Advertising plays a critical role in marketing. It entails a form of communication in media segments that seeks to influence the target audience. Most firms utilize advertising to keep a competitive edge over their potential competitors. It is also fundamental in the introduction and maintenance of a new or existing product by making use of information concerning items and illustrating their importance. Woods (2006, p. 36) considers advertising as an effective type of communication in the market. In essence, its sole purpose is changing the target audience’s opinion, emotions, and attitude towards the product under promotion. Therefore, it is vital to note that most ads express values and knowledge that are common for potential customers (Hackley 2010). In other words, they utilize strategies that comprehensively consider the immediate population. In fact, advertising is a reflection of the culture of the society. There are strategies that are crucial in carrying out an advertisement, including symbolism, polysemy, and intertextuality. They manipulate one’s knowledge in the process of creating awareness. The following paper provides an analysis of intertextuality, polysemy, and symbolism in advertising.


Understanding the Concept of Intertextuality

According to Allen (2000, p. 34), intertextuality is a practice in advertising that entails the shaping of a text’s meaning by other writings. In other words, one particular manuscript is a transformation of another one, meaning that writing cannot exist solely. Consequently, every cultural object is a mosaic reference to other discourses and texts. Such cultural objects include images in films, web contents, and music, among others. One can be an allusion to another (Miola 2004, p. 33). It is worth mentioning that the comprehension of these references has its influence on the prior knowledge that the audience has regarding the particular content (C Hackley & RA Hackley 2015, p. 18). The use of something that is familiar to the audience stirs up a nostalgic association and a probable new meaning. Intertextuality and culture are inseparable (Juvan 2008, p. 1).
There are two primary types of intertextuality, namely manifest and consecutive references. The manifest one occurs in the form of quoting or citing texts of which an audience has a general understanding. On the contrary, the latter type is distinct and needs the audience to exercise some considerate thinking in comprehending the source. Most ads utilize social factors to determine the appropriate form of intertextuality to use in their discourse. Al-Siyami (2013, p. 43) emphasizes that the direct use of intertextuality is evident in ads of the same genre. Still, some agencies give preference to indirect practice by alluding to different discourses.
It is crucial to make a distinction between the source text and intertextual marks in advertising. The source text is the content from which other messages or ideas emanate. Han (2005, p. 98) notes that these texts evoke different expressions and enhance the understanding of adverts. On the other hand, intertextual marks are words or idioms taken from the source text. They are critical in helping the reader understand the source of information. Intertextual texts are relevant in music ads, newspapers, and movies, among others.
Finally, it is vital to emphasize that the use of the techniques varies from one culture to another (Al-Siyami 2013, p. 43). For example, the advertising agencies in the United Arab Emirates may utilize different intertextual marks compared to those in the United States because they have distinct cultural values.

Illustration and Analysis of Intertextuality

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Intertextuality is common in helping people understand the social and cultural context of advertisements (Woods 2006, p. 56). This advertisement illustrates three Absolut Vodka ads from the 1994 Cities of Europe collection. It is a brand of a drink that is eminent among people globally. In essence, Absolut Vodka utilizes the prior knowledge of the users to seek their affirmation concerning the drink. In many instances, most customers have the tendency to search for the bottle in the advert. However, this strategy also presupposes intertwined cultural motives (Grainge & Johnson 2015, p. 67). As evident in the illustration, the given ads have such motives as Absolut Amsterdam, Absolut London, and Absolut Barcelona. Consequently, when viewers notice the bottle, they gain an understanding of the social and cultural framework of the advertisement. In fact, it creates a sense of fulfilment to the user (Minkara 2012). It is apparent that intertextuality has a massive impact on customers because people from other backgrounds may not have the ability to comprehend the message. As a result, one develops a feeling of belonging to the distinct group that utilizes the product. The extent of persuasion stabilizes the product in the market and ensures the emergence of loyal customers.

