Semiotics In Advertising Essay

Essay Use of Semiotics to Analyze Advertisements

2087 Words9 Pages

The theory of semiotics, as proposed by Roland Barthes, has been used to analyze advertisements and the effectiveness of advertisements on viewers. In the articles that I researched that used semiotics to analyze particular advertisements, I found four common and related themes. First, the articles mentioned that the viewer determines the meaning of the advertisement or the viewer interprets the advertisement. Second, this meaning that the viewer assigns to the advertisement is largely determined by context, both social and cultural. Third, advertisers use culture and predominant cultural beliefs in their advertisements in efforts to reach their audience more effectively. Finally, these advertisements actually end up supporting the…show more content…

Originally, Barthes termed connotation as myth because he believed that connotation is a product of society. Connotation is not the true meaning of the sign but a meaning that society has decided to give that sign and is a shared meaning (Griffin, 2012). Barthes wrote that connotation makes what is cultural seem natural (Barthes, 1985/1988). Connotation is what makes habit become ritual. To better understand these two aspects of signs, we have to understand how the system of what makes up a sign affects its meaning. Connotative and denotative signs are formed in different ways. Denotative signs are simply the signified and signifier put together (Griffin, 2012). Connotative signs, however, are a bit more complex. Originally there is the physical signifier and the signified, which together make up the denotative system (Griffin, 2012). This denotative sign is what the signifier in the connotative system is made up of (Griffin, 2012). To this signifier is added a new signified, which is a shared meaning that has been created by society (Griffin, 2012). This combination creates the connotative of mythical system. It is in this mythical system that signs derive their meaning (Griffin, 2012). Through these systems which society has created, signs are interpreted and evaluated by the shared meanings of society (Griffin, 2012).These mythical systems are not meant to hide the original meanings of messages but rather

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only refer to concepts in “the real world” that we deal with on a day-to-day basis, butthat they also refer to other texts, and that the degree of this “intertextuality (Fiske1987)” is what enforces social beliefs in the culture or context we choose to live in.This degree can be found using semiotic analysis, but as the essay will show, themeaning depends on how “open” the ad is, and who it is meant for.The ad from Wallpaper is for the Swedish car company VOLVO (see ad 1)

 Key signifiers

: Colour photo of large, white, designer house in background. In front of thehouse from left are: a young, attractive woman with a beige winter coat with a fur-collar and confident “power”-stance. Next to her young man, dressed in a brown, plaid tweed suit, his stance is boyish and passive. To his left a sitting dog. Next tothese three is the car, a Volvo station wagon. The left front car-door is open, and inthe opening stands another young male, visible waist up in a dark brown cardigan andalso a sixpence. Directly beneath everything, the written text.

 Possible signifieds

: Fur is expensive, tweed suits are old fashioned (even “daggy?”), dogs represent familyand hunting, Volvos are the safest cars in the world (also expensive) and sixpencesrepresent working men.


: The couple and the key signifiers connotatearistocracy. The passive stance of the husband and the fact that it is the servantstanding on the driver side of the open car, can direct connotation to thegeneralisations of the decadence of aristocracy; it’s a love-triangle cliché; somewhatresembling “Lady Chatterley’s lover.” The form of the written text, in that itresembles the writing style of ads from the ‘30’s and ‘40’s seems to underline this.

 Naturalised meaning 

: the love-triangle theme also brings an ironic element into thead. The ad is complex and witty in the way that it spoofs the notion of Scandinavianaristocracy, but also that it juxtaposes Volvo as a sophisticated car. As a result of this


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