Priit Põhjala
University of Tartu, Department of Semiotics


Advertising has a significant role in human society. It has been referred to as one of the most important factors shaping our lives today, an independent and uncontrollable superstructure. Advertisements act as a filter for our dreams and aspirations and determine what we perceive as valuable on the personal and social level. Over time, advertising has become a wide-ranging phenomenon characterised by its omnipresence as well as its economic and cultural effect that is undeniably great, yet difficult to measure.

Many researchers have compared advertising to art, religion and myth, and have discovered through considering the differences and similarities of these phenomena that the former has adopted the functions of the latter. The role advertising plays in contemporary society is similar to the one that was played by art, religion and myth in so-called primitive societies. For example, advertising offers clear explanations for and solutions to crisis – difficult situation that occurs suddenly or pivotal moment resulting in the worsening of circumstances in some way – be it personal or collective.

Advertisements use certain rhetorical methods for presenting crisis and its solutions. During an economic crisis, for instance, the keyword affordable becomes prominent in advertising vocabulary, because it responds to the primary expectation of the market: affordable buying opportunities. The solutions offered for crisis in advertisements are extremely simple – briefly worded, general and apparently easily attainable. The simplicity of the solutions is compensated by the emotional intensity with which they are presented. Solutions to crisis are linked, as a matter of course, to what is being advertised, while blame for the persistence of a given crisis may be attributed to the competition. It is in the best interest of advertisements for crisis to remain viable so that the former would continue to have something to solve. The image of a crisis is reinforced or even amplified through constant repetition. The explicit presentation of the crisis is not obligatory for this effect to be achieved. Advertisements may present the crisis as implicit and it may function as the unverbalised or unvisualised premise of the offered solution.

Keywords: advertising, crisis, keywords in advertising language, simplicity of advertising language, repetitions in advertising language