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A Multimodal Analysis Study In Smartphone Billboards Advertisement

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This research aims to analyze multimodal in Apple smartphones billboards advertisements. The multimodal theory by Kress and van Leeuwen and generic structure analysis theory by Cheong were applied to analyze this research. The method used in this research was a descriptive research method. The data in this research were images uploaded by photographers of Apple’s smartphone billboards advertisements. The source data of this research was obtained from The finding of this research obtained that the semiotic systems in Apple’s smartphone billboards advertisements are in harmony and complete each other. The analysis also shows that there are five generic structures found in this advertisement video; lead, display, announcement, emblem, call and visit. In the intervening time, the other structures (tag and enhancer) are not found in this advertisement.


Nowadays, smartphones’ companies tend to use visual aids more than texts in their advertisements. The use of visual aids attracts the attention of the consumers in the targeted society. The means of advertising developed over the decades. People used to read advertisements in newspapers and magazines. Now with the technology evolution we witnessed, we see the advertisements on TVs, our smartphones, tablets, computers, and billboards. The advertising companies try to do their best to convey meaning through the ads they make. Companies spend more money on advertising than they do on manufacturing their products. The competition never stops when it comes to smartphones’ companies. This study will focus on studying the advertisements of Apple’s billboards because of the reach; which refers to the total number of different people or households exposed, at least once, to a medium during a given period. Advertisements can be studied from different linguistics perspectives. They can be analyzed from sociolinguistics, pragmatics, morphology, and discourse analysis perspectives. In this research, the advertisements had been analyzed from discourse analysis perspective by using multimodal approach which is related to verbal and visual elements in advertisements. Also, the research focuses on multimodal systems based on Cheong’s generic structure analysis and Kress and Leeuwen’s multimodal theory. This study used the semiotic approaches as a tool to justify how visual advertisements that contain semiotic systems are studied. It is assumed that the use of semiotic systems in smartphones’ advertisements is an easy way to have the consumer making a purchase of a product.

Literature Review

Advertising and Smartphones’ advertisements

According to Caton (2013), advertising is a way of grabbing the consumer’s attention to make a purchase of a certain product. Similarly, Afroz (2013), demonstrated in his article that through advertising, the consumer is informed about available products or services and about the ways in which they may meet his/her needs. Moreover, Russel (2013) in Commercial Advertising, explained that advertising as a definite business may be more conveniently said to have been born when merchants and manufacturers first began to employ someone else to promote their sales. Advertisements are composed of several elements that play a role in creating an interaction between the consumer and the advertised product according to Caton (2013). Overtime, advertisements developed and started taking new forms. Billboards, magazines, and newspapers were the first generation of advertisements. With the evolution of technology, Radio and TV advertisements became prevalent methods of advertising. Recently, the internet has emerged as a new type of media advertising according to Park, Shenoy, and Salvendy (2008). Mobile advertising is defined by The Mobile Marketing Associations as “a form of advertising that transmits advertisement messages to users through mobile phones or other wireless communication devices” Chen and Hsieh (2012). Smartphones are different from standard mobile phones in terms of the operating system, they have been attracting a substantial number of users and have become an apparent necessity in people’s lives. People use smartphones for social networking purposes, for features and functions they offer like reading e-books, answering e-mails, sending messages, and playing games. Smartphone advertisements play an increasing role in the decision-making process in supporting consumer purchases (Kim & Han, 2014). Advertisements on smartphones have become more urbane, adapting to device screens that are not appropriate for showing traditional online advertising. However, little is known about the meaning behind the semiotic tools used in the smartphones’ billboards advertisements.

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Recently, there are several studies that have been done on multimodal. Starting with the definition, multimodal discourse analysis considers how texts draw on modes of communication such as images, film, video, and sound in combination with words to make meaning. When it comes to multimodal texts, the meanings of these texts can be realized visually in how the images convey aspects of the real world Paltridge (2012). Multimodality mainly focuses on the study of the interrelationships between various communicative modes, no matter whether they are visual or auditory, words or image according to Liu (2013). It’s believed that images can serve as language since they are organized in the same way that language is. It’s also believed that language is based on convention and is, therefore, less polysemous than images according to Ventola, Charles, and Kaltenbacher (2004). Moreover, they studied the relationships between language and images in printed media and demonstrated how language and images can be distinguished from one another looking at their semiotic structure, their semantic characteristics and the cognitive operations they typically entail. Also, they shed light on the relationship between language and visuals. Rosa (2014) analyzed Sunsilk Nutrient Sampo Ginseng advertisement by using semiotic approach which focuses on multimodal system proposed by Cheong (2004). In the same way, Muslimah (2015) analyzed Baby Skin of Maybelline New York advertisement by using semiotic approach which focuses on verbal and visual elements in advertisement by using Cheong and Royce’s theory. The author concluded that visual images and verbal texts in the advertisements interact each other to make meaning and that the aim of cooperation between them is to deliver the message of the advertisements to the customers. Similarly, Savitri and Rosa (2019) analyzed multimodal in Samsung Galaxy S9 audiovisual advertisement based on the systemic functional linguistics theory by Halliday (2004), multimodal theory by Kress and van Leeuwen (2006) and generic structure analysis theory by Cheong (2004). In their findings, Savitri and Rosa concluded that every semiotic system; linguistic, visual, gesture, audio and location in the ads they studied have the same potential in conveying meaning. Nowadays, the means of adverting developed where we started to read articles on the innovative ways of advertising and how they can be analyzed through the decoding of the message behind the semiotic elements used in these ads. For instance, Savitri and Rosa (2019) discussed the meanings in the Samsung Galaxy S9 promotion video that was presented in one of Samsung’s conferences. Meanwhile, this research will analyze the semiotic systems found in advertisement by using Kress and van Leeuwen’s multimodal theory and Cheong’s generic structure.

