A Tri-party semiotics approach for advertising polysemy: Luxury brand advertisement analysis under the framework of Roland Barthes, Mikhail Bakhtin, Gunter Kress and Theo van Leeuwen

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date



Semiotics, multimodality, advertising polysemy


The body of research in advertising meaning is substantial and many semioticians have studied advertising as a discourse from different angles. Advertisers have intended meanings and messages for their advertisements, but it is without doubt that consumers’ advertising literacy has grown, and in their eyes, an advertisement composed of signs and texts can always mean something new and is open to infinite semiosis (Eco, 1981). Advertisers may label consumers’ “unintended” or “alternate” readings “miscomprehension” (Jacoby & Hoyer, 1982), and it is thus of no surprise that even practitioners have raised the difficulty of advertising interpretation (Putoni, Schroeder, & Ritson, 2010). On the other hand, the dilemma seems to be that over the past decade, the trend in advertising production has been towards an increase in the use of metaphors and other rhetorical devices (Philips & McQuarrie, 2009) which makes consumers’ interpretations less direct and straightforward. All these forces add to the complexity of advertising interpretation from both readers’ and practitioners’ perspectives. Given the gap between the advertisers’ “intended” meanings and the consumers’ possible infinite semiosis, this paper attempts to postulate a semiotics typology and framework to bridge that gap by allowing a more comprehensive and structured approach to inspire advertisements’ creation, and benefitting both practitioners and consumers in advertisements’ interpretation. The theoretical basis of the paper is to use for the first time three semiotics approaches (structuralist, post-structuralist and multimodality) and applying key concepts from Roland Barthes, Mikhail Bakhtin, Gunter Kress and Theo van Leeuwen to study advertising polysemy on print advertisements. The step-by-step analysis using a case study approach was conducted for more effective and comprehensive meaning-making for a print advertisement of Möet & Chandon, one of the global top 100 brand ("2015 Best Global Brands," 2016) and the selected brand being in the luxury sector known to commonly adopt implicit communication techniques in their advertising making (Freire, 2014).

Source Publication

The 15th Asia-Pacific Conference of the Association for Business Communication

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