We all live in an attention economy – nobody wants to give you their attention unless you earn it. This readily applies to a broad spectrum of media, particularly advertising.
In order to be effective, advertisements such as this one made for Nova Schin ‘non-alcoholic’ beer, must carry a message but do it fast. In order to do this effectively, the advertisement must use semiotics and use them well. Semiotics you ask?
If that hasn’t confused you more about the meaning of semiotics, one point argued by Saussure is that there was no inherent or necessary relationship between that which carried the meaning (signifier) and the meaning that was carried (signified).
Making the distinction between the signifier and the signified or what is shown and what is meant, is the most important thing to consider when interpreting and image.
While the image denotes a wooden pipe and the text painted below reads “this is not a pipe”, there are connotations that the artwork makes which René explain himself; “…could you stuff my pipe? No, it’s just a representation, is it not? So if I had written on my picture “This is a pipe,” I’d have been lying”
Semiotics is everywhere; it as an important tool of communication. So why is it so important in advertising? Like I suggested before, we live in an attention economy and, regardless of the medium, advertisers often only have a few seconds of exposure time by either means of fault or default. As a result of this, the advertisement must be able to capture the attention of an audience using a collection of icons, index’s and symbols which denote a meaning. THEN, these images, texts or sounds must be provoking enough to hold the audience until they are able to understand the connotations which lie beyond. Phew.
Ideas can be brought to mind and manipulated without being directly experienced.
Now, let me explain why this is so crucial when examining why advertisements work.
How does the interpretation of denotation into connotation come about differently for everyone?
Each of us comes from an uniquely defined set of outside cultural attributes, personality attributes, organismic attributes, outside social attributes, thematic knowledge, task knowledge and expression knowledge – Making the distinction between the denotations and connotations of an image and the variety of distinctions that can possibly be made (especially in advertising), is dependent on the interpretation which is a direct affect of the individual’s attributes. This matters so much because advertisers are always trying to target a specific group of people who share one or a many number of these attributes. In a transformative process, (i)deas are brought to mind and manipulated without being directly experienced.
“In essence humans can create, via signs, a world entirely separate from direct experience. We find it hard to imagine a world without traffic regulation, social conventions, basketball games and so forth. These are as real to us as trees and rocks. Yet they as well as our understanding of trees and rocks have come about by interaction of humans, individually and collectively, through the sign structures that we call culture”
Bowles, Kate. ‘Representation and Textual Analysis’ in The Media and Communications in Australia, Stuart Cunningham and Graeme Turner (eds), Allen and Unwin: Crows Nest NSW. 2010 pp. 49-63.
Hobbs, Mitchell, ‘Semiotics: Making Meaning from Signs’ in Communication, New Media and Everyday Life, Tony Chalkley et al. Oxford University Press: Oxford, pp. 83-95.