Judith Williamson, Decoding Advertisements

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Please post discussion questions on Williamson's piece here.

16 Comments

Williamson pointed out that theoretical work can be used as a weapon of intimidation and so does the advertising in the real world. The idea of making connections between product and symbol is by far still popular. And my question is how the connection between the advertised product and the culture of a paticular region can affect the consumers' behavior? In other word, there are differnt consumers in the same region and the way the read and understand the ad will largely based on their own experience, and how good those ad can be in order to persuade different customers.

Williamson pointed out that theoretical work can be used as a weapon of intimidation and so does the advertising in the real world. The idea of making connections between product and symbol is by far still popular. And my question is how the connection between the advertised product and the culture of a paticular region can affect the consumers' behavior? In other word, there are differnt consumers in the same region and the way the read and understand the ad will largely based on their own experience, and how good those ad can be in order to persuade different customers.

In the begging of the chapter Williamson talks about the importance of signifiers in advertisements. In an advertisement the sign is simply a thing which has a particular meaning to a person or group of people. She later goes on to use a Goodyear tire advertisement as her example. My question is about her example of the signifier in the advertisement. She claims that the boat represents safety of the car. I can see this correlation but I feel the advertisers of the message would rather focus of the usefulness of the tires rather than use the boat as a safety metaphor. Do you think the author is making the correlation to complex? Perhaps there is more coincidence in the advertisement and the author is making the message too complex and the normal consumer wouldn't see her signifier? Because the end goal of an advertisement is to sell a product and most people better understand a simply advertisement.

Williamson states, " Advertisements are one of the most important culural factors moulding and reflecting our life today. They are ubiquitous, an inevitable part of everyone's lives; even if you do not read a newspaper or watch television, the images posted over our urban surroundings are inescapable." In image A3 "Beautiful Blue" it does not use the blue as the attention grabber, but the deep purple on the mouth of the bottle and the lips of the girl.  Without thinking we connect that the two go together. With all of these advertisements using color and wording to make the consumer think what what the company wants them to think about the product.  What can we do to  on an regular basis understand the methods that are being used to sell us the products? Are companies more focused on the consumers or the way they sell their products?

At the beginning of the chapter, Williamson says that her project and analyses "explained, although they did not explain away, [her] reactions to advertisements." I find that a little odd because once you understand what you're seeing you should be able to disregard certain things (such as misleading advertisements). Even if you can't disregard them, can't you try to change the things you initially felt about an advertisement? For example, if you are a woman looking for perfume and you see one of those Chanel advertisements and you want it, can't you go back and analyze what you're looking at and decide that you actually don't want it based on the advertisement?

When Williamson is first introducing the concept of advertising, she explains that "Analyzing ads in their material form helps to avoid endowing them with a false materiality and letting the 'ad world" distort the real world around the screen and page." Even though doing so will help us see what the actual goal is from the ad, won't we ultimately take whatever meaning we want to see from the ad? I seem to see our society as so immune to what is being sold to us. No matter how the product is shown, is it possible to change an overly stimulated society's mind after so many preconceived ideas have already been made? (I hope this makes sense...I don't know how to properly word this...)

When reading Williamson's piece its easy to feel like an absolute "sucker." Like really, how do we fall for this stuff? Our ads have greatly changed and transformed not only in the way they look but also in the tactics these companies use to sell their products. 10 years from now where will our ads be? What tactics and extremes will be used to sell different products?

Williamson writes in the introduction to the chapter that "For although advertisements have indeed changed over the last decade, their increasing semiotic refinement has not made the least difference to their basic function". The writer is attempting to lead the reader to the conclusion that while the implicit or explicit nature of symbols within advertising is noteworthy, it does not intend to lead the public in a new direction. The point of advertising is to sell more products. The question I pose is this: is the increased subtlety in advertised messages an effort to keep up with a smarter, more accustomed public? Or is it the result of a struggle to stay atop the food chain within more skilled advertising firms?

I found it very interesting how Williamson talked about how advertisements create links between something like love and diamonds. Eventually the diamond itself means love. What other objects can you think of a link between because of advertisements? and do you think that connections like these affect people positively or negatively in a consumer world?

