Semiotics is the science of the sign: anything which functions in communication. In this course we apply semiotic methods to the study of advertising, which must communicate compellingly in a very short time or in a limited space. As a result, advertising is a perfect laboratory for the semiotic methodology, because it must use signs very effectively. In fact, the finest advertising approaches poetry in its artistic subtlety and power. Semiotics is an extremely flexible tool which is useful in a wide range of academic fields.
Readings are drawn primarily from an introductory textbook on semiotics, while most of the illustrative material used in lecture comes from video and print advertising. A web page serves as an archive of all the ads viewed in the course lectures. Weekly assignments require students to answer questions based on the readings and to write brief annotations of ads found by each individual student. There is a midterm and a final exam, and students will write a term paper, or course project, exploring semiotic themes in advertising texts.