Selling Culture

Using Semiotics to read advertisements and other forms of Mass/Popular Culture


A general philosophical theory of signs and symbols that deals especially with their function in both artificial and natural constructs. Essentially, semiotics is the study of signs.




Denotative and Connotative Meanings of Signs

Denotative meaning: the direct specific meaning.

A red rose is a fragrant flower.

Related to the signifier

Connotative meaning: the implied or cultural meaning.

A red rose represents love, passion, and romance.

Related to the signified.



What sort of reality does the text construct and how does it do so? How does it seek to naturalize its own perspectives? What assumptions does it make about its readers?

Ideological functions of signs











Values inherent in advertising:

Understanding of Gender roles

Understanding of Race & Ethnicity

Understanding of Sexuality

Understanding of Class

Understanding of Social Roles


Question to Consider:

Can you think of examples of the various types of appeals in mass in popular culture (advertising, film, tv, etc.)?

Appeals include rebellion, status, adventure/fun, patriotic, group, fear/guilt, humor, individuality, frontier mentality/ruggedness, etc.