I found it very interesting how Williamson was able to decipher and show all the strategic parts of a print ad that have a profound effect on the consumer. For example matching the lipstick of the woman to the cap color of the bottle of Belvedere, which happened to be a very deep red purple color. She explains how its these little manipulations are often seen without cognitively realizing it, but consciously we are still able to say "I want this product". What are some products you can think of that you personally like/buy/enjoy that were initially bought because of an advertising ploy, such as a model who portrays the same image as the product, etc.?

After completing the readings for Monday's class and tomorrow's class (Wednesday), I would like to reflect back on some of the overlying concepts that we have discussed. So far, we have discussed how our positionality affects the way in which we perceive and decipher media. We talked about being self-reflexive and ways to be as objective as possible when viewing media. I was noticing throughout my reading of Williamson, that some advertisements spoke strongly to me in comparison to some of the other advertisements. Williamson talks about how the usage of signs, consisting of a signifier and the signified, can help us translate an object, word, or picture into a meaning. When viewing signs in media, we bring our positionality into play by responding favorably to signs that reinforce our preexisting knowledge or beliefs. I decided to flip through the various advertisements to see which advertisement spoke strongest to me and then I sought to break down everything I could that would lend this advertisement favorably to me. I settled on the Halifax ad for multiple reasons. Some of these reasons include my faith, cultural background, family history, recent events in my life, current events, my relationship status, the imagery, the layout of the page, etc. What advertisement spoke strongest to you and what reasons can you find for this response? Also, what do you think are some of the most powerful (recognized by many) signs that we see in today's advertisements and what is the signifier and who are the signed within that specific sign?

Williamson say the meaning of the Product as Signified. He say 'the product, which initially has no 'meaning', must be given value by a person or object which already has a value to us...' This theory is very interesting, and I know the concept of signified and signifier is important theory of advertising like Williamson say in this reading. However I think the level of importance of signified in the ad is not absolute meaning. The situation could be affected by a status of customers. Let’s suppose you want to buy laptop. What else is the most important point? Actually, I didn’t care about ‘Signified and sign’ before I took communication class, but I just cared about its function and the price of products. A1 to 20, these all ads has intense impression, but hard to understand without explanation.

Williamson talks about color, as a technique in which the advertiser uses to draw connections between the product and other things. She states that color by itself doesn't have any effect on the advertisement. The meaning is only derived from the connection the color makes with the rest of the ad. My question is, is Williamson completely accurate with this assumption, or can color have it's own meaning on its own, without another variable?

Williamson talks about color, as a technique in which the advertiser uses to draw connections between the product and other things. She states that color by itself doesn't have any effect on the advertisement. The meaning is only derived from the connection the color makes with the rest of the ad. My question is, is Williamson completely accurate with this assumption, or can color have it's own meaning on its own, without another variable?

Williamson discusses that we are literally being sold ourselves. "..instead of being identified by what they produce, people are made to identify themselves with what they consume." (pg. 13) It makes sense that company's are advertising to the set of people that will actually purchase whatever they have to offer, but are company's going too far to achieve this? As talked abut in class Facebook has taken over as a dominant source of media. Ads on Facebook are targetted towards the user that is logged in. These ads appear based on what the user has previously clicked on or has "liked." My only question regarding is, through social media, are company's invading the consumers privacy?

These days, many advertiser uses signs in their ad to make their ad more skillful.. Williamson discussed that a sign can neither the thing nor the meaning alone, but the two together can be used in the ad.
When I see many kinds of advertisement in the magazine, I can tell that most of advertiser contained a sign to advertise the products on ad.
However, I could not understand what the advertiser want to portray and what they are trying to convey the meaning to consumers to signify the product..... from some advertisement. I mean, i do not get well what the connection between the product and the picture on the ad.. (I grew up in South Korea and I spent more times in South Korea rather than in US)
So that... Is it because cultural difference affected when I l signify the confused signs on some advertisement? Or was it just different tastes of each person?

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This page contains a single entry by zimme313 published on September 10, 2012 5:29 PM.

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