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Media Power and Post Modernity Essay

Semiotics is a tool that is used to assist in the decision-making process. It enables prior comprehension of messages especially in advertisement through the readings allowing one to grasp the decoding consumed by the target group. Semiotic reveals the polysemic nature of signs; it creates several implications in the recipients mind.

Through semiotics, one can determine what red symbolizes as a color, for example, it may convey danger or blood, or fervor. This means that semiotics reveals the distinct concept of something which can create dissonant reaction on the message received.

In advertisement context, semiotics method is more interesting since it facilitates or provokes consumer reaction when watching an advert. It, therefore, anticipates and establishes the jeopardy in a company.

This paper mainly analyzes two print advertisements of similar products using semiotic methods while taking into consideration whether the advertisements creates similar or different mythic meanings.

Semiotics study focuses on signs, sign systems and their resultant meanings. People use this technique to decode images. This method has become popular in the advertisement industry with usages of images. Images or signs bring an idea or ideas to the audience (Kennedy 1974, p. 102).

These combinations of ideas enable the audience to make sense of what is happening. These signs and symbols give the advertiser an opportunity to put their messages across to the audience (Hervey 1982, p. 110).

We have noticed that advertisements have got no physical representations of products. Instead, they offer an icon sign of what the product itself represents.

Therefore, any semiotic study of a print advertisement should centre on photographic imagery and the manner in which those images will give the viewers connoted ideas. Thus, representation of this manner enhances the real product’s image (Sless 1986, 98).

Signs exist in different types. There is an icon which is similar to a photograph. It creates a mental image to the viewers. Another sign is an index. This enables viewers to see and think of other things. Then there is a sign known as a symbol. This represents the same thing the sign symbolises.

Signs enable us to derive meanings when we put them in a logical sequence. The above types of signs enable people to understand written and technical narratives in an image. Hence people will be able to make different interpretations on the advert by depicting their own perceptual codes and cultural ideals.

The relationship linking signifier and signified is usually cupreous and its implication is usually fixed on literal values based on post modern theory. This, therefore, means that any text or advert can be interpreted in endless ways.

Linguistic elements have the potential to hinder and at the same time fasten the readings/interpretation of an image or an advert to give the target group a fixed idea.

I have decided to analyze two magazines from architecture/fashion/design. These two magazines depict how context and codes within classes, social relations, structure, institutions and groups perform a major purpose in the formation of meaning. Social structures have greatly reinforced meaning.

Much of our knowledge about the world we have obtained from magazines, newspapers, books, television, radio and cinema. This, therefore, means that people live through texts and are structured by texts. Social beliefs are normally enforced by intertexuality but the degree is analyzed by semiotics and how open an advert is plus the target group.

The first advert is for a company in Sweden marketing Volvo car. The main signifiers are the colour of the photo which is large in size and attractive background with a designer house. There is a young gorgeous woman beside the car with a winter coat which is white in colour but having a fur-collar.

She is also putting on a short red skirt. The mode of dressing of the lady brings out her confidence and stunt power. Beside the woman there is a young man who is dressed in a dark blue suit and a red trouser similar to that of the woman. His mode of dressing brings out his passive and elegant nature.

There is another young man in the opening dressed in black suit and a sixpence and he is standing close to the lady. However, the only visible part of the body of this man is the shoulder part to the head. The Volvo car is right next to the two men and the woman. There is a written text on the top of the photo with the name and model of the car.

The possible signified in this advert are: they are trying to show that old fashioned cars still has elegance and one can easily feel confident around them. The sixpence signifies working men while the Volvo shows that they are still the safest and most expensive cars in the world.

The mode of dressing of the men also signifies that Volvo PV 544 is perfect for working class men. Therefore we can say that the major signifiers in the advert connotate in an aristocracy manner with the couple. There is a passive position of the husband and the standing servant on the other side of the car.

The direct connotation that is evident here is to generalise dissipation of nobility. One can connotate it as a love-triangle truism which resemble Lady Chatterley lover in a way.

The written text on top of the people in the advert is similar to that of the 30’s and 40’s. The natural meaning of the scenario in the advert brings out the ironic element of the love-triangle. The advert is, however, somehow complex and humorous in a way bringing out the satire in the Scandinavian notion on the meaning.

This means that the intended target group must be keen not to miss the concept addressed in the advert. This is because of the love triangle scenario. Despite of it all, the car is still beautiful and sophisticated and is exclusively made for those who can afford it.

It, however, brings out the humour in the aristocracy without eliminating the fundamental nature of glamour and style brought out by the car. The sophisticated nature of the car is still evident and is very elaborate. Those who created the advert must have twisted it and made it a little bit complex due to the type of audience they were targeting.

This type of advert has clearly shown that the main purpose of an advert is not the message but the meaning communicated and the relationship it has with its audience. After market segmentation theory was developed, people are therefore free to conclude that those who created the adverts did not focus much on the products instead they concentrated on signs and codes with positive meanings related to social culture and particular lifestyle.

It also depicts that middleclass and social groups in the society struggle to attain wealth; they lead a sophisticated lifestyle similar to the Volvo advert. The ironic part of the advert is, nonetheless, separated from the main product that is being sold. This is what makes the advert open.

The second advertisement from the architecture/fashion/design magazine is for a company in Japan marketing Honda Jazz car. This type of advertisement is a good example of a company capitalizing on innovative stereotypes and it depicts the semiotics present in these stereotypes (Chandler 1998, p. 110).

The main signifiers in this advert include: penguin classics and the white background of the picture and the light blue colour of the Honda Jazz car which brings out its flourishing nature. There is a muscular man in front of the car putting on pants only to show off his muscularity. It brings out his strength. The man has a sixpence around his neck to show the worth of the car.

