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Semantics in this aspect is basically the relationship between signs and symbols and what they represent. Commercials and advertisements contain quite a few symbols and signs that are implied to the audience.

The objective of the assignment is showing the ability to define, integrate and expand on culture and/or communication theories.


May I ask that an outline be ready as soon as possible while the paper is being created. Preferably half way through the deadline. As the work progresses, some agreements can be made n extending the deadline but it is crucial that the outline be ready when possible.

The paper outline would be an abstract, with annotated bibliography of a minimum of 3 sources: one must be on-line; a book; and one journal article. The abstract will cogently describe the subject of the paper in a minimum of 150 words. It should describe the aim in a clear thesis statement and how the argument will be made.

*The annotated bibliography should be included below the abstract. Each source should clearly be relevant to the paper*

There isn’t really any more detail that I can provide because a lot of the content would come from the research. I am basically relying on the writer to create the content.



The aim of this paper is to investigate the relationship between signs and symbols and what they represent. This relationship is particularly important in the context of TV commercials where a few symbols and signs can successfully be used to deliver precise messages to the target audience. By focusing on theoretical aspects of semantics, this paper seeks to make a meaningful contribution to discourse on the rationale for the use of different systems of signs and symbols in different advertising media. The thesis of this paper is that the relationship between signs and symbols and what they represent in TV commercials can never be understood in the absence of a signification system. Through a signification system characterized by contextual semantic cues, the audience can establish a relationship between the signifier and the signified in a specific socio-cultural context in order to derive the meaning intended by the advertiser.


Abstract 2

Introduction. 3

Advertising as a System of Signs and Symbols. 4

Signification Systems in TV Advertising. 8

Importance of Signs and Symbols in TV Advertising. 10

Strategies for Enhancing Effectiveness of Signs and Symbols in TV Commercials. 13

Challenges of Establishing a Signification System for a TV Commercial 15

Understanding the Interpretation of Visual Cues. 18

Conclusion. 19

References. 21


The objective of advertising is to initiate a communication process involving sellers and prospective buyers. For communication to occur, language proficiency on the part of both parties is essential. A language may be regarded as a system of written, spoken, or gestured symbols that people use to communicate. These symbols are relied upon by marketers in advertising in delivering the desired messages to the target audience.

The language of advertising differs from other forms of communication mainly because of the system of signs and symbols that are used. This system of signs and symbols is designed in such a way that messages, feelings, and ideas can be conveyed and interpreted correctly by the audience. Proper use of semantic cues enables advertisers to promote the right perceptions and attitudes towards their products. It is crucial for words to be combined in the right order in language communication. This helps to convey the intended meaning in sentences. Similarly, in advertising, signs and symbols must be sequenced systematically for the audience to decipher the intended meaning, thereby shaping perceptions and ultimately driving purchase decisions.

Television commercials provide insights into some of the most creative ways of using language to convey a message. Producers of TV adverts know that they must use the limited time allocated to them optimally to deliver a message that can easily capture the attention of the audience. To achieve this goal, an ingenious play on images, motion pictures, animations, and sound is critical. The system of signs and symbols that works best for a TV commercial is radically different from one that works optimally for a magazine commercial. In other words, context plays a critical role in understanding the semantics of advertising. For this reason, it might be important to examine the different ways in which improper use of contextual factors in TV adverts might lead to semantic problems such as misinterpretation. It is imperative for scholars to conduct in-depth research into the semantics of advertising for them to appreciate such differences (Atkinson, 2002).

Unfortunately, not many researchers have contributed to the development of theory relating to the doctrine of signs and symbols (Lang, 2000). To do this, researchers would need to engage in the arduous task of positioning meaning at the heart of consumer behavior (Lang, 2000). Research in this area is important because it can provide advertisers with requisite knowledge on semantic cues that best capture the attention of the audience and then following it up with precise presentations on the intended messages.  The aim of this paper is to investigate the relationship between signs and symbols and what they represent. This relationship is particularly important in the context of TV commercials where a few symbols and signs can successfully be used to deliver precise messages to the audience. By focusing on theoretical aspects of semantics, this paper seeks to make a meaningful contribution to discourse on the rationale for the use of different systems of signs and symbols in different advertising media.

