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Semiotic Theories and Terminology Analysis

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The notion of semiotics involves the study of the relationship between symbols and signs and interpretation. It is through the work of semiotic that theorists such as Ferdinand De Saussure, Roland Barthes and Charles Peirce, which has essentially enabled the relationship between signs and the creation of meaning to be examined. Through this essay, I will be applying numerous semiotic theories and terminology to analyse the meaning, function and effectiveness of a visual advertisement, from a 2013 campaign initiated by Crisis Relief Singapore.

It is important to understand that the advertisement is an image composed of particular signs and symbols, which fundamentally signify meaning. As cited in Fiske (1990), Peirce refers to a sign as “mental concept” which is interpreted based on the users’ experience and context. The construction of this advertisement is imperative in relation to how the semiotics function to arouse meaning. Firstly, we must identify the icons. Peirce through his “Triangle of Semiotics” divided the sign into three types, creating the concept of a semiotic icon along with index and symbol (Fiske 1990). An icon can be described as to have resemblance to its object meaning that it looks or sounds like it does in reality. The icons in this advertisement include a boy, a woman, a wire fence and hands with their thumbs up.

These icons enable the audience to recognise the denotation, which is the first order of signification, a concept developed by Saussure and worked on by Barthes, that is predominantly a dominant, literal reading that is perceived during initial observation. The denotation may be essentially different to what the composer’s intentions are. The denotation of this particular advertisement can ...

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...n goal is to change people’s attitudes and hence, the campaign calls for effective action with the tagline “Be a volunteer. Change a life”.

Works Cited

Fiske, John 1990, Communication, meaning and signs, In Introduction to communication studies (pp. 38-63) London, New York: Routledge

Fiske, John 1990, Signification, In Introduction to communication studies (pp. 85-101) London, New York: Routledge

Chandler, D 2013, Semiotics for Beginners: Denotation, Connotation and Myth. Available at: [4 April 2014]

Atkin, A 2010, Perice’s Theory of Signs. Available at:

[4 April 2014]

Powerful Ad Campaign Shows That Facebook Likes Don’t Help, 2013. Available at: [5 April 2014]
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