group and Semiotic Phenomenology. Together the three-methods, based upon data collected from fourteen males and females aged 13-18, 19-21, 22-24 and 28 years old or above, identified fifteen underlying themes containing stereotypes, potentially dangerous realities and evidence showing our desensitization to controversy and shocking images through print advertising. The results showed that Klein's advertisements both constructed and reflected reality, drawing a fine line between what is actually constructed and what is reflected. Sexual terminology was used 85% of the time to describe the ads and "nothing" was the second most used response to describe how the ads made the respondents feel. The females' responses were more emotionally charged and focused on the sex and violence in the ad, where the males expressed negativity towards the unisex or bi-sexual ads and "nothing" to describe how the remaining ads made them feel. Results suggested that people today are more desensitized to shocking or provocative visual images portrayed in advertising, even though advertising is selling more than just the product. The results indicated that advertising fuels false images of love, sexuality, romance, success, body image, success and normalcy, prompting consumers to ask, what else is this ad selling?