Diversity & Media

Semiotics, Semantics and Pepsi

In Sandoval’s chapter on Semiotics, they aim to focus on a deconstruction of language and how things are presented in order to see and understand all elements of some form of conveying a message. In Semiotics, a sign is broken down often in to two main parts. The signifier and the signified. The signifier represents what the actual/physical sign is where as the signified is the meaning that is giving. Form and meaning, two parts that come together in order to attempt to effectively communicate our ideas. In our everyday language, advertisements, and various other things, one piece would fail without the other (although there have been attempts at creating languages that intrinsically hold meaning in their form, but even that can be argued for or against).

Where Sandoval digs deeper and where Semiotics can become more interesting is the breakdown of meaning. The semantics of a sign often comes from some mix of the intended meaning (intentional) and the perceived meaning (interpretation). The space between these two pieces is often what we perceive. And the question of which part ultimately matters more is an interesting one.

To look at this more specifically let’s take the recent Pepsi commercial that was eventually pulled do to a large amount of backlash. I’d like to take the discussion of this video in conjunction with the SNL skit spoofing the shoot. Both are linked below (note: pepsi may remove the original commercial at some point from this specific link)

The intended meaning of this commercials appears to be that all people can come together from all backgrounds to unite around a common cause. And the thing that brings them together and saves the day? Conveniently a pepsi. The SNL skit gives this intended meaning more clearly. Roughly quoted, “It’s an homage to the resistance … huge protest reminiscent of black lives matter and they all march and then they get to the police and they hand him a pepsi and that pepsi brings everyone together.”. The intention was never meant to be harmful, rather it was an oversight in what people would receive (and an oversight/possible level of ignorance in other regards as well) as the meaning. The interpreted meaning then becomes this idea that pepsi feels they can solve everything when in reality they know very little about the movement and those represented people in the first place. How the varying ethnicities are represented may, at first glance, seem authentic but are quickly noted to be quite stereotypical as the SNL sketch also points out.

Exit mobile version