Marketing Christianity and Men of God Through the Use of Signs: A Study of Advertising Copies by Pentecostal/Charismatic Churches in Nigeria

Marketing Christianity and Men of God Through the Use of Signs: A Study of Advertising Copies by Pentecostal/Charismatic Churches in Nigeria

Floribert Patrick C. Endong (University of Calabar, Nigeria)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-5778-4.ch014

Abstract

Most advertising copies designed by Nigerian Pentecostal Churches are rarely monosemic and hardly understandable from a literal exegesis. This is partly due to the fact that they most often integrate various typologies of signs and symbols. These signs are aimed (i) to quickly and effectively convey specific meanings to the readership and (ii) fashion the overall advertising messages according to the taste of the time. Based on a quantitative and qualitative content analysis of 490 advertising copies, this study reveals that 68.77% of the print advertisements generated by Nigerian Churches contain signs and symbols. Majority (56.08%) of these signs and symbols are Christian in nature (they are inspired by the universal Christian symbolism and iconography); while, 30.26% of them are rooted in the Nigerian socio-cultural context. The latter category of signs is commonly used in a postmodern or sensational manner, to make reference to local religious myths and specific socio-political events which seriously affect or shape Nigerian Pentecostal Christianities. This postmodern use of signs implicitly reveals that, the advertising message designers are conscious of the highly competitive environment in which churches and men of God operate in the country.
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Semiotics As A Tool For Analyzing Media Texts

Semiotics – as a discipline – is concerned with the construction and conveyance of meaning. In simple terms, it could be defined as the study of signs and symbols and their use or interpretation. According to Saussure (1974), it is “a science that studies the life of signs within society” (p.16). In other words, it is the study of the social production of meaning through the use of sign systems. As a science, semiotics shows what constitutes signs as well as the laws that govern them. It, thus, focuses on the examination of signs or symbolic systems, the way they are produced, disseminated and consumed within a specific socio-cultural context. A sign, in this context, is construed as anything (word, image, sound, facial expression or gesture among others) which, in some capacity or respect, stands for something other than itself. The International Commission of Illumination [CIE] defines it as “a device which provides a visual message by virtue of its situation, shape, colour or pattern and sometimes by the use of symbolic images or alphanumeric characters,” and which is used to transfer information (cited in Endong, 2014, p. 59).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Polysemy: A situation in which a sign signifies multiple meanings.

Signifier: This is the physical form of a sign, its form as perceived by human senses.

Relay: A term used to refer to one of the functions of the linguistic messages of print adverts. A relay happens when the linguistic features of a print advert work together with images to convey specific meanings. The relay amplifies the message conveyed by the visual components of the adverts.

Connoted Image: Visual elements in a print advert which connote the signified.

Signified: The mental concept of what a sign refers to.

Anchorage: A term used by Barthes to describe the ways in which words may be used to make the meaning of photographic texts and other images deployed in advertisements or photojournalism clearer. In other words, an anchorage directs a reader towards a particular preferred reading of an open photographic text (or an image).

Sign: Anything (word, image, sound, facial expression or gesture among others) which, in some capacity or respect, stands for something other than itself. A sign generally has three essential characteristics: it must have a physical form, it must refer to something other than itself and it must be recognized by a community of users as a sign.

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