Advertising as a System of Signs and Symbols

Signs and symbols have continued to be used to develop advertising messages. At the same time, social discourse remains a crucial pillar that facilitates the positioning of advertising messages in a real-life context. It is in this real-life context that the signs and symbols that constitute the advert are communicated and understood by the audience. With the rise of the television, this social discourse has moved towards the creation of a rather unique system of signs and symbols and a framework for communicating and interpreting them.

In any good television advert, the symbols used must clearly express the creativity of the advertiser. Through the expression of creativity, advertisers seek to stimulate the desire among consumers to purchase specific products. To understand how potential buyers respond to TV adverts and how this influences their purchase decision, one needs to focus on the underlying framework on the basis of which the advertising sign is performed, processed, communicated, and understood. In such an analysis, the issue of cultural implication of the symbol used should be put into consideration. Such an approach can easily empower designers of TV adverts to make enhancements on the existing system of signs and symbols with a view to create unique brands.

According to Xueqian and Yanping (2012), the language of TV advertising is different from the languages that are used in other advertising media. By language, Xueqian and Yanping intend to mean signs and symbols that define the semantic characteristics of TV adverts. The language of TV advertising is different in the sense that it relies heavily on the visual structure of motion images. With the element of motion in images comes the notion of uncertainty, which advertisers endeavor to exploit in efforts to improve brand image. Unlike in other adverts, TV adverts provide advertisers with a vintage point where they can influence what the audience can see. Unlike in print advertising where the advert is visible to the audience in its entirety at the outset, TV audiences must take time to follow through with the advert from the beginning of the video clip to the end. This creates suspense, thereby creating a heightened sense of urgency in deriving different interpretations of the advert.

            The ubiquitous nature of advertising has also had a profound impact on the way TV adverts are presented. According to Dong-Hong (2010), this ubiquitous nature can best be appreciated by analyzing TV adverts based on the defamiliarization theory. Defamiliarization emphasizes the need to present familiar situations, events, or objects in an unusual manner in order to prolong the perceptive process, and more importantly allow for fresh perspectives. Dong-Hong (2010) points out that TV adverts provide the best opportunity for defamiliarization to occur, thereby creating avenues for prolonged perceptive process and new interpretations. From this point of view, the work of the TV advert designer becomes to reject all automatic responses, thereby making things difficult in order to stimulate the perceptual senses of viewers. The most memorable TV adverts are those that go against the grain by making unfamiliar claims that seem to contradict accepted social norms. As the audience waits with baited breath to know why such a ludicrous violation of social norms was made, the advertiser takes the opportunity to introduce the product being advertised, which is portrayed as the solution to the aforementioned violation of social norms.

Signs and symbols help advertisers break the routine of real-life cycle of events that everyone is used to          by promoting deeper perception. No advertiser can succeed in creating a unique brand image out of TV adverts that portray ordinary, simplistic view of life. One has to rely on a fresh, unique, and novel perspective that easily captures the attention of the audience in an environment of ubiquitous advertising messages.

From the point of view of linguistics, defamiliarization can best be achieved through language variation. To create recognition, logos and slogans should be relied upon to enable the audience to recognize the brand being promoted through the advert. Against the backdrop of a distinct logo and slogan, the advertiser can go ahead and use conventional language in an extraordinarily unique manner by creating variety in terms of both form and meaning. In form variation, emphasis is on phonological and lexical variation. In terms of meaning, variation can occur in respect of grammatical variation as well as collocation and semantic variation.

With the rise of the TV as an advertising media, a lot of attention has been on the semantics of the visual sign. The subsequent corresponding increase in knowledge on the visual sign has brought about profound sophistication in terms of the advertising messages targeted at different audiences. The increase in this knowledge has also widened the scope of analysis by researchers in regards to the comprehensibility and meaning of TV adverts. For instance, today, there is a profound appreciation of the fact that a TV commercial is not merely about providing a story relating to a specific product. On the contrary, it is about the promotion of a carefully selected social norm. For example, the message of a beer advert might be modeled around the need to promote male bonding as well as the indefatigable spirit that serves as a demonstration of masculinity. Today, the visual sign continues to penetrate the core of social engagements in the contemporary world. This has brought about a corresponding increase in imperatives for the development of sophisticated advertising messages that seem to go beyond the obvious notion of telling a story about a certain product or brand.