Intertextuality in Absolut Vodka advertisements (Absolut Ad 1994)

Sexist advertisement 2015 shows an image which serves as an example of textual reference in advertising. It provides an illustration of the association between the target audience and the product. It entails a woman in a provocative dressing without showing her face. It is fundamental to note that the image refers to a male-oriented genre because such photographs have been utilized to promote male-dominated products. The presence of a beautiful model captivates the men and inspires them to purchase the item. Moreover, it uses a famous quotation ‘Keep Australia Beautiful,’ which stands for the Australian environmental organisation. It reminds one of the past events in Australia when there were major campaigns to keep the country clean. When people glance at the advert, they draw the conclusion that the cleanliness of the country is compared to the flawless beauty of a woman. Consequently, it reaffirms the utilization of the ‘Lo Carb’ product. Intertextuality illustrates how agencies can intertwine male- and female-oriented audiences in carrying out the advertisement (Pricken 2008 p. 97). The image is marked in billboards at strategic highways within the nation. Moreover, it has an extensive scope of coverage, drawing the attention of everyone (Xin 2000, p. 8). It is also the basis for the emergence of loyal customers.

Intertextuality in Protein FX: Lo Carb advertisement (Sexist advertisement 2015)

Intertextuality has also been used by artists to promote their music, which may be considered as an indirect advertising. (Esho 2015) is an illustration of a juxtaposition of two different musicians, namely Chris Brown and Michael Jackson. The latter is a world-celebrated musician and a movie actor whose death was a big blow to the music industry. Chris Brown evidently utilizes his mode of dressing in his recent album. The red attire acts as a trademark. It is worth assuming that any viewer with prior knowledge concerning Jackson recognizes the similarities. Moreover, the fans of Michael Jackson have a probability of developing a fondness for Chris Brown. As a result, Chris Brown has the potential of making massive sales from his album. The use of intertextuality reveals that referencing fashion is crucial in carrying out product promotion. Intertextuality is distinct from plagiarism. While the latter entails unauthorized imitation of one’s work, the former involves making reference to the other known text. Nevertheless, understanding past events and history is the key to comprehending the advert (Al-Siyami 2013, p. 49).

Intertextuality in music promotion (Esho 2015)

Symbolism in Advertising

The Concept of Symbolism in Advertising

Symbolism is a technique that is apparent in advertising. Its utilization in the media industry has been extensive in the 20th and 21st centuries (Kemp 2011, p. 78). It is used in the representation of a defined brand or company (Johnson 2012, p. 35). It is a strategy that seeks to appeal to the subconscious level of the viewer. Symbols present concepts and ideologies that firms may try to portray using images. It is a visual means of communication that has diverse meaning and connotation beyond the immediate presentation. The symbol is precise and helps the audience to gain a better understanding. For example, the photograph of a rose flower symbolises romance.
The use of objects as symbols emanates from the cultural practices of people in the society (Jenkins 2008, p. 32). It relates to the identity and social group of the people and seeks to sell one’s attitudes and perceptions rather than the product itself. Consequently, the use of symbols stirs up people’s emotions and ideologies in their contemplation of a particular product. Symbolic advertising aims at creating emphasis on public perception. It works on the basis that when individuals observe an advert, their mind coordinates and synchronizes the icon. Accordingly, they come up with a particular understanding of the advert. Therefore, it utilizes emotional appeals to persuade a potential customer. In other words, the strategy works by manipulating the interpretation of the user.
It is vital to admit that there are symbols that have universal meanings. However, in most instances, the comprehension of these symbols tends to change with time. Consequently, it is fundamental to note that people may have a different interpretation of the advert. Factors such as geography, culture, class, and experiences influence the meaning of a symbol, presupposing that there are pros and cons of using symbolism as a means of product promotion. First, its universal nature makes it an appropriate means of product promotion. Universal symbols can be used to carry out the advertisement in the international market. However, they are subject to conflict of interpretation in different cultures. The agencies should ensure that their intended meaning matches the comprehension of the audience. They should also consider the cultural context of the symbol. In other words, they should analyse the social, historical, and economic context of the symbol. Furthermore, they should examine the thematic level that it seeks to avail. It includes the plot of the advert and any motifs that are recognizable in the symbol. Subsequently, they should examine the metaphorical implication of the advert, as it must relate to the immediate context. Advertising agencies should also analyse the symptomatic segment of the symbol and scrutinize what the use of symbolism reveals concerning the society (Felton 2013, p. 113).

