Monday, April 28, 2008


Relevance is a key concept in understanding advertisements, because it is a primary component of all aspects of human communication. The term was introduced by Sperber and Wilson (1995), building on earlier work in pragmatics, in particular the work of H. P. Grice. Sperber and Wilson's approach to communication is based on the observation that much natural communication does not involve sequences of totally directly informative utterances, or questions followed by literal answers. However, speakers and hearers in a conversation each assume that the others are rational and cooperative participants, and therefore conversation moves forward as each hearer finds the relevance of what was just said. You can read more about the strictly linguistic side of relevance on a separate page. Tanaka (1994) presents a very thorough analysis of advertising based on the concept of relevance.

Every advertisement is interesting from the perspective of relevance. Here are two examples of text that have relevance in the advertisement in which they appear. Click on each image to see the original and a discussion of the relevance and how it is constructed in the advertisment.

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