Every day when we wake up in the morning, we hear or see an advertisement almost anywhere and anytime; at home, on way to school or work and even we can find an advertisement when we are standing in bathroom queue in cinema. Advertisements come in different forms and shapes but all of them have the same purpose and that is to convince their audience to buy a product or to use a service that the company has to offer. Nevertheless, the key to a successful advertisement lies within the “Semiotics” which in simpler words means “the study of signs” (Chandler 2008: 2). The goal of this paper is to provide a semiotic analysis of advertisements in the fields of business and politics. In the business section, logos of famous companies such as Adidas and Dior will be discussed. Then, in the political section, we will take a look at the recent presidential election in Iran and parliament election in Sweden.
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Beasley and Danesi defined advertisement as: “â€¦ any type or form of public announcement intended to direct people’s attention to the availability, qualities, and/or cost of specific commodities or services.” (Beasley & Danesi 2002: 1). The most common types of advertising come in forms of print (newspaper, magazines, brochures, fliers), outdoor (billboard, kiosks) and broadcast (TV, radio) which you see them every day and to some extent they have become a part of our daily life. Advertisers use different kinds of codes to draw attention of audience to their products, but mainly they focus on social codes more than the other ones. Another important factor in advertising is to present things according to the gender and age of their target group, because a 5 year old child will not respond to an advertisement the same as a 30 year old man. Maybe now you can see that why people call it “Advertising Industry”, because it takes more than one man or woman to do the whole job. A group of experts in different fields come together and essence of their ideas will become an advertisement which either will succeed or fail.
All the big companies try to pick logos and mottos which represent their company’s field of work and at the same time they (advertisers) try to make it simple and understandable for almost everyone. There are always different signifiers in logos and other types of advertising.
For instance, the German company of Adidas Group which is famous for its sports and clothing goods has a simple, but at the same time meaningful logo and motto. It is also worth to mention that Adidas was picked after Adolf Dassler nickname (Adi Dassler). The company’s logo can be discussed in three different aspects; shape, color and font.
First, the Three-Stripe brand mark became the Adidas worldwide logo in 1996. Before that the logo looked like a Trefoil which its three leaves symbolized the Olympic spirit. However, one can still find a resemblance between old and new logos. The Three-Stripe logo is also associated with a mountain-like figure especially for those who are living in Alps areas. The spaces between the lines could be assumed as the steps that one should take to reach the top and achieve greatness. Nowadays, the trefoil logo is associated with Adidas classic designs, so we can see that time has changed the association between the logo and its meaning among people.
Second, the color black has good and bad connotations but among athletes and especially young ones. Black color suggests the idea of being serious, elegant and sophisticated and it is an inspirational motif for them.
Finally, the font in the logo is designed by ITC Avant Garde which is both a pioneer and a well-known company in its own field. The Adidas font like the rest of other fonts designed by company is simple and also formal which gives a special simplicity to the logo. The Adidas Company like its logo has always tried to design simple but catchy goods and we must say that they were successful. It has always been said: “the simpler, the better”.
Another interesting aspect of advertising by the Adidas Company is their motto “impossible is nothing”. Stanley Fish believed that “it is impossible to mean the same thing in two (or more) different ways” (Chandler 2008: 123), this quote gives us the reason why Adidas did not chose a different word order for their motto. Instead of “impossible is nothing” they could have said “everything is possible” or “nothing is impossible”, but would it have the same effect? The answer is simply NO. Using double negative in the motto intensifies the meaning; you can do whatever you want if you have the right equipment, which is Adidas.
In addition, according to markedness theory, one can say that “impossible is nothing” is more marked than the other forms, but we should keep in mind that they are different phrases according to their word order and will not have the same meaning or effect.
Next advertisement that is going to be analyzed is J’adore perfume from the Dior Company. In this advertisement film, which Charlize Theron stars in it, variety of signifiers and codes have been used to illustrate prestige and excellence of the Dior’s products.
The clip starts by Charlize Theron walking from a room to another one, which from the settings you can guess it is happening in a castle or a very luxurious house. She is wearing a beautiful night gown which goes well with her setting and we would say that she belongs to upper social class. Then, she starts taking hear jewelries off and after that she takes her night gown off. And, while she is taking her jewelries and clothes off there is light music in the background and she says:
“Gold is cold, diamonds are dead, limousine isn’t a car, don’t pretend, feel what’s real, J’adore, Dior”
And, the clip ends by a back naked shot of Charlize Theron in a way that looks like the bottle of the perfume. The advertiser has used power of images and words together and made a powerful combination in which lack of any of them would have changed the message that wanted to be conveyed.