Illustration and Analysis of Symbolic Adverts

(Rae 2010) shows an advertisement of Skyy Infusions vodka that is a valuable alcoholic drink among its lovers. Most alcohol products seek to promote the view that they are manufactured from naturally-growing ingredients. In essence, with the on-going controversies concerning chemical constituents, products that contain natural derivatives have a high probability of attracting customer loyalty. People argue that artificial chemicals facilitate the development of various side effects. In fact, some believe that they account for the rampant emergence of cancerous diseases. The presence of cherry fruit in the ad is symbolic because it is a fruit that grows naturally and has a sweet taste. Therefore, the advert propagates two meanings. First, it means that vodka is made of an innate ingredient such as cherry. Consequently, people who drink it experience nature in it. Second, the use of the black and white woman is symbolic, conveying the idea that vodka is consumed across people of different races. In other words, both the black and the white enjoy the drink. Thus, symbolism is evidently a critical strategy in the advertisement.

Symbolism in Skyy Infusions advertisement (Rae 2010)

Coca-Cola is a brand that has a global recognition. In fact, it is a household name in many families. Despite the fact that the company continues to monopolize the market, its advertising strategy is credible. Coca-Cola carries out advertising in every country. However, it customizes each advert to the immediate nation. (Vintage Coca-Cola ads 2013) shows an example of the Coca-Cola advert, which represents subliminal sexual symbolism. In other words, one has to interpret the sexual orientation conveyed in the advert. In essence, the slogan for the beverage was ‘Refreshing New Feeling’. Consequently, the firm seeks to reaffirm the uncompromising brand taste. Brand symbolism usually tries to influence a customer’s emotions and attitude towards the item (Dawar 2004, p. 35). The photograph of a sexy female model is effective in communicating the view. She presents the fulfilment that the world attains after drinking beverages from the Coke Brand. It is worth noting that the sexuality of females continues to present affirmation of beauty and satisfaction (Parker & Ogilvy 2012, p. 90). Most ads use it because they have the opportunity to reach a wide scope of coverage (Barry 2012, p. 80). In essence, both men and women are attracted to sexual adverts. In fact, civilization continues to promote the use of the feminine figure in the advertisement. However, it is apparent that the advert may face criticism in a conservative group. Nevertheless, Coke is aware of its monopoly. Consequently, its unwavering grasp in the market gives it a competitive edge over other companies. The symbolism allows the viewer to comprehend the impact of the drinking in fulfilling their needs.

Symbolism in Coca-Cola advertisement (Vintage Coca-Cola ads 2013)


Understanding the Concept of Polysemy

The polysemy in advertising refers to the ability of a particular advert to exhibit two or more interpretations from the perspective of the consumer depending on time or situation. In other words, the people generate a different understanding of the same advert. However, it is vital to make a distinction between the interpretation of an advert and the aspect of attitude (Goddard 2007, p. 89). Polysemy does not depend on the liking of the people; therefore, attitude is not a determining factor in exploring the meaning of the advert.
There are two forms of polysemy. Synchronic polysemy occurs across two audiences within a defined scope of time. In essence, one particular advert has different elucidation from two audiences at the same time. For example, an advert may be targeting members of a particular subcultural group. Consequently, it may utilize distinct cues. However, members of another subculture may have a different comprehension regarding the same advert. On the other hand, a diachronic polysemy takes place when the same individual develops different meanings for an advert after multiple sessions of viewing. It emphasizes the fact that the first impact of an advert may differ from subsequent ones because individuals tend to dissect an advert with time (Leeuwen & Andrews 2014, p. 83). As a result, they may notice details that were not obvious in the first instance.
Polysemy has been vital in communicating gender roles in advertising. There are four goals of critical polysemy. A targeting goal presupposes that an advertiser can design a polysemic message targeting two audiences. In other words, every group may attain a distinct understanding. The positioning goal occurs when an advert seeks to communicate core features of a product to customers. Its ultimate aim is strengthening the brand. Aesthetic goal means that the advert occurs in a polysemic manner not for a strategic purpose but rather to attract attention. The social norm goal allows a polysemic advert to enhance a controversial message without demeaning the social standards. Advertisers designing polysemic adverts focus on the media and the social context of the message (Malthouse, Bobby & Ajit 2007, p. 10).

