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Semiotic Anaylsis of Cell C\'s \"Snapshot\" advertisement

Semiotic Anaylsis of Cell C\'s \"Snapshot\" advertisement

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This essay will examine the use of symbols, codes and signs in the Cell-C advertisement “Snapshot” in order to illustrate how visual codes can be constructed and embedded within the society from which it is produced (South Africa). In addition, this semiotic analysis will indicate how, in the given example, the array of visual and audio signs are use within Cell-C’s advertising campaign in order to create a positive correlation between the series of symbols (the advertisement itself) and the brands message and image
This essay will examine the use of symbols, codes and signs in the Cell-C advertisement “Snapshot” in order to illustrate how visual codes can be constructed and embedded within the society from which it is produced (South Africa). In addition, this semiotic analysis will indicate how, in the given example, the array of visual and audio signs are use within Cell-C’s advertising campaign in order to create a positive correlation between the series of symbols (the advertisement itself) and the brands message and image

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Published by: Christopher James Wheeler on Jun 08, 2007
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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05/08/2014

 
1. INTRODUCTIONHuman communication is a dynamic and complex conglomeration of meaning that is signifiedthrough the used of mutual agreed upon symbols as well as the context in which those symbolsare used. Chandler (2002) indicates that many theorists argue that even our own perceptions of the everyday world around us involves codes, therefore in order for the communication processto be as absolute as it can possibly be, there needs to be a commonality in the signs systemsused by both the sender and the receiver. However, when messages are sent through massmedia (e.g. radio, television, newspapers, etc.) the degree of ambiguity between the signifiedand signifier is further diminished in order to facilitate understanding and information transfer.It is in this vein that television advertisements must construct their desired message in such away as to ensure that the desired target audience receives, internalizes and understands thecommunicated message. This essay will examine the use of symbols, codes and signs in theCell-C advertisement “Snapshot” in order to illustrate how visual codes can be constructed andembedded within the society from which it is produced (South Africa). In addition, thissemiotic analysis will indicate how, in the given example, the array of visual and audio signsare use within Cell-C’s advertising campaign in order to create a positive correlation betweenthe series of symbols (the advertisement itself) and the brands message and image.2. SYNOPSIS: ‘SNAPSHOT’The Cell-C advertisement revolves around a young black boy as he travels from a bus stop tohis desired location. Along the way he takes photographs of various signs, people, places, etc.that would allow his friend to follow, ultimately guiding him on the same path the boy hadinitially traveled. The pictures that are meant to act as a guide to the second boy are governed by the context in which he travels, that is his pictures are culturally important and relativelyrecognizable within the South African (S.A.) culture (e.g. the photo of the finger in S.A. has aspecific reference to the area to which you want to travel to, this same finger positioning mayhave significantly different meaning when examined outside a S.A. context). After the first boyhas reached his destination, he systematically sends the pictures he has taken to the second boyin an attempt to guide him to his current location. The ‘tag line’ of the commercial is ‘Clever’,suggesting that through Cell-C’s affordable service one is able to use visual texts as a means of communicating in a new and unique way.1
 
3. SEMIOLOGY AND ITS CULTURE IMPLICATIONSThe process through which ones acquires the meaning of the sign system, in one’s culture, islargely learned through one’s interaction with members of that that culture (Fourie, 2002:10).Therefore the degree to which the ambiguity between the signified and the signifier is reducedis directly proportionate to the level of ‘sameness’ between the communicators (i.e. the style of advert designed used to promote support of local product in the U.S.A. would differ from onein South Africa). The recognition of the signs, produced within any given society, can bedivided into three basic types: iconic. indexical and symbolic.Iconic signs are signs that are the easiest because “it most closely resembles the ‘thing’ that itrepresents” (Fourie, 2002: 11), an example would included an Identification photo used in passports or, in the ‘Snapshot’ advertisement, the chicken outline most closely resembles aactual chicken. In the advertisement the iconic signs are strategically designed and placed inorder to reinforce the link forged between the target audience (young South Africans) and thevisual codes, in other words the cognitive dissonance the viewer experiences, as a result of thefast-paced bombardment of images, is subdued when these (easily recognizable) iconic signsare displayed. Hence, the role of iconic signs in the ‘Snapshot’ advertisement acts as a baselevel which allows the viewer to internalize and understand the abstract nature of other, moreambiguous, codes and signs.It is through indexical signs that form the foundation behind the advertisements theme of direction; these are signs that do not have a direct resemblance to the object or idea beingrepresented (Fourie, 2002:11). A good example of this is the first image taken by the boy, thatof the red stairs, this sign indicates direction, an inclination and a possible pathway – all of which can not be know without previous exposure to. Without the use of such signs in the earlystages of the advertisement the viewer would become disoriented, a tactic used only later on inthe advertisement through a series of short shots of symbols and signs that are juxtapositionedin such a way that a sense of time and distance is created. This process exemplifiessyntagmatic-paradigmatic nature of semiotic structures in that the sequential nature of the signs portrayed (i.e. African dancer in the street) and the required conceptual notion of urban life inS.A.2
 
As previously mentioned, signifiers and the signified are culturally embedded; signs that are of this nature are labeled ‘symbolic signs’ (Fourie, 2002:10). These signs are rooted in our socialand cultural past (e.g. the picture taken of the taxi sign just before the boy boards the taxi) andthey represent the heritage of the culture in which they are used.4. STRUCTUAL SEMIOTICS AND MATERIAL SIGNIFIERSAlthough when studied in isolation signs identification can be a relatively easy task, however signs and codes exists within a system of cultural understanding as well as the intertextualitythat exists within all semiotic structures (Chandler, 2002). Through the used of pictorial depthcues and viewer relativity, the given Cell-C advertisement makes used of common dailysymbolic encounters and draws the viewer to their relative significance (i.e. they are beingused as important ‘landmarks’ to guide the second boy). This reinforces the tag line of thecommercial in that it seeks to transcend the conventional use of signs and symbols, or at leastreinvent the manner in which we make associations to them, in other words the extent to whichthe “signifier is constrained by the signified, the more ‘motivated’ the sign is” (Afronord,2001).Language, as a complex sign system, tends to isolate any person who is aware of all thedenotative (as well as connotative) meanings attached to those signifiers. In this vein we canreiterate that Cell-C has attempted to narrow that gap between South African’s because as oneof the most diverse countries in the world there are many language spoken by the population,therefore the use of visual symbols in the advertisement can be interpreted as an attempt toavoid homogenizing the population but instead creating a new sense of commonality andunderstanding. If, hypothetically, the boy was sending verbal descriptions of his progressthrough cell-phone technology in an African language the objective meaning of theadvertisement would have been compromised and the essence of the advert lost. Interestinglythough, one of the only audio material signifiers used in the commercial is in the latter stageswhen the second boy receives a message, despite the fact that he is holding a Erikson phone themessage alert sound is that of a Nokia, this is because the sound of a Nokia SMS alertnotification is more commonly associated with receiving a message than other audio tones,hence Cell-C made use of yet another symbol that is aimed at mass reception.3

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