Semiotics of an Advertising

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Advertisement for products usually use psychological and motivational strategies to associate a product with a target audience’s (often subconscious) dreams, hopes, fears, desires, and wishes, suggesting that the product will magically dispel these fears and anxieties or magically deliver on values, desires, and dreams. Using sophisticated research techniques, advertisers study how people’s fears, dreams, and values differ according to their ethnicity, gender, educational level, socioeconomic class, age, and so forth; this research allows advertisers to tailor their appeals precisely to the target audience.

Choose one of the following topics and develop a semiotically convincing essay. Support your ideas with relevant examples and use at least one quotation from the text SIGHNS OF LIFE IN THE USA, and cite the source in MLA-format.

1. Select 1-2 ads and provide a semiotic analysis of the ads, a one product category (cigarettes, cosmetics, alcoholic beverages, clothing, etc.). You should address the following questions: Do the advertisements appeal to similar or different needs? Do they use similar signs to present these appeals? Are they directed to the same or different audiences? How are the signs in the advertisements used to convey a message to the audience?
2. “Collect automobile advertisements from several popular magazines and analyze how the cars are promoted as signs. What slogans are used to catch your interest? What values and ideologies are linked to particular makes and models?” (Signs of Life in the USA 129). Pay attention to the different denotations used in the ads and analyze what meanings they are meant to suggest. In addition, also let the reader know how your own car (or the family’s) acts as a sign and what it might say about your identity.
To assist you with your essay, the following students samples incorporated the following elements into their essay. Please feel free to “jack”:

• Settings, props, and furnishings: how they indicate lifestyle and socioeconomic status; appeal to certain values; carry certain cultural associations or meanings; serve as symbols.

• Characters, roles, and actions: the story of the ad; power relationships and status of the characters; gender, age, or ethnic roles followed or violated; the significance of clothing and accessories, of hair and facial expressions, and of posing, positioning, and gestures.
• Photographic effects: lighting, camera angle, cropping, focus.

• Language and wording of the ad’s copy: its overt message; feelings, mood, and values communicated through connotations, double entendres, and so forth; visual layout of copy.

For those uncertain on how to properly outline their essay, here’s one variation (used in student sample #4):

I. Introduction (hooks readers’ interest, gives background on how ads vary their appeals, asks the question your paper will address, and ends with initial mapping in the form of a purpose or thesis statement).Thesis will include who the ad is geared towards: actualizers, fulfillers,achievers, experiencers.

II. General description of the two ads
A. Description of ad 1
B. Description of ad 2

III. Semiotic Analysis of ads
A. Semiotics of ad 1
B. Semiotics of ad 2

IV. Conclusion

Book ~ Signs Of Life In The USA.
Related articles : “What we are to advertisers” by James B. Twtichell.
sex lies, and Advertising, Gloria Steinem
Alan Foljame: Car Advertising- dominating culture. Eric Schlosser: Kid Kustomers.

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