Illustration and Analysis of Polysemic Adverts

The polysemic technique is evident in many adverts today (Gray 2010, p. 9). (Smirnoff Vodka 1995) shows a photograph, seeking to persuade viewers concerning the intake of Smirnoff which is an alcoholic drink highly esteemed by many people who utilize alcohol. In essence, the target audience for the advert is people who consume alcohol. Nevertheless, a glance at the advert gives room for two distinct interpretations. First, it reveals that the drink is appropriate for women. There is a picture of a female model on her back, encircled by a cloth material in the form of a snake, which is an animal known for its cunning nature. The advert seems to communicate that Smirnoff enables people to develop the sharp and cunning skills that characterize the snake, which overpowers one’s mind. In fact, there is a high probability that women will take the drink. However, some females could also consider it as a means of sexual objectification. On the other hand, another group may interpret the advert as a source of esteem to attract beautiful women. Young men who view the advert comprehend it as the best drink that needs sharing with men. Consequently, dating couples will show a preference for it. Therefore, the target goal of the polysemic message should be precise (Scott 2012). Otherwise, it would deter the use of the product among people of a definite group. Thus, it is imperative that such advertising agencies consider the social context of the area they seek to convey the message (Arora & Sabine 2014, p. 111).

Polysemy in Smirnoff advertisement (Smirnoff Vodka 1995)

(Ads of the World n.d.) exhibits an advert of Juicy Fruit, which is one of the chewing gum producers in the market. It faces competition from other products such as Bubble Gum and Orbit. The advert conveys different meanings across the audience within a specified time. First, it is associated with the shark, which is an aquatic animal that people consider dangerous. Therefore, the target audience develops the opinion that Juicy Fruit can make an individual remarkably dangerous in one’s pursuits. It persuades the viewers to increase their intake of the product. The second meaning emanates from the sports person near the shark. Some audience may comprehend it as a product that enhances the stamina of sports people. Consequently, they can compete with the fierce animals such as the shark. Needless to say, the shark and the man do not fall into the same group. Nevertheless, the shark seems to enjoy a close association with the sports person because they share the Juicy Fruit that grants them similar ability. It is vital to note that watching an advert together is vital in defining polysemy. First, it allows people to air their different understanding of the message. Second, the interaction reduces the unexpected polysemic comprehension of the information (Puntoni 2010).

Polysemy in Juicy Fruit advertisement (Ads of the World n.d.)


The discussion elaborated on the three strategies of advertising. Intertextuality is an art that gives room for one text to make reference to another text. It rests on the fact that people in the society have prior knowledge concerning different subjects. Consequently, an advert makes reference to information perceived earlier. The agencies using the technique should consider the social context of the audience. Symbolism uses images and figures to reveal the meaning of an advert. However, each symbol must fit the social and media context. Polysemy is a strategy where an advert exhibits more than one meaning at specified locality across time. Two audiences can have a distinct interpretation of the message. The two forms of polysemy are synchronic and diachronic polysemy. It is imperative that an advertising agency understands its audience. The ultimate goal of the techniques is strengthening the brands and creating consumer awareness.

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