I usually use Chapters One and Two. Students find the reading to be challenging, but I help them out a bit with this handout, which is my breakdown of her key points about advertising, subjects, and ideology. The currency of signs does not exist without our active and desiring minds that complete transactions, transfer meanings and values between signs. In order to expose the ideological work of an ad, you must be able to make conscious the unconscious links the ad asks us to make; in other words, you must be able to analyze the specific currency of signs and the particular transfers of meaning that subjects must enact in order for the ad to successfully complete its ideological work. When we are interpellated, we exchange our self with the subject position created by the ad.
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Start your review of Decoding Advertisements: Ideology and Meaning in Advertising Write a review Shelves: media , social-theory I wasnt sure if I was going to finish this I got stuck and stopped reading, then the library told me it was due Monday and so I plunged back in and am so glad that I did. The problem was that she started talking about Lacan, a psychoanalyst and dead French guy, and every time I read about him I cant tell if he is a nutcase or a genius.
Either way, he makes me feel stupid. So, I started this book about 6 weeks ago, got up to the longish discussion on Lacan, stopped for about three weeks, and then finished it in a rush over the weekend. By semiotics, she basically means the ideas of Saussure, that a sign is composed of both something that is signified and something that signifies. A signifier, in strict Saussurian terms, is a word — but this is a very restrictive idea of a signifier, and today we consider many other non-linguistic ways of signifying.
It is important to start here in discussing how signs work — as the author does — because if advertisements are anything, they are signs. The first is the question of ideology and how it shapes how we understand the world and our place within the world. This is beautifully explained in the book.
The one thing we all know about ads is that they tell lies — so, how is it that we get fooled by these ads so consistently? The problem is that the lies are a misdirection, in much the way that a magic trick relies on misdirection. We think that the power of an ad is in convincing us that Brand X really will make your clothes cleaner than Brand Y. But the advertisers know that you know this is horseshit.
It is the social stigma of not having the most radiant and vibrant family in the street that the product promises to over come that is really selling the product — not the overt truth claim itself. The other thing that this book had me thinking about was the Marxist idea of alienation. A quick recap — there was a time when people would be fully involved in the process of producing things. If you were a blacksmith you would make an entire horseshoe. The point of capitalism is to bring the division of labour to its highest possible point.
Capitalism could be defined as the system that destroys artisans. The more capitalism makes us cogs in a machine, the more the ideology of capitalism makes us feel like pure individuals. The point is that humans like to produce things — but the actual process of production is increasingly closed to us. Take one poet, sit him in front of a piece of pottery with paintings on it of a Greek wedding and let his imagination run wild if not amok.
What he notices is that there is a kind of strange paradox involved in the images on the urn. There is the eternally beautiful bride, the husband about to kiss her forever in the fullness of his love and her beauty, the flute player playing silent music under a tree — all of these are highly charged and highly romantic images. But the paradox is that none of these things are ever consummated.
Just ask my mate Tantalus. My daughter is going her PhD and for her honours thesis she looked at the differences between Japanese and Western presentations of food.
In the West we tend to seek to elaborately transform our food — particularly meat — so that what we eat is unrecognisable from the animal from which it is a product. This is not the same in Japan, so much — where there is often an equally elaborate process involved in identifying the food with its origins. Rather, no matter how artificial something is, we stress its natural credentials, no matter how tenuous these might be.
But natural is quite another thing. It is a place where cows sort of smile in giving up their milk, it is the sort of place where birds help to comb the hair of young women who have just washed their hair under a waterfall.
Like Ways of Seeing or Gender Advertisements or Culture and the Ad — lots of this is really about literally decoding various advertisements. As she says, and perhaps one of the main things I learnt from this book, ads are like jokes — they never quite say enough to be understood, they always leave it to the reader to fill in the gaps.
She decodes ads with a virtuosity that is truly breathtaking. It is a pleasure to witness and, although this book is getting on — it was first published in — like the other books mentioned above, it still has so much to offer in helping to understand advertising.
Rightly a classic. Page 32 This can be clarified as follows: there is a big difference between saying something is true which admits the potential of the opposite , and saying that the truth of something need not be questioned — which admits nothing, and claims nothing either.
This is the function of ideology: it gives us the assurance that we are ourselves, separate individuals, and that we choose to do what we do. Page 53 What the advertisement clearly does is thus to signify, to represent to us, the object of desire.
Page 60 Absences and jokes are not fundamentally different features of advertising. It may even actually say what it has to say by not saying it. And an actual absence in an ad, as in a verbal puzzle like crossword clues always implies that something should be there, in other words that something is meant.
Page 73 This is why ideology is so hard to pin down or unravel: because it constantly re-interprets while only claiming to re-present reality. Page 74 Of course, the physical ordering of nature and the product of images of order go hand in hand: to know is to classify, to classify is to order, to order to overcome.
Page So the movement is all in one direction: society never looks back over its shoulder, as it were, to take an unshielded look at the nature that supplies the physical and ideal needs. It looks onwards, into the mirror which seems to reflect that background of nature, but only succeeds in bring into focus the image of society itself.
Page When these two meanings are elided the result is the paradox of desiring the inevitable—or to put it more mildly, wanting things to be how they already are. Page …the image of magic in advertisements denies the fact that the product is produced, removing it from its real place in the world at the same time promising a product from the product. We are allowed to be producers only by being consumers.
Thus we can produce by proxy, merely, since we buy the product, and it will then produce the magic result—beauty, love, safety, ect. Page We need a way of looking at ourselves: which ads give us falsely…: we need to make sense of the world: which ads make us feel we are doing in making sense of them hermeneutics.
Page So the basic structure of ideas surrounding advertising is, in fact, that of dishonesty and exploitation. Page It is the images we see in ads which give them significance, which transfer their significance to the product. Page
Decoding advertisements : ideology and meaning in advertising
Start your review of Decoding Advertisements: Ideology and Meaning in Advertising Write a review Shelves: media , social-theory I wasnt sure if I was going to finish this I got stuck and stopped reading, then the library told me it was due Monday and so I plunged back in and am so glad that I did. The problem was that she started talking about Lacan, a psychoanalyst and dead French guy, and every time I read about him I cant tell if he is a nutcase or a genius. Either way, he makes me feel stupid. So, I started this book about 6 weeks ago, got up to the longish discussion on Lacan, stopped for about three weeks, and then finished it in a rush over the weekend.
Decoding Advertisements: Ideology and Meaning in Advertising
Tunris Pippa Adler rated it really liked it Mar 19, Page So the movement is all in one direction: The point is that humans like to produce things — but the actual process of production is increasingly closed to us. Do the qualities of the jetty occur to us and transfer to the tyres? Page 53 What the advertisement clearly does is thus to signify, to represent to us, the object of desire. How to read the hidden ideological messages in advertising, not merely to make us buy things to sustain the economic status quo but also to maintain and encourage the social conditions which make these things seem necessary. Decoding Advertisements — Mind Hacks Page It is the images we see in ads which give them significance, which transfer advertiisements significance to the product. There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Either way, he makes me feel stupid.
Judith Williamson, Decoding Advertisements