Despite this sophistication, reliance on signs and symbols remains the same (Griffin, 2000). Adverts continue to be relied upon as a tool of promoting certain ethos of consumption. They continue to promote certain consumer myths with a view to attract attention to the product being advertised. In this regard, the myth may be viewed as a “signifier” of certain social ideals while the product takes the position of an object that is “signified” in the advert (Griffin, 2000). The question of the possibility of the existence of different signs operating on different levels is an entirely different issue in regards to the semantics of TV advertising.

Nevertheless, it is important to examine the different levels at which the prevailing system of signs and symbols in TV advertising can be interpreted. For example, aspects of phonological and lexical variation might provide insights that differ remarkably from those that are derived from aspects of pragmatics. In pragmatics, linguists address issues of language use and context of use (Beasley & Danesi, 2002). In this discourse, linguists examine the different ways in which people take turns during conversations, how text is organized, as well as the use of implicature and presupposition (Beasley & Danesi, 2002). In TV adverting, different systems of signs and symbols might be derived depending on whether one’s analysis focuses on pragmatics or on other aspects of analysis such as lexical and phonological variation.

Signification Systems in TV Advertising

The ubiquity of TV commercials in the contemporary has led to the emergence of signification systems that are universally associated with this mode of advertising. In these signification systems, aspects of the natural sign and the deeper meaning underlying its use constitute the main area of focus. In this regard the terms “signifier” and “signified” are used. The signifier is the physical dimension of the sign, which might take the form of sound, hand gestures, or letters. In contrast, the signified as the entity, whether real or imagined, for which the physical dimension or signifier has been created to represent. Signification systems are extremely important because they are at the heart of an in-depth understanding of the semantics of TV adverts.

Persuasive signs continue to dominate most plots in TV commercials. The study of how these signs are used in adverts targeting people of different socio-cultural, economic, and political orientations is critical to the understanding of modern culture (Cotrau, 2005). For this reason, the best way to appreciate the essence of signification systems is to consider the socio-cultural context of their use (Cotrau, 2005). Such a perspective is essential to the understanding of how the signification systems being used today have evolved since the early days of TV advertising.

Signification systems bring about numerous benefits to the analysis of the semantics of TV commercials. First, they provide insights into the rationale for adaptive changes in advertising (Beasley & Danesi, 2002). This change is reflected in both the content and style of adverts and commercials. It is also reflected in the meanings that advertisers seek to convey through package design, brand names, logos, and slogans. These changes reflect the move by advertisers to not only adapt products to consumers’ needs, but also to the socio-cultural context of use. Even if the quality of the product remained top-notch for decades, the society in which the product is consumed would undergo numerous changes in terms of demographics, fashion, cultural norms, and ideological inclinations. The most effective TV adverts are those that take full advantage of the power of the visual sign to create the impression of the product’s adaptability to changing needs. To promote this impression, advertisers persistently emphasize aspects of faddishness and newness by changing both the content and form of TV commercials. For example, a TV commercial might announce a change of package design followed by a message indicating that the quality of the product remains the same.

Signification systems are at the heart of the frequent attempts by designers of TV commercials to demonstrate their responsiveness to changing social trends in terms of social values, music, and fashion. These changes are easily promoted through logos, product design, and slogans. By renaming a product or reorienting its advertising textuality, advertisers seek to ensure that it is in step with the changing times. At the same time, such changes serve to reassure consumers who might feel that their changing needs, attitudes, and perceptions are not being responded to. Proper choice of brand names, adverts, and package designs goes a long way in establishing a dynamic interplay between TV advertising and changing social lifestyles.

