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An Analytical Reading. Illustrate your essay with specific examples.

In essence, any advertisement is an attempt by a specific company to make people buy their products.  Although this is their main function, they do much more. They create a desire for the product by fixing a cultural meaning to it. Advertisements reflect the society we live in by implying meanings that are attached to certain signs. They also reify these meanings and thus not only reflect society, but also produce social meaning.

In this brief, I would display this process by analyzing the attached Symantec advert. Thwaites et al. (2002) have proposed functions of signification as tools for identifying the meanings that signs can produce.  By analyzing the advertisement with these functions, we can see how advertisements not only suggest but also produce social meaning. 

However, all these functions of the signs are dependant on the social context in which they are read. Probably to a tribal person in the Amazon forest the advertisement would signify something completely different, as well as to a person who lived 100 years ago. What makes us understand the signs in the way it is intended by the marketing company is the contextual function of the signs. These signs are: the newspaper format, the computer, the Internet, society's moral panic about pedophiles and notion of vulnerability of females, not to mention the responsibility of parents over their children - all these signs derive from the context in our society. By having contextual function, the signs reify the values and happenings in the society whether they are true or not. Although the text in the advertisement says that "Stalkers could use the Internet to contact your children", the advertisement positions the possibility as something that all responsible parents should be afraid of - this illustrates how a rare and frightening topic is made to appear commonplace and inevitable. It associates the Internet with the stalkers, thus adding or reifying the danger of the Internet.

Illustrated in this essay we can see how advertisements not only create interest in a particular product but use social and economic mechanisms to further enhance their standing.  They use the fears, expectations and desires of the public to market themselves as a need and not simply a desire. These signs, buried in the advertisement, reflect social meaning to us.  They borrow competence trying to look more a public announcement or service than a commercial message. Therefore, the signs in an advertisement have various functions which combined not only reflect the social meanings attached to signs, but also produce them. The Symantec advertisement, that in essence consist of a living room scene with a woman reading a newspaper and a girl using a keyboard, makes us think that the Internet is dangerous to children and we are not responsible parents if we do not do anything about it.

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