Lecture 9: Advertising Semiotics


  • Advertising is the most widespread mode of communication
  • Does an advertiser shape us or do we shape advertisement?
  • Some argue that advertisement displays already accepted social values
  • Basic advertisement has been around since ancient Rome
  • With electricity, advertisement changed with illumination of billboards, hear them through radio, television sets

Trends in Advertising

  • 19th century and earlier, advertisements consisted of literal descriptions of products
  • Late 19th to early 20th century, consumption as a way of solving social problems. Moving away from rural to urban areas. Social problems included the consumption of alcohol products
  • In 1930s, advertising began to reflect the qualities and values that were important to the consumer. The shift towards creating images of product
  • In 1950s, advertisements began to promote images of the product that consumers could identify with. Appliances advertised, attached with the message of women’s role as a housewife
  • In Post 1960s, advertising became more concerned with invoking subliminal and unconscious desires
  • Advertisements are combined with images and words, to portray a certain message to the consumer. Some sort of ideology is also at play in ads

Four Important Components of Advertisements

  • Implied Narrative: Ads tell some sort of story. This is not directly to the consumer, but implied
  • Polysemy: There is a possibility for more than one interpretation of the ad. An ad can have multiple meanings
  • Intertextuality: You understand a text you are displayed because you have prior knowledge of a previous text, which is required to understand the current text you are looking at. You apply previous knowledge to another text. You are seeing something in new form, but are relying on previous media you have seen. Signs therefore incorporate reference to other ones
  • Anchorage: It is text, that helps interpret an ad. Advertisers often place texts in ads, to narrow down meanings


  • Set of values, beliefs and feelings that, together, offer a view of the world
  • Also used by dominant groups to reinforce and communicate how society is structures and what values are preferred
  • Those in dominant use ideology try to keep order
  • In order to sustain these structures of domination the dominant groups attempt to represent the world informs that reflect their own interests, the interests of their power
  • We tend to buy into the ideology of materialism, which humans believe leads to success in the future
  • Sign as Metonymy: They are signs in which one part or element in for or represent something larger

Problems with Semiotics

  • It is not enough because it is only one approach. Does not cover everything. Because people can reject
  • Differance: Cannot get to the meanings because people can reject meanings, they can go on forever, leading to no fixed meaning
  • Metrosexual: Younger male who are very concerned about their looks. He has money, doesn’t matter if he is homo / heterosexual. The market for these young men is huge (at least 40%. Buying skin care, waxing the back). They go to the gym instead of playing sports. They are concerned about what they wear.  Hence, the idea of male is reconstructed
  • Masculinity:  Reshaping the idea of masculinity, as male are concerned with looks and fashion

Commodity Capitalism: It wants to standardize consumption practices. It strives to standardize consumption patterns on a global level, to maintain capitalism

Note Created by
Is this note helpful?
Give kudos to your peers!
Wanna make this note your own?
Fork this Note