In TV advertising, the choice of signification system is greatly influenced by not just the social lifestyle and language structure but also the content day-to-day communicative exchanges. The meanings that people derive from common interactions keep changing on a day-to-day basis. A TV commercial that was modeled around a certain communicative-exchange fad easily loses its meaning when the fad fades away. Advertisers must respond by replace the old advert with a new one that picks up on the latest fad. The need to implement such changes takes on a sense of urgency despite the fact that nothing may have gone wrong with the choice of signs and symbols as well as the social positioning of the old advert. The need for such changes is a manifestation of not just the dynamism of signification systems in TV advertising but also their importance as contributors of social discourse.

Importance of Signs and Symbols in TV Advertising

Signs and symbols play a fundamental role in TV advertising. They provide contextual cues to the audience. A common type of semantic cue is the one that connotes that the prevailing price discounts are likely to be scrapped after some time. The objective is to create a perception of inconsistency regarding sellers’ decisions to provide or remove discounts. Consumers who embrace this perception become attentive to TV advertising messages in the pursuit for new opportunities to cash in on the latest discounts.

It is also common for TV commercials to promote a semantic cue in which the main theme is the distinctiveness of the price discounts provided by a company. The objective is to create the impression that the price discounts of competitors are not as distinctive as those of the advertiser. The effectiveness of such semantic cues depends largely on the proper use of signs and symbols to target the right audience. For a company to win a major price war waged through TV advertising, it must put into consideration the impact of different signs and symbols in influencing price perceptions among consumers.

TV advertising signs are also an excellent source of a semantic framework through which advertisers can enhance representational effectiveness. It is important to avoid fallacious meanings, which can easily be identified by consumers who pay close attention to detail. A semantic framework  with a potential for success is one that seeks to promote the level of believability of an advert. Consumers live in a world that is crowded with inaccurate advertising messages aimed at persuading them into purchasing different products. Therefore, it might be very helpful for the advertiser to portray an element of distinctiveness in terms of the accuracy of the advertising messages that he presents in the advert.

Whenever the spotlight shifts to signs and symbols, researchers are able to look at TV adverts from a critical perspective. They are able to go beneath the surface and identify the different factors that may have influenced the choice of different words, animations, and sounds. For instance, certain color combinations might have been chosen as a way of representing a certain brand as superior to a competing brand. A researcher with an eye for detail might observe the tendency by the advertiser to highlight the disadvantages of buying alternative brands by using the colors, images, and text orientations that are universally associated with a rival company. In other words, signs and symbols facilitate a context-oriented analysis of adverts. They create a platform for an in-depth analysis of the complex sets of relationships that are promoted through the choice of words, visual images, and sound. This immense potential for the creative use of signs and insightful analyses makes TV advertising a very powerful brand promotion tool.

In the analysis of the semantics of advertising, it helps to understand the meaning of different signs (Langrehr, 2003). In this case, the example of color may be provided. In most contexts, white signifies purity and decency while black signifies evil and indecency. Red is associated with sexuality and love while green signifies existence. Yellow portrays liveliness while blue creates the impression of tranquility. In TV advertising, these direct associations play a pivotal role in sending the intended messages. However, at a deeper level, the colors also provide a basis for the establishment of connotations arising from existing social competencies. For example, rival companies might covertly develop negative connotations by portraying the colors being used by their competitors in negative light. In such situations, the intention is to exploit the existing social competence and awareness to elevate one’s brand status while making competitors’ brands look bad.

Although TV advertising provides numerous opportunities for brand promotion, it also poses several challenges to advertisers and consumers. A major challenge relates to the issue of production and comprehension. Advertisers are always concerned about the comprehensibility of the advertising messages that they come up with. Similarly, consumers may not always be sure that the message they derive from an advert is the one the advertiser intended to convey. It is important to place the signs used in their right context in order to solve this problem. For example, different adverts are targeted at people of different cultural backgrounds. Similarly, a certain message that is used to advertise one product might trigger a negative connotation if used to market another product.

This problem can be addressed through proper use of culture-specific connotations. Whenever a culture-specific connotation poses a risk of misinterpretation by members of a different culture, it should be scrapped from the advert altogether. Towards this end, the evolution of TV advertising has been characterized by efforts to create associations between signs and meanings. The strong incentive for this evolution process arises from the high risk of negative reputation that companies face through gross misinterpretation of TV commercials.