The bright colour of the car depicts its bright future. Beside the man there is a young woman dressed in bikini attire. She stands in a way that shows off her muscularity. This is to depict that the Honda Jazz car is meant for all types of people; it is fit for both men and women. There is, however, nothing written in the background of the advert. The mode in which the advert is made is enough to sell it off.

The advert has been made in a clear way that one can easily tell what it is meant for and the type of audience it is targeted to. The vehicle it itself and the mode of dressing of the man and woman in the picture depicts modernity.

Honda Jazz cars usually integrate the connotation of masculinity in cultures that are popular. However, its meaning to the consumers is always gendered with the riddle of men’s use and its being an automotive brand. This means that this advert is relevant in the 21st century and is relevant for us.

Studying the cultural text of the advert, one can easily depict the recessive, overriding and evolving codes structured in the connotation and masculinity myths in the American society (Sless 1986, 122).

When viewing the brand audit of the Honda Jazz car advert, one will identify the opportunity of congregating the unmet requirements of male drivers in society. The car is aligned and positioned with classic and model man to communicate modern life, intelligence and adventure while using the car.

Similarities and differences

Most of the time, producers of the advert may be portraying a different picture with their adverts but the audiences may view it differently; they may or may not view the advert in the same line as that of the producers (Griffin 2000, p. 132) The first advert leave the audiences open to depict their own meaning derived from it.

There are many drawings in the picture which the audiences may view or predict their meaning in different ways. However, the Honda Jazz car advert is closed; the audiences or the target group will have the same view and picture of the advert.

The Volvo car advert mainly targets wider audience but the Honda Jazz car advert targets few audiences. Those people who can afford the Honda Jazz car are the audience and target group. It is the audience’s and the reader’s choice to either own the context or not to own it.

Signs are usually joined into texts; however, no meaning is usually derived from the text (Williamson1978, 110). The surrounding is fundamental for an advert. This is what normally draws value from and also from the associated readers.

This mixture creates the framework in which the texts function. This, therefore, means that if you have no interest for Volvo or Honda Jazz car, then you will have no clue about what the advert is all about. This gives the reason as to why the context of the message is important. The social state in which sign is employed may establish its proper content and type of coding and sign (Lechte 1994, p. 108).

The background function of a sign depicts the context in which it functions. This means that the function of social arrangement in mass media text analysis fluctuates in communal groups. Words normally take the connotation of the context in which they are employed.

Mythical meanings

The importance of semiotics diminishes based on interpreter’s skills and knowledge. Semiotics depends greatly on individual skills of an analyst. There was some irony in the Volvo car advert and the producer’s main intention for doing this was to simply allow certain group of people to understand the concept being portrayed by the advert.

These certain codes contained in the advert have an exclusive meaning for specific context which may pass other people who are not keen or who do not have interest on the advert (Barthes1967, p. 120). The connotation of a message is normally affected by outside events in the message.

This therefore means that two variables are needed to communicate a meaningful and complete message to the audience. First, the producer must be able to comprehend the content of his message and what it will convey to the audiences.

This is what is termed as codes. The second part entails the text: what it is emphasizing while trying to give out the meaning of an advert to the people.

All these magazines have reflecting meanings which are greatly emphasized using different colours, drawings and writings. The two magazines are both signs since they have pictures which are appealing to the eyes, the way they are designed and fashioned.

However, the Honda Jazz car producer is only appealing to most men and it has codes, perceptions and values of specific culture. This is the same case to the Volvo car advert; however, in this scenario, there are different codes used. The magazines are designed in a way that depicts societal expectations.

This means that all magazines are powerful dogma in the society. The Volvo car advert utilise exclusive elements with twisted irony. It, however, suggests the level of intelligence of the society since they will be forced to widen their knowledge to identify whether the message in the advert is aimed at them (Hervey1982, p. 100)

This, therefore, means that both the producer of the advert and the reader or the viewer always have some work to do. This is because, the meaning of an advert is always hidden especially in the Volvo car advert; a person has to put efforts to get to know the real meaning.

In conclusion, the strategy of carrying out semiotic analysis normally sharpens the clarity and relevance of a brand leaving the target group with a memorable picture. The message being passed by the brand is distilled for example, relating man and machine to show the luxury of the car.

The essence of brand is the foundation of formation of developed advertisements for new products and when conducting brand extensions around a central identity. The clients therefore have the potential to extend and recharge their coordinate and current brand message that is passed across the media, markets and different segments.

List of references

Barthes, R 1967, Elements of Semiology, Jonathan Cape, London.

Chandler, D 1998, Semiotics for Beginners, Abya-Yala, Quito, Ecuador.

Griffin, E 2000, Communication; a first look at communication theory, McGraw-Hill, New York.

Hervey, S 1982, Semiotic Perspectives, George Allen & Unwin, London.

Kennedy, J 1974, A Psychology of Picture Perception, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco.

Lechte, J 1994, Fifty Key Contemporary Thinkers: From Structuralism to Postmodernity, Routledge, London.

Sless, D 1986, In Search of Semiotics, Croom Helm, London.

Williamson, J1978, Decoding Advertisements; Ideology and Meaning in Advertising, Marion Boyars, London.


Ad 1

Volvo PV 544 advert.

Ad 2

Bodybuilders near Honda Ad.
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"Media Power and Post Modernity." IvyPanda, 12 Dec. 2019, ivypanda.com/essays/media-power-and-post-modernity/.

1. IvyPanda. "Media Power and Post Modernity." December 12, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/media-power-and-post-modernity/.


IvyPanda. "Media Power and Post Modernity." December 12, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/media-power-and-post-modernity/.


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IvyPanda. (2019) 'Media Power and Post Modernity'. 12 December.

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