Understanding the Semiotics of Advertising

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Note to Mentors

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Unit Purpose and Aims

The purpose of this unit is to;

The aim of this unit is to introduce the learner to the semiotics of advertising; the language and coding of signs and signifiers within adverts. The learner will also be asked to demonstrate their understanding of these concepts through comparing and contrasting specific exemplar ads.

Learning Outcomes

Learners will;

1. Understand the meaning of advertisements

1.1 Describe the overall impression that a reader might get from quickly studying the advertisement and explain why it does this. Present this back to the group/mentors.

1.2  Analyse this surface level of meaning,   listing all the objects and people in a given ad.

1.3 Describe the message that an advertiser is trying to get across.

2. Be able to decode the cultural or ideological meanings in a campaign

2.1 Describe  the culture in which a  specific ad exists.

2.2 Critically Compare and contrast ads aimed at women with ads aimed at men

2.3 Critically Compare and contrast ads aimed at two very different demographic groupings.

3. Be able to Describe the thematic nature of ads

3.1 Describe how ads reflect various themes in society, vision of society and how they play up to consumer self image.

Learning Tools, Resources & Links

Things that will help the learner develop understanding of this unit;

Mentors  please add your ideas, examples, case studies, links to articles, videos, etc. here.


Our two favourite videos on Semiotics produced by SPANK intake;

Danielle & Olly

Martin & Katie

Telecoms Through the Ages

1)  A well presented, clean diagram of how everyday colours can provoke emotions in people - http://www.onlyinfographic.com/2010/how-colors-affect-purchase-decisions/

2) An analysis of language found in Silk Cut advert – http://www.aber.ac.uk/media/Modules/MC30820/sem_analysis.html

The effect of music.

Music has been voted as the media most people couldn’t live without. Many companies have recognised the power of music and not only implement it in ads about their brands but also use it in stores, sales events and on other occasions to stimulate and change buyers behaviour.

Heartbeats international released a research paper about music’s effect on brands.


Impact of Product Pictures and Brand Names on Memory of Chinese Metaphorical Advertisements

Pin-Chang Lin 1 and Chao-Ming Yang 2,*

1 Graduate School of Design, National Taiwan University of Science and Technology, Taipei, Taiwan
2 Department of Visual Communication Design, Mingchi University of Technology, Taipei, Taiwan

This study’s hypotheses are based on the associative network model of memory proposed by Anderson (1984, 1985), and Anderson and Bower (1972). Three kinds of metaphors (symbol-resembling metaphors, appearance-resembling metaphors, and relation-resembling metaphors) and two types of message cues (product pictures and brand names) were used as the independent variables, while a 3 × 2 within-subjects design with six experimental situations was used to test the effects of various advertisements on memory. The results of the study indicate that the type of metaphorical rhetoric in Chinese-language print advertisements, as well as the differences in message cues, will influence a customer’s memory of those advertisements. In particular, advertisements utilizing symbol-resembling metaphors and appearance-resembling metaphors, along with message cues consisting primarily of product pictures, yield relatively good advertisement memory. In addition to these findings, this study also shows that advertisements containing both relation-resembling metaphors and message cues consisting primarily of brand names yield relatively good advertisement memory.



The power of the right typography.

If you are interested in finding out how many different typefaces exist have a browse through this page here. The have quite a lot of different fonts.

The immense impact a font can have on an ad, a business or a product can be simply explained.

Imagine you are planning to do your first sky diving trip and you are looking very much forward to it, however you are slightly nervous. You arrive at the heli port station and a big sign says “sky diving, dive safe with us” all written in the wonderful Looney Tunes font. Most people would think it is not very re-assuring to have a font like the above mentioned on a sign representing a business where people can die if precautions are not taken seriously.

When using a certain font things should be considered:

- to whom am I communicating to?

- what do I want to communicate?

- which other brands, people, services is the font associated with?

- is the font enhancing the piece of communication it is for or is it working against it?

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