Advertising in times of crisis – A semiotic analysis of some savvy creative approaches

Joseph Sassoon
Alphabet Research, Italy


In the last ESOMAR Qualitative World Conference (Istanbul, November 2008) the author presented a new method combining the semiotics of the French School with the theories on storytelling coming from Hollywood screenwriters, and then applied it to the analysis of the so-called Helpers in advertising. This method can also be valuable in discovering what persuasion mechanisms are at play in advertising campaigns that appear to have made the most of the recent economic downturn. That is precisely what the paper addresses, by using some conceptual categories of this method – but also taking the opportunity to bring it to a next step. More precisely the purpose is to show, on the basis of several examples, which are the communication strategies that companies around the world have found to counter the economic crisis or exploit it to their best interest.