The Double Meaning of Ads
The McDonalds’s commercial featuring a hamburger conveys a message that the hamburger is so scrumptious creating a strong appeal to one’s appetites to savor its delicious taste. The ad is obviously intended to seduce one’s senses to captivate the imagination. The McDonalds logo effectively leave a message that McDonalds’s hamburger is so yummy thereby making anyone to crave for it. The ad presents the hamburger in its perfect form showing all its ingredients in very seductive manner as if to say that this is everything, that one really has to try this extremely delicious hamburger which is only at McDonalds. In Barthes discussion of semiology, the picture in the ad is a sign composed of a signifier and signified, presenting a double meaning in which case the unity of the two is seen by Barthes as myth and its works.
Roland Barthes classifies myth as a “type of speech.” He defines myth as “a system of communication” (par. 1). For Barthes, myth is defined by the way it utters message rather than by the object of that message. It is a form rather than object; and it is a type of speech.
In a narrower sense, from this point of view of Barthes, the message of the McDonald commercial is clearly mythical as it conveys a system of communication between viewers and the ad itself. The message it communicate is that one has to really try this hamburger because this is something different, that this is McDonalds’s hamburger and nothing could be as delicious as this, and this is a perfect meal. The way the ad is presented creates a mode of signification which could make one to crave for it. There is no doubt that McDonalds’s hamburger is delicious and so are those of others too. The myth in the McDonalds commercial is that it creates a false sense that McDonalds’s hamburger is different and is more delicious than those of others. Essentially, every food chain selling hamburger uses the same ingredients and they may have their own styles of preparation but basically, they all taste the same.
The imagination that the viewer has formed in their mind about the McDonalds hamburger out of the ad is a myth because it was generated by the manner the commercial was presented. According to Barthes, myth is a system of communication and it is the language which “myth get hold of in order to build its own system” (par. 11). The language depicted by the commercial is that only at McDonalds that delicious hamburger could be available, is a mythical signification because the signifier or the hamburger placed significance on the company that produces the delicious hamburger. In effect, the message conveyed is, if that is McDonalds’s hamburger then that is delicious meal. I
The mythical signification in the commercial is that although the ad features the delicious hamburger in very seducing and enticing manner, the real message it convey is that this delicious meal is a product of McDonalds. In this way, the ad presents a double meaning. The first, McDonalds hamburger is yummy, and second, it is product of McDonald. The implication of the second meaning is that all products of McDonalds are yummy and delicious.
In a deeper sense however, It means that for Barthes, the double meaning of the picture in the ads is how myths work. In his discussion of MYTH, SIGNIFIER, and SIGNIFIED which was derived from a semiotic approach to analyzing the world of pop culture, the picture of the delicious hamburger although intended to seduce the senses and the taste of the viewers, the hamburger is only signifying the signified which is the McDonald represented in the ad by its logo. Barthes used the term semiology to emphasize the mythical signification, which according to Peter Corrigan, comes from the Greek word for sign, and is a discipline that looks at how signs works” (Corrigan, p. 175). It was the Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure however, that first used the notion of a science of signs that brought out sign as composed of signifier and signified.
In Barthes discussion of semiology, the picture of hamburger in the ad is clearly a sign which carries meaning. This sign according to de Saussure is composed of signifier and signified. That is, the picture of the hamburger in the ad is a signifier but the idea that comes along when somebody utters hamburger is the signified. However, the picture of the hamburger signified other things too. It signifies that it is a delicious meal. Thus, the picture of hamburger in the ad becomes the signifier of another signified which is a delicious meal. For Barthes the system by which the sign of the first becomes the signifier of another signified is how myth works as it steal something and uses it to mean something else.
The concept of myth is not new although Barthes mythical signification is something that gives a new idea as to how we should treat the word myth. The McDonald advertisement featuring a delicious hamburger provides a good opportunity to deal with the subject as it presents it self as a suitable representation.
Barthes concepts of myths and how it works makes a better understanding of the subject particularly in his discussion of signifier and signified. It made us understand that myth is not merely a false notion of something else but it is a system of communication which we derived from anything that conveys a message provided that this message could be uttered in a manner that would create a mode of signification.
Barthes, Roland “Myth Today” (Trans. Lavers, Annette) New York: 1984
Corrigan, Peter The Sociology of Consumption London: SAGE Publication, 1997