Strategies for Enhancing Effectiveness of Signs and Symbols in TV Commercials

For the effectiveness of the signs and symbols used in TV commercials to be achieved, the advertiser should employ aspects of repetition, image-creation, and positioning (Beasley & Danesi, 2002). Repetition is an obvious strategy not just in TV commercials, but also in radio and print media. The core objective of repetition is to attract the attention of as many potential customers as possible. Creating an image for a product entails generating a signification system that renders appeal to different market segments. In the case of positioning, the idea is to ensure that the right audience is targeted. For example, an advert for a budget airline should be targeted at potential customers of a lower social class. Similarly, a commercial that features luxury fashion design labels should ideally be targeted at consumers of the highest social class.

In efforts to make signs and symbols effective, efforts should be made to highlight their impact on the signification system in its entirety. In this regard, the central area of interest should be the assessment of the effectiveness with which socially-based connotations have been promoted. Socially-based connotations are mostly built using brand names, logos, and a soundtrack. The brand name is important because it enables consumers to differentiate among different products brought to the market. At the same time, it provides advertisers with a framework for all their value propositions.

Logos are also essential for the enhancement of the signification system. The geometric features and dimensions that make up a logo should remain unchanged in all adverts. The objective is to enable consumers to build an association between a brand name (signified) and the logo (signifier). Companies that have succeeded in building both a brand name and a logo tend to be highly successful in terms of brand recognition. In such companies, the logo is usually used in the place of the brand name to identify the company’s products. For example, Apple Inc. has greatly popularized the symbol of an apple, which is conventionally used in the place of the brand name “Apple”. Because of brand recognition, the company does not need to spell out the brand name for consumers to recognize it. They only need to provide an inscription of its famous logo for consumers to become instantly aware of it.

In TV commercials, logos play a critical role in the delivery of messages. They form a core component of the complex system of signs and symbols that enable the audience to identify the product being advertised. In many situations, logos tend to be visible throughout the duration of the advert. This means that anyone who switches the TV at different intervals during the airing of the advert can identify the brand being promoted by simply looking at its logo.


The soundtrack or jingle is as important as the logo (Hung, 2000). Whereas the logo provides visual stimuli, the jingle or soundtrack of an advert provides audio stimuli. In TV adverts, the jingle complements the role of the logo. A television viewer who for some reason is unable to view the TV screen as the advert is being aired will still recognize the brand being promoted simply by listening to the jingle that routinely accompanies that advert. Therefore, a jingle plays an important role of reiterating and reinforcing the message that is signified in a TV advert.

As established companies continue relying on the same logos, brand names, and signature tunes to drive their advertising messages delivered via television, they build a signification system that many consumers easily relate with. The identity of the brand and the company behind becomes engraved into the social mindset through persistent advertising campaigns. This strategy helps the companies to enhance the extent to which their brands are recognized. It would be extremely difficult for such a feat to be achieved in the absence of a formidable signification system.

Challenges of Establishing a Signification System for a TV Commercial

The task of establishing a signification system for TV commercials can be extremely complicated. This is primarily because of the complex interplay of relationships between signs and symbols on the one hand and the socio-cultural context of use on the other. The decision to come up with one name and not the other appears simple but it is just a preliminary step in a long process of building a comprehensible TV commercial. The producers of such an advert must understand that they must consistently use same dimensions for the logo that the company chooses. This is simply because the logo is the most outstanding visual representation of the company.

Whenever everything else seems incomprehensible, all audiences fall back on the logo as the symbol that distinguishes one brand from all the others that may have crowded the market. This obviously means that the logo should be easily distinguishable from all the other logos that have been designed by other companies. The element of distinctiveness is extremely important particularly in today’s highly competitive world where rival companies might come up with logos resembling those of competitors. By so doing, these companies essentially seek to confuse consumers and ride in the wave of the competitor’s success in regards to brand recognition. This is a plausible possibility considering that consumers easily get confused when flooded with many new products whose logos and style of packaging closely resembles those of existing products.

