MCOM227: 3rd Blog Post – Deciphering Ads (Semiotics)

Simply Semiotics is the study of signs, codes, symbolism, etc.  Semantics is the study of meaning (Signfier, Signified,  Denotation and Connotation).  I found this cool infograph and I thought I’d share it….

(click on graph to view in better quality)

Semiotics Infograph


The SIGN  (which has an overall meaning )  is divided into two things:

  1. Signifier : (I like to think of it as the trigger that makes you link these two together) It can be anything like objects or words or images etc. [ex. Rose]

  1. Signified: (as the name suggests, it is the thing that the signifier signifies…. yeah) the images or preconception of something that you think of. [ex. the shape of the Rose and the Rose itself].

(both have denotative meanings – surface meaning)



–> In this case the (overall) sign of ROSE (word + idea of rose). The denotative meaning of the rose is that is a flower and it probably smells good. The connotative meaning is that it signifies love and passion and what not.

Other examples may include a specific sound maybe something like a door bell  ( this example might be wrong……) which is a signifier,  the door you imagine in your head is the signified. (so the door bell is linked to the door…) And maybe the sign is that someone is at the door, someone has come to visit, so on.


This assignment is about how semantics are applied in advertisements. I decided to pick two ads since I couldn’t choose between them. In general, Ads are used to persuade people to get a product or take a certain action. I picked these ads since ( personally, I think) they’re really smart and creative.  The first ad is the April 2008 WWF’s Lungs before it’s too late campaign,  it’s about the environment and Earth Day is next month so it seemed fitting.  I admire everything WWF does, it’s a great organization that knows what it’s doing.


Signifier: Green Forests in the shape of Lungs + construction site and deforestation / urbanization  

Signified: We breathe air that is replenished and produced by green plants and we survive thanks to our lungs + we are cutting down trees/plants 

Denotative: At first glance you see a forest shaped somewhat like lungs and part of  it’s brown, you don’t really get it, but its like ” ah okay, its about the environment and what not”

Connotative:  Forests recycle air and produce O2 = clean breathable air. Deforestation is reducing the amount of clean air being produced (along side various types of pollution). Hence, since deforestation is a man made ( we are the ones destroying the forests and reducing fresh clean breathable air) it’s in our hands to stop it Before it’s too late.

I don’t think that this ad alludes to a certain time or history or anything like that. It’s a general ad that targets people who probably care about the environment and want to live a more eco-friendly live, advocating for a more sustainable way of living….



Next is a Dettol’s Whose hand are you holding ad.

Signifier: The setting itself is a signifier, a bus (public transportation, we all know how clean those can be…) + the hand handles which are directly related to the catch phrase WHOSE HAND ARE YOU HOLDING. 

Signified:  The idea that P.T. isn’t as clean as it may seem, most importantly the handle bars.

Denotative: Hence you need to stay clean and germ free,  Dettol can provide that. (some people may take it the wrong way and stop taking P.T. altogether, but that’s not the point of the ad) 

Connotative: This isn’t a really deep ad, so the connotative meaning isn’t that much deeper with respect to the denotative meaning. Maybe the brings together the meaning and the visual aspects to make a more power impact rather than taking each detail alone and analyzing it. As a result there’s a the sense of a deeper meaning. 

This ad came out around the time when swine flu was at its peak, I can only imagine the impact this had. Context wise it’s targeting people who depend on public transportation most importantly hygiene freaks. The catch phrase “whose hand are you holding”  is so creative and the fact that they replaced the handle thingys with hands.




I don’t think i’ll look at advertisements the same after this. It’s weird to know that people sit around and brainstorm about having signifiers, signifieds, denotative, and connotative meanings. I mean before this assignment I used to look at an Ad and get it…. the big picture they want me to get without knowing how I understood it….. it’s interesting.

Hopefully this all makes sense. The next assignment is in about 2 weeks so I have time to blog about general stuff and maybe post a few videos.

Adiós for now! 🙂





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