Semiotics in Advertisements

According to Bignell (2002), ‘Semiotics’ (or semiology) is one of the most powerful and influential ways of thinking about media. Semiotics or semiology is derived from the ancient Greek word ‘semeion’, which means ‘sign’. Semiotics is a way of analyzing meanings by examining the signs such as words, font, framing, etc. which convey meaning. In advertising, semiotics serve as signs and symbols that are associated with displays, themes, symbols, colors, images, verbal announcements, sign language. These symbolic terms connect the customers to their products. It is important to understand how consumers interpret the information quoted in an advertisement. Scholars have done researches on the effect of semiotics on consumers. For instance, Paltridge (2012) believes that there is a social relationship between the image and the viewer. He suggested that for example, a horizontal image suggests involvement as the viewer is on the same level as the subject of the image and a high angle shot might suggest superiority and a low angle shot may suggest respect. Moreover, Parsa (2014) studied visual semiotics in order to interpret still images by using semiotic approaches. Kress and van Leeuween (2006) introduced visual code or grammar of visual design. They believe that verbal structures and visual structures can be used to express meanings drawn from common cultural sources. Also, they assume that image, color, music, typography and other visual modes are similar to language and they can at the same time accomplish and comprehend the three broad communicative metafunctions as language does. In their view, image and other visual modes can represent objects and their relations outside the representational system. There are many ideational choices available for visual sign-making in visual communication. They stated that “image and other visual modes have the capacity to form texts, complexes of signs which internally cohere with each other and externally with the context in and for which they were produced”. Besides, image and other visual modes can represent a particular social relation between the producer, the viewer and the item represented. Meanwhile, the researcher will study semiotics in the smartphones’ billboards advertisements based on the multimodal theories provided by Kress and van Leeuwen, and Cheong to interpret the meanings of these semiotics.

Research Method

This research used descriptive method because the researcher analyzed the data descriptively. The result was in a form of explanation. The multimodal analysis in this research was described by using semiotic approach in Apple’s billboards advertisements. The data in this study were images of Apple’s billboards advertisements uploaded by photographers and found on In getting the data, the researcher downloaded pictures of Apple’s billboards advertisements consisting of image, written text and logo brands. After that, the researcher identified and transcribed the information on texts and visuals found in the billboards’ advertisements. These advertisements were analyzed based on the multimodal theory by Kress and Leeuwen (2001), systemic functional linguistic theory by Halliday Matthiessen (2004), and generic structure theory by Cheong (2004).

Conclusion and Suggestions

It can be concluded that the semiotic systems; visual, gesture, and location based on the results of the analysis in Apple’s billboards advertisements have the same potential in conveying meaning. The researcher’s analysis shows that the discussed semiotic systems found in the advertisements are in harmony and complete each other. Moreover, it shows that the discussed semiotic systems put emphasis on the characteristics of the products and the brand to make them unique to the audience. Furthermore, five generic structures could be found in the billboards’ advertisements; lead, display, announcement, emblem, call and visit. Based on the analysis, it concluded that the goals of the billboards’ advertisements are to attract the consumer’s attention and interest to make a purchase of the advertised product. This study analyzed multimodal analysis in Apple billboards’ advertisements in order to see how semiotic systems convey meaning. In this study, the researcher collected 9 Apple billboards’ advertisements. The researcher then analyzed the meaning of the billboard’s advertisements through multimodal analysis and metafunctions. Thus, the researcher suggested the future researcher will examine another sample of different advertisements and to use mixed method to measure the consumer’s behavior toward making a purchase of a product based on his perception of the semiotic tools in the billboard’s advertisements. The result of this study is still in general analysis. it is suggested to the future researcher to use this study as a reference to develop a different multimodal analysis study.

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A Multimodal Analysis Study In Smartphone Billboards Advertisement. (2022, February 18). Edubirdie. Retrieved October 3, 2022, from
“A Multimodal Analysis Study In Smartphone Billboards Advertisement.” Edubirdie, 18 Feb. 2022,
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