Every time we pick up a magazine or a newspaper we are bombarded with advertisements whether for lifestyle products, new television shows or any other consumer goods or services that we may or may not need. Now whether one actually takes notice of this non verbal communication between companies and consumers is besides the point and as we are only viewing these images for a few seconds at a time, it is understood that the consumer can follow what is going on and is able to read visual images and what the particular advertisement is trying to say without it actually being broken down and explained.

The advertisements in figure (a) denotes a bar of what seems to be dirty soap standing next to a bottle of Palmolive milk and honey body wash, the slogan reads ‘’The only place it’s been is in the bottle’’. The viewer is assumed to not take this literally and instead construct cultural meaning from the image (McQuarrie and Phillips 2005,34). We know that soap is an everyday item and what this advertisement is trying to tell us is that its product is a more hygienic way of personal cleaning.

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If the advertising companies could not rely on assumed ability that consumers could read visual text then the advertisement would basically have to literally print “Palmolive is more hygienic than bar soap”, thus making the campaign more plain losing the visual wit that the image has. Culture has evolved into a visual one with people tending to believe what they see (Bourgery and Guimaraes 1993, 4). The same theory can be applied to the advertisement seen in figure (b).

This advertisement is for the hair product company TRESemme’. The image denotes a brunette woman in portrait with a bottle of TRESemme’ finishing hairspray in the foreground with the slogan ’24 hours of fabulous hair’. The connotations associated with this ad is that if you use this product your hair will look like this woman’s, what is interesting about this image is that the viewer is meant to apply meaning and associate this woman with what is considered in today’s western society as being beautiful.

The mass media being television, fashion magazines, newspapers, popular music, movies and basically any other form of popular communication among society as a whole plays an enormous part of what we believe to be beautiful and perfect, thus when the consumer looks at this visual image they themselves associate this product with beauty and apply cultural meaning as this ideology of beauty has been dilled into them basically every time they on the television (Seitz 2007, 7).

Non verbal communication is dependant not only on the viewer to be able to read a visual image as part of the mass media but also to have seen and read others and be able to tie them together, for example in figure (b) a connotation with the word fabulous ties in with popular television series and movie franchise “Sex and the city” (Brand Republic 2008), now the brand is entirely depending on the viewer to be able to understand this as no reference what so ever has been conveyed in the image therefore the advertisement has been targeted to the same audience that the “Sex and the city” franchise is targeted to.

The non verbal communication of beauty in figure (b) denotes what only is in the image but also what is definitely not, we have to ask would this image be as visually appealing to the target audience if say the female that is in the advertisement was an overweight African American woman, probably not, and the advertisement would take on a whole other cultural meaning say if the female was a transgender individual, unfortunately advertisers have to follow a cultural formulae in order to get their message across. The third example of non verbal communication is figure (c).

This advertisement is for the Italian clothing company Benetton. This advertisement doesn’t actually depict any clothes in it, instead denoting two male hands, one light skin toned hand and another dark skin toned hand bound together by handcuffs. Meaning is dependant on the viewer’s ability to read the visual image in the context of the particular culture that it is putting it out to. An example of this is that in western culture this advertisement could be symbolizing the fight on racism and how society needs to cuff itself together in the hope that racism becomes a thing of the past.

Advertisers do however, they need to be careful about who their adverts are going to be viewed by as what means one thing in one culture can mean a completely different thing in another an example of this is the colour white which in western cultures such as Australia means purity and is associated with marriage, whilst in china white is the colour of death and mourning (Colours in different cultures, N. D). Figure (c) could also denote the inequality and unfair treatment of homosexual men in some cultures such as Uganda where homosexual men can be imprisoned for life (Anonymous 2010, 1808).

This visual image can be read entirely different as consumers takes from their own personal experiences as well as the values and attitudes they hold. So whether an individual realizes it or not when flicking through that tabloid gossip or sports magazine the advertisements that are strategically placed are being communicated with cultural meaning and have been carefully constructed on the assumption that they can pick apart its layers of meaning.