There are lots of connotations in what Charlize Theron says during the advertisement clip. The denotation meaning of Gold is: “a yellow malleable ductile metallic element that occurs chiefly free or in a few minerals and is used especially in coins, jewelry, and dentures” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary), but connotation meaning is “something valued and fine in its own kind”. And, the same thing is true for connotation meaning f diamond; something which is exotic and scarce or Limousine, something which is luxurious and fancy. Advertiser is using both connotation and denotation meanings to say that if you wear J’adore perfume then you are valuable, exotic and luxurious. Also, the advertisement wants to say, maybe you do not have gold, diamonds or limousine car but they things which are not real and they are just for showing off but if you want to stand out and be unique use J’adore.
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No doubt, Charlize Theron’s appearance in this advertisement plays an important role. First of all, she is a famous actress who is known for her beauty and she is said to be an icon in her career, therefore, one would quickly assume that this advertisement has something to do with women. This assumption happens because of mass media codes; it is not common that a woman advertises men products especially when the advertisement is about colognes or perfumes. Additionally, Therone is living in the USA but she is originally from South Africa which is a symbol of an exotic land and precious stones such as diamonds. Also, Charilze Theron age might be related to the idea that this kind of perfume suits women not girls, experts in perfume industry also suggest that ideal age for this perfume is between 30 and 45 years old. Lastly, the bottle of perfume represents all the aspects that were mentioned above. The bottle looks like a woman and also you can find the gold and white colors which are related to what Throne says during the advertisement.
After discussing about advertising in the business field now it is time to focus on all time controversial subject of politics, and the strategies politicians and their campaign teams’ use in their advertisements to gain more vote in order find their way to a position in their government system. Advertising plays an important role for political candidates, especially presidential candidates, because advertisement come in different forms and people can have access to them easily anywhere and anytime. The more candidates give information about them and present transparent and precise programs for future the voters are willing more to vote for them. The candidates are aware of this fact and they use a very powerful tool called “advertisement” to reach their goal.
In Iran’s recent so called fraud-free presidential election a new school of thought was born which is called “Green Movement”. The leader of this movement, Mir-Hossein Mosavi, chose the green color as a symbol for his campaign which mostly won the attention of the younger generation in Iran. Choosing the green color shows the intelligence and intention of those people who were in charge of Mosavi’s advertising campaigns, they had a bigger thought in their mind rather than just simply choosing a color for the party; in Iran the green color is a symbol of different things such as a new life, being religious and holy and being fresh, so it gives the idea that they must be different from the other ones. Also, the Green Movement was able to unify its supporters successfully by this simple act.
However, when election result was revealed and Ahmadinejad was announced as the president for second time green color found a new meaning among Iranians. The green color now has become of a symbol of freedom and resistance among Iranians and they try to send this message to other parts of the world to show that they are not like Ahmadinejad and his supporters who have been running the country for a long time. Nowadays, their supporters by only spraying a big green V on the walls of the city show that they are still out there even though the government has been suppressing them in violent ways. Green color now has new meanings among Iranian people one of which might be a civil disobedience. So, clearly we can see that first there was an intention behind all these matters and now they way Iranians interpret the green color is different from the way it meant to Iranians before presidential election.
The final advertisement that I want to talk about is the ad which was made by Sverigedemokraterna (far right party) in Sweden during their recent parliament election which was controversial in its own kind. Sverigedemokraterna is known as a fascist party and they are strongly against immigration. They presented their views clearly in their ads using lots of codes and symbols which can be found all over the clip. In this particular ad, it has been shown that a man and a woman are sitting behind their desk while counting the money using the machine. On one side of the table where there is more money it is written “immigration officer” and on the other side which there is no money it is written “pensions officer”. Then, the alarm goes off and two red handles are hung from the ceiling, on one of them it is written “immigration” and the other one “pensions”. After that there is an old lady who is using a walker in doing her best to get to the handle, while a group of women wearing black veil and borqa are running faster than her to get to the other handle.
The first thing that draws attention to itself in this ad is the dark setting that is symbol of bad situation in Sweden. And, the red handles along with the siren sound means that there is emergency situation and something had to be done immediately. Women who are wearing veil and borqa symbolize all the immigrants in Sweden, particularly Muslims. The old lady in the clip symbolizes the hard working Swedes who have paid their taxes and when they want to get their pension now they fall behind because of the immigrants. In this ad the advertiser focused more on social codes (bodily codes and commodity codes) which exist in Sweden. Nevertheless, the discrimination factor is very vivid – the distance between the handles and the space between the old Swedish woman and the women who are dressed in black. The general message of this ad is to say, stop immigration or it will be at the expense of the “real” Swedes.
To sum up, we are living in a world full of signs and codes. People use them for different purposes, whether they are good or bad. By using your mind, you can find all signs and decipher all codes and make a right decision.
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