Erkki Pekkilä: "Connotative Meanings and Advertising Music" (9/11)


If we go even further with these interpretations, the chewing gum can be seen as a secular form of a sacramental bread. When, in the sacrament, the bread becomes the body of the Christ, in the commercial the chewing gum becomes the embodiment of "American-ness" and chewing the gum a sacred ritual. Here the second keyword "share" is very important. It is a question of "sharing," a common experience, becoming a part of something that is greater. In the commercial both America and chewing the gum are being inverted into a myth.

In the commercial, what Roland Barthes (1988) said becomes clearly obvious. His idea was that advertisements do not work with the means of denotation but through connotation. Barthes's example was an ice- cream advertisement that told the customer to "melt with pleasure." According to him the slogan was impossible to interpret in a normal the signifier and the signified distinction analysis. It was not a question of the fact that a man would literally melt down but that the product in question was excellent. This excellence could not be derived directly from the slogan by analysing its direct, denotative meaning. In spite of the denotation, the meaning was on a second, connotative level that was lying behind the first level of signification. That which was connected in the matter was that this second meaning could not be derived directly from the message but it was existent only as indirect, social meaning. The chewing gum commercial works in a similar way. The denotative meanings of the surface structure (fit for the boys and girls, fun and grief, city and beach, work and leisure) are naturally trivial ones. The same can be said with the cliches - the baseball, the basketball, the sailors, New York, Californian beaches, the body- builders, the business surroundings, etc. are pictures with which we are familiar from the movies. Instead the mythical meanings build on the surface structure meanings, especially the mythical America metaphor or share-these give the commercial a new dimension.

Why does the advertiser not to say directly that the product is excellent but takes refuge from this kind of hidden communication? Barthes (ibid., p. 9) explains this with saying the advertiser wants to replace the banal concept of "buying" with a spectacular world where the man is give distance from a consumer society and addressed as the "truth" of poetic kind. Here we must, however add that especially in the television commercials it is not a question of buying but building an image. The aims of the commercial is not namely sell, because the buying proper takes place in some other place that in the viewing situation; instead, the task of the commercial is to present the product, to create images, to attract (see Bolen 1981, p. 5-6).

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AS/SA Nº 4, Article 6 : Page 9 / 11

© 1998, AS/SA

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