Language in the Media

Advertising is a vital tool to any company, corporation or organisation; it is the most prominent method in raising product awareness or publicising a service. It would be a very rare occasion for an individual to go through their day without encountering some form of advertising whether it be commercial or non-commercial. Adverts can be seen on television, in newspapers and magazines, on billboards, sports grounds, arenas; ads are placed on various means of transport for example the tubes, trains and buses.

They can be heard on the radio and now we also have the most recent channels for advertising, the internet which allows for pop-up ads, email adverts and also text adverts can be sent to mobile phones. Non-commercial adverts are used for political party broadcasts, social issues or for entertainment purposes. In this analysis I shall be focusing on commercial adverts from magazines, they are selling a product, brand or service.

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“Advertisements must take into account not only the inherent qualities and attributes of the products they are trying to sell, but also the way in which they can make those properties mean something to us. “1 The audience will take different meanings from an advert as each person has their own aspirations. An advertiser will aim for the audience to want to buy into their product so they try to create a world that they believe you are going to aspire to. Our society is very consumer based and possessions can be seen as a contributing factor to labelling ourselves.

“Ideology is the meaning made necessary by the conditions of society while helping to perpetuate those conditions. “2 Advertisers help create an ideology for their targeted audience; they are encouraging an idea of the life that we are supposed to be leading that will help sell their product. This ideology is helped along with the use of signs. Saussure in his theories of semiotics believes in the idea that we have the sign made up of the signifier (the symbol or image conveying an object or idea) and the signified (the actual object or idea itself).

In terms of advertising we have symbolic and literal messages. Barthes argues that there is a further level of interpretation to do with the ideology; how we connect the signifier and signified. When looking at advertisements consideration must be taken into how they were constructed or encoded by the addresser as well as how they are decoded by the addressee. It is a decision by the audience whether they want to become part of the ideology that has been created; they decide if they want to be the addressee and that is when they decode the advert and take meaning from it.

The majority of adverts require the addressees “to be active”3. It is very unusual for the advert to allow for complete passiveness from the addressees. The addresser, or in other words the advertiser, will usually need the audience to make a connection between images and text or have contextual and/or product knowledge. In the adverts I have chosen there is a greater need to be active than in most adverts. These ads rely heavily on contextual and product knowledge; for the ads to “work” or be successful, the audience needs to have this knowledge.

If this is lacking then the audience will either decode the advert in a completely different way to that which was expected or it will have no meaning and has therefore has no impact on any audience and has failed in its capacity as an advert. The first advert depends a great deal on both contextual and product knowledge. The product is a chocolate bar, a Mars bar. The layout of the advert is very simple; it consists of a small amount of text and has no images. The background is all black and the text is red and gold, this colour scheme is synonymous with the product.

The Mars bar comes in a black wrapper with red and gold writing so if the reader of this advert only takes in the colour scheme but has product knowledge they will know straight away that this is an advertisement for Mars bar. If the consumer was not aware of this information then the advert would not be help sell the product as it does not explain what Mars is. On closer inspection the Mars logo appears in the bottom right hand corner so whatever interpretation or meaning the audience may take from the ad, the brand name has been read.

The slogan “Pleasure you can’t measure” appears in gold text underneath the Mars logo. The slogan uses literary features to make it memorable and also make it synonymous with the product; it uses rhyme with pleasure and measure as this creates a smooth pace to the slogan. It also uses the linguistic feature of presupposition as it presupposes that a Mars bar creates or is pleasure. The other text on the page appears in the top right hand corner in very small gold font.

It is not essential to the consumer as it is simply confirming that Mars is a registered trademark; however it could also help clear up any confusion over what Mars is as it states that it is copyright Masterfoods which tells the reader that it is a food product. The main text of the advert simply states “50 pence”. The text is in the same font style as the Mars logo. This text works as a signifier for the signified Mars product as the style of the text is associated with the Mars logo. The meaning of “50 pence” is where the audiences own decoding of the advert becomes a factor in analysing the text as there could be many interpretations.

One reading of it could suggest that it is simply stating the price of the product. However, this would seem an unusual advertising strategy as a Mars bar does not normally cost more than forty pence so they are creating a false price and this would be a negative thing to do as they are advertising a higher price. This is semantically ambiguous if the reader knows that a Mars bar does not cost fifty pence. Ambiguity is used by advertisers to make the audience remember an unusual sentence.