For a TV commercial to be said to be successful, aspects of production and comprehensibility must be brought to bear. The relationship between the signifier and the signified in regards to the choice of names and logos must be examined not just from the perspective of the creative designers of the advert but also that of the audience. This would essentially entail the application of various theoretical aspects of audience involvement with TV programs and commercials. In this case, it is imperative for both cognitive and affective aspects of TV programming to be put into consideration. This means that those involved in the process of producing TV commercials must ensure that the cognitive and affective components portrayed therein rhyme with those of various accompanying TV programs. For example, real estate development companies might choose to advertise their products in the middle of TV programs that exclusively discuss matters pertaining to real estate development.

Aspects of human information processing need to be addressed throughout the process of establishing an effective signification system for a TV advert (Lang, 2000). The complex relationship between context and learning should not be neglected. At the same time, emphasis should be on the pivotal role of language understanding as well as the sensitive issue of human memory in the evaluation of appropriateness of different contexts of exposure to messages contained in TV adverts. Failure to address contextual issues results in situations where the message contained in a TV commercial does not reach or is not properly understood by the target audience. Contextual cues go a long way in enhancing the process of information processing. To many TV viewers, adverts are embedded components of different TV programs. This essentially means that the effectiveness of a commercial depends not just on its own initial effectiveness or production merit but also how the audience reacts to it.

Most companies jostle for advertising space in those programs that have managed to attract a high level of audience involvement. This is because in such cases, the audience is highly likely to allocate attention to all the commercials embedded in the TV program. This expectation of heightened attention is so important that it forms the basis of crucial decisions such as costs of airing commercials and audience program ratings. However, advertisers must learn to balance between the changing motives of TV viewers. Viewers sometimes switch on the TV with a cognitive motive of gaining knowledge about a specific subject matter or to examine their perspectives in relation to other people. In other situations, the viewers tend to have an affective motive, whereby they are captivated primarily by the aesthetic feel of being a TV viewer. In this regard, they view the television for the sake of viewing it, meaning that the primary motivation for their actions is the urge to experiment with their emotions and feelings.

Different motives translate into fundamental differences in the audiences’ willingness and ability to process more information contained in TV commercials. Although it is difficult for the designers of TV commercials to maintain a balance between the cognitive and affective needs of viewers of different programs, it is important for them to be fully conscious of this objective. Better still, it would be helpful for them to attempt to strike and maintain this balance. Such efforts can go a long way in facilitating the creation of an efficient signification system in which specific signs and symbols are used to make a brand recognizable.

An in-depth understanding of the audience in terms of information processing needs is necessary in the design of semantic cues for TV advertising. For instance, advertisers should determine whether the audience is engaged in utilitarian or experiential viewing. In most cases, utilitarian viewing corresponds to the cognitive motive while experiential viewing corresponds to affective viewing. It might be inappropriate to air a commercial that requires cognitive resources in the middle of a program that is designed to stimulate the affective motive. The audience might easily ignore such an advert by perceiving it as a disruption of the aesthetic thoughts and fantasies that the program seeks to stimulate. To prevent such an eventuality, TV commercials should be made up of signs and symbols that promote holistic processing, which is more contextually appropriate in such situations. In contrast, adverts that are aired during utilitarian viewing should contain aspects of piecemeal processing. Such aspects fit in with the cognitive motive of the target audience. This strategy is likely to be effective simply because an audience that has set its sights on the cognitive motive is highly likely to allocate more cognitive resources to an advert that has been embedded to the program.

Understanding the Interpretation of Visual Cues

One characteristic that distinguishes TV from all other advertising media is the primacy of visual representation of stimuli. To make sense of this visual component, focus should be on three levels of interpretation: literal, symbolic, and metaphoric (Bulut, 2010). The signs and symbols that creators of TV adverts come up with normally embody one, two, or a combination of all these levels of interpretations. The choice of one level of interpretation over the other might vary depending on the marketing strategy of the company in question, socio-cultural context, or programming context.

