Semiotics and LG Air Conditioner Advertisement

Ferdinand de Saussure (1857 – 1913), the father of modern linguistics, stated "language is made up of signs (like words) which communicate meanings and that all kinds of other things which communicate meanings could potentially be studied in the same way as linguistic signs" (Bignell 1997, p. 5). In his view, the linguistic sign is arbitrary. That means the linguistic sign has no connection and is related to other arbitrary signs. Bignell (1997, p. 8) explains this arbitrariness as each linguistic sign has a particular position in the structure of language (langue) and the elements of real expression - speech or writing (parole) - work in the structure. From these ideas, the 'chess', for example, is composed of two elements. One is "the system of rules and conventions called chess" and the other one is "the particular moves made in an actual game of chess" (Bignell 1997, p. 8).

Through his best-known book, Course in General Linguistics (1915), he also demonstrated that language could be analysed as a formal system of elements, including the notion of the linguistic sign, the signifier, the signified, and the referent. According to Bignell (1997, pp. 11-12), the 'signifier' is the vehicle which expresses the sign, the 'signified' is the concept which the signifier represents, and the 'referent' is the actual things which signs refer to. For example, the word 'open' (sign) on a shop door is expressed by the letters (signifier) 'o', 'p', 'e', and 'n'. These letters call up the concept (signified) that the shop is open for business, and then the real markets (referent) can be imaged (Chandler 2006, para. 5).

However, these elements could not be always recognised the same consequence between writer and reader. According to Fiske (1990, p. 85), there is "meaning as being a process of negotiation" in the signs. Thus, "the fact that the same sentence" may not convey the same meaning to every reader in different situations or experiences. This idea was analysed by Roland Barthes. In Barthes's theory, "the idea of two orders of signification", denotation and connotation; Denotation is description of obvious meaning of the sigh from referring to the common-sense. Connotation is the interaction that occurs when the sign meets the feelings or emotions of the users and the values of their culture (Fiske 1990, pp. 85-86). Barthes (1977, pp, 15-31, 32-51) argued that "in photography connotation can be (analytically) distinguished from denotation". As Fiske (1990, p. 86) puts it "denotation is what is photographed, connotation is how it is photographed".

One of the LG air conditioner advertisements is here as an example of these two orders of signification.

In the left of the image is a man, standing outside, wearing an overcoat with a hood and holding what appears to be a bar. In the right of the image, behind the man, there is a small round house built from blocks of hard snow. The man is surrounded by what appears to be cold area.

The man is depicted in the materials of the circumstance of the area with snow, which suggests a strong connection between them. The man is wearing an overcoat with a hood, which protects him from the cold, and covered with snow, as he is in the very cold area. He is holding a bar, which from the length of his forehead, it is recognised his instrument as weapon. The way that he holds the bar, with in an upright position, suggesting he defends his possession against something. This idea is supported by his strong and steady face in the hood, suggesting he has nothing to change his mind to protect it. The small round house on the area covered with snow, reinforces this reading, with the house built from blocks of hard snow and the cobalt-blue sky conveying the idea that the area is very cold – could be the world's coldest area, and the house is realised as his possession.

The text at the top of the advertisement seems to bring not relative words; LG has an air conditioner for everyone, with the man and house, but the next text under the text at top, Well, almost, brings the conclusion of this idea, additionally text, No. 1 with stars at the bottom of the advertisement. The strong faced man, the house, and the connoted meanings all together to convey the message that LG’s market areas of air conditioner are world widely spread - well, almost - and LG may also has an air conditioner for the man who lives in the world's coldest area. However, by his pride, as he does not need an air conditioner, LG has air conditioners for 'almost' people. Moreover, these elements are associated with the circumstance to operate the air conditioner; the hot climate needs the air conditioner and makes people want something cool and desire to live where the man live in.

Barthes, R. 1977, Image-Music-Text, Fontana, London.

Bignell, J. 1997, Media Semiotics: An Introduction, Manchester University Press, Manchester.

Chandler, D. 2006, 'Signs', Semiotics for Beginners, University of Wales, Aberystwyth, viewed 17 March 2008, <

Fiske, J. 1990, Introduction to Communication Studies, 2nd edn, Routledge, London.


Anonymous said...

Hiya! I just would like to give a huge thumbs up for the nice
information you have right here on this post.
I will be coming again to your weblog for extra soon.

Feel free to visit my homepage ... miele semi integrated dishwashers

Anonymous said...

Hiya! I simply would like to give a huge thumbs up for the good data you may
have right here on this post. I can be coming back to your blog for extra soon.

my blog ... grohe k7 semi pro

Anonymous said...

Hello! I simply would like to give a huge thumbs up for the good data you will have here on this post.
I shall be coming back to your weblog for extra soon.

my blog; caster semenya gender controversy