Lecture 4: Spin, Propaganda & Advertising

Making meaning of images

Meanings are produced through a complex social relationship involving -

  1. how viewers interpret or experience the image
  2. the context in which an image is seen

Public Relations - activities aimed at favorably influencing the public,

Political Spin & Propaganda

Spin - an attempt to skew the story in a way that is favorable to a certain person

Eg: Trump called critics of the disaster response "politically motivated ingrates" an advisory went out noting that "the perception of the gov't response continues to be negative.

Propaganda - the intentional influence of attitude and opinions

Examples of Propaganda discussed in class -

1) WW1 & WW2


  • legitimizes the war
  • call for involvement
  • women have a role to play
  • fear through pathos "that could be you"

2) Trailer:


  • lots of shots of youth (little boys, in particular), audience attentively listening to Hitler, large groups in small spaces
  • shots of soldiers to give a feeling of United Germany
  • shots of homeland to show what they should be fighting for
  • shots from the low (for dramatic effect)
  • dramatic music
  • pathos (patriotic feeling)

3) George Bush's speech during Iraq War.


  • The background: abundance of people and the sign "Mission Accomplished"

4) Trump saluting.


  • The irony: Trump has never served in the army, and he didn't go when he was called for a war in Vietnam

5) "Killary Clinton"


  • Russian intervention into US election through social media mocking Clinton
  • Claimed "Killary" Clinton didn't care about veterans or their families.

From Government to Business (Evolution of Advertising)

First radio commercial in 1922: Apartment Homes in Hawthorne Court

"Friend, you owe it to yourself and your family to leave the congested city and enjoy what nature intended you to enjoy. Visit our new apartment homes in Hawthorne Court, Jackson Heights, where you may enjoy community life in a friendly environment."

"If we understand the mechanism and motives of the group mind it is now possible to control and regiment the masses according to our will without them knowing it."

- Edward Bernays

Advertising - the communication that is paid for and is usually persuasive in nature.

Hard Sell - the persuasive techniques and the "reason why" philosophy.

Soft Sell - the enticing and entertaining images; appeal to pathos (emotional).

Advertising & Rhetoric

Language is powerful, creates meaning (encoding/decoding)

Language and imagery make Meaning


Meaning making in the service of profit-making and Corporate Influence


Advertising a powerful site of social construction


Q: How can we use strategies of advertisers in the service of public service messages?

Q: How can we use strategies of advertisers in CCT110 social media campaigns?

Advertising & Ideology

Ideology - a coherent set of social values, beliefs, meanings.

  • Taken-for-granted value commitments, assumptions that are naturalized.

Consumer Ideology promotes consumer culture.

Commodity fetishism - the symbolic separation of commodities from the social conditions in which they were produced.

  • Masks material relation
  • Hides the production of goods (eg - premised on human exploitation)

Book Recommendation: The one Device by Brian Merchant

Symbolic Value - associates things (products) with particular values

Connotation - the range of subjective meanings that may be drawn from a representation

Symbolic Value of Color


  • Meaning of images
  • Public Relations
  • Political Spin
  • Propaganda
  • From government to business
  • Advertising Methods
  • Hard Sell
  • Soft Sell
  • Advertising & Rhetoric
  • Language
  • Meaning
  • Corporate Influence
  • Advertising
  • Advertising & Ideology
  • Ideology
  • Consumer Ideology
  • Commodity fetishism
  • Symbolic Value
  • Connotation
  • Symbolic Value of Color

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