Despite variations in the levels of meaning that advertisers choose to focus on, visual representation remains a dominant feature in every TV commercial. Therefore, it should be accorded special attention in this discussion. Owing to its dominance, visual representation is normally relied on by most advertisers to provide semantic cues for the audience. Consequently, the audience needs to watch the visuals before relating them to what is being said either in the voiceover or by the characters appearing in the commercial.

For visual representation to make sense to viewers, appropriate cuing strategies should be adopted. Failure to choose semantic cues properly might lead to aberrant interpretations among viewers (Bulut, 2010). An ideal visual cue is one that signals something or reminds the audience about something. In highly condensed advertising messages, cueing provides crucial leads without which misinterpretation might occur. In TV commercials, visual cues are important because the visual element constitutes much of the experience that is stored in the memory of the audience. They stimulate crucial aspects of visual imagery and experiential knowledge, thereby setting the groundwork for an in-depth understanding of the commercials. Moreover, visual cues are often relied on in an attempt to bring out both symbolic and metaphoric meanings. In symbolic meaning, signs and symbols are interpreted based on associations with specific cultural contexts or conventions. In contrast, metaphoric meanings are derived through the evocation of certain meanings that are transferred from a referent to a specific product.


This paper has examined different aspects of semantics in television commercials. As demonstrated in this discussion, the best way to delve into a detailed analysis as far as the semantics of TV adverts is concerned is to view advertising as a system of signs and symbols. Scholars of communication studies should bring this understanding to bear on the relationship between the signifier and the signified. Much has been said regarding the importance of signs and symbols, mainly through the notion of signification systems in advertising.

In the context of the television, signs and symbols are important because they provide critical contextual cues. They also build distinctiveness by providing a basis for distinguishing one advert from the other. Moreover, signs and symbols are the main building blocks of a semantic framework, which advertisers rely on to enhance representational effectiveness. As designers become increasingly aware of these building blocks, they gradually embrace a critical approach to choice of words, soundtracks, visuals, animations.  This shift towards a critical approach also encompasses an improvement in the advertisers’ understanding of the relationship between the signifier and the signified.


The main strategies for enhancing the effectiveness of signals and symbols in TV commercials include repetition, image creation, and positioning. These strategies entail the creative choice of logos, brand names and sound tracks. In making these choices, the objective should be to establish a formidable signification system that brings out the distinctiveness of the advert. This goal can be achieved if efforts are made to ensure that the TV commercial maintains a balance between cognitive and affective motives among audiences. To succeed in these efforts, designers of these adverts need to understand the logic behind audiences’ interpretation of visual cues.

In conclusion, a system of signs and symbols plays an essential role in making TV commercials meaningful. Literal, metaphoric, and symbolic meanings, which are critical in aspects of both production and comprehension of a commercial, cannot be derived in the absence of a significance system. Designers of TV commercials need to think of signs and symbols from the perspective of both the target audience and their socio-cultural contexts. This will promote the creation of a signification system through which precise messages can be communicated effectively in commercials that have been highly condensed to fit into limited TV slots.


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Beasley, R. & Danesi, M. (2002). Persuasive Signs: The Semiotics of Advertising. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter & Co.

Bulut, T. (2010). Visual Semiotics and Interpretation in the Television Commercial. Retrieved from  on May 22, 2014.

Cotrau, D. (2005). A Transcultural Reading of Television Advertising. Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies, 4(12), 91-106.

Dong-hong, L. (2010). Analysis on Advertising Language Variation from the Perspective of Defamiliarization Theory. Journal of Chongqing Technology and Business University, 3, 1-20.

Griffin, E. (2000). A first look at communication theory. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Hung, K. (2000). Narrative Music in Congruent and Incongruent TV Advertising. Journal of Advertising, 29(1), pp. 25-34.

Lang, A. (2000). The limited capacity model of mediated message processing. Journal of Communication, 50(1), pp. 46–70.

Langrehr, D. (2003). From a semiotic perspective: Inference formation and critical comprehension of television advertising. Retrieved January 13, 2005, from

Xueqian, J. & Yanping, L (2012). The Shape of the Symbolic Elements to the Brand Image in Television Advertising. The Guide of Science & Education, 4, 24-31.

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