Friday, April 3, 2009

Bad Advertising - Billboard Semiotics and Pragmatics Fail

Take a close look at the bottom billboard and think about what each symbol might represent and what the sum of these symbols is intended to communicate.

Now, picture driving at 80 miles an hour and trying to figure out not only what each symbol might represent but also what the sum of these symbols is meant to communicate.

As mentioned in a previous post about a billboard pragmatics fail, the context in which a communication occurs plays an important role in a reader's ability to interpret a writer's intended meaning. The context here is the side of an expressway. Any reader in a car going 80 miles an hour or more is going to have an awfully hard time interpreting the writer's intended meaning because at that speed the reader will have a very short time to view the symbols. Not to mention that this doesn't even take into account the possibility of a semi truck obstructing a reader's view.

As for the semiotics fail, the symbols were so poorly executed that my first guess was:

beak + carrot ('s) + rake + "in" + rolling pin wrong I was and and oh...what bad advertising.

Upon seeing the billboard a third time I realized - the bird is a duck and the arrow is pointing to its bill, the carrot is supposed to be a surfboard and the last arrow is pointing to a blob of dough, not the rolling pin.

bill + board ('s) + rake + "in" + dough

So the writer's intended meaning was, "billboards rake in dough."

Okay, maybe I should have realized that was a duck the first time but I was driving and reprimanding kids at the same time. Plus I still think the second symbol looks like a carrot everytime I pass it.

Did I mention the apostrophe error? Does the billboard own the rake? The writer should have used a "+ s" not a "'s"

Related posts:

semiotics definition

additional semiotics posts

additional billboard posts

billboards advertising billboard advertising


Erin Davis said...

Ineffective communication AND an apostrophe error? Very bad signage, indeed.

The Punctuator said...

My first thought was "duck turds rake in dough", but that didn't seem right. Then I realized it was the duck's bill that was being pointed at, not the whole duck. From the context I figured out what the mysterious pointy brown object was supposed to be. Pretty lame, if you ask me.

Carlos said...

A board? Looked like a cigar to me. That sign really is awful!

Laura Payne said...

Duck turds and a cigar...I love them. Thanks for the good laugh.

Anonymous said...

I have been wondering that for so long.. I thought it was a carrot also

Anonymous said...

I did a google search on the sign and found this blog. Okay, my friend and I actually turned around, got off the freeway, and sat there trying to figure this out. I might like it more if this lame riddle was something cool.

Mo Jay said...

Thanks for posting this!! We just passed the sign a few minutes ago and it confused me so much that I had to pull out my phone and find an answer. Great post, stupid sign! Oh, and for the record, I'm a passenger, not the driver.

Laura Payne said...

Hi Mo Jay,

I just noticed last weekend that this ad is back up on the billboard again. I sure wish someone would rent the space again so we wouldn't have to see this horrible ad everytime we drive north this summer.

You Gotta Be Sitting Me! said...

Ha! I thought it was a hunting ad for people who kill ducks!!!

duck + Bullet + rake = rolling pin
ducks plus bullets rake in dough!

hahaha!! FAIL.

Mrs Fridd said...

Thank you for posting this. I didn't get it till I read your blog!! Billboard FAIL!!

Saskia Scott said...

I thought it was a carrot too! My first thought was
"duck carrot's broom in dough"

then I thought
"beak carrot's broom in dough"

Then I looked at the explanation.

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