The Semiotics of Mustang Ads and Campaigns

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Cory Raposa

The Semiotics of Mustang Ads and Campaigns


The Mustang Ads are all very similar. They are showing the newest model of the mustang on a street usually going very fast, or sitting still with a plain background. What are the reasons for the same ads over and over? Why does it work so well is the better question?

  • The signifier of the ad is when you hear or read mustang it can mean the car, horse, etc. You don’t know which type of mustang it may be. A person can not determine what is being meant without the signified.

  • The signified is the Ford Mustang. You see the ad with the picture of the car and a person is sure it is talking about a Ford Mustang car and which model it is.

The sign we’re meant to focus on when looking at the Ford Mustang ad is the car itself. It is the main focus of the ad, it is in the center of the ad and is the biggest object. The car is the focal point of the ad. Everything points to the car. In the ad above the car is going fast on a turn. We know the car is going fast because the background of mountains and trees are kind of blurred.

Identifying the types of signs in the ad

Some types of signs that are in the Ford Mustang ads are in the text that are below the cars. They are usually witty and catchy making fun of another car company, most likely their rival the Dodge Challenger and Chevy Camaro. In the ones shown above “It Has A Checkered Future” and “You Can Hear It Coming From 40 Years Away” have different meanings, which are symbols for the ads. The checkers future ad has a meaning that by having a Ford Mustang means that it is a definite win if you were to get in a race. This car is a winner and nothing can beat it, so buy this car. The 40 years away ad is referring to the sound of the car. Mustang muscle cars have a distinct sound and it is saying it sounds so good you can hear this new model of the car from 40 years ago when they first introduced it.

The pictures don’t show the exact meaning of the ad quotes but a person will get the point. We don’t see the first car winning a race and we can’t hear the second. But because of the symbolism it uses we know exactly what it is trying to say

Identifying the types of signs in the ads
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As far as binary oppositions are concerned in Ford Mustang ads there are many. They don’t use many persons in their ads to determine whether or not it is a male or female driver. This could work saying this car is for both sexes. The only time you see a female beside a Mustang is at a car show maybe displaying the car.

The ads always show the car going very fast instead of at a slow state. The picture above suggests this car is going so fast that the objects around it are almost completely blurred. If the ads showed the car going slow it wouldn’t be very appealing to the consumer.

Although they do have Ford Mustang ads where the cars are parked instead of driven. This is to show the physical attributes of the car: wheel style, light design, body style, etc. If all the cars were shown driving it is hard to get a close view of the physical view of the car, which is a big turn on the consumers.

Binary Oppositions
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There are many binary oppositions in Ford Mustang ads, it just depends on what ad your are looking at. Man/Woman, Night/Day, Light/Dark, etc.
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The use of dark vs. light around the car is also a big opposition. Some Mustang ads use black surroundings to make the car ads pop even more. Some ads like the ones below use dark surroundings and the car is somewhat more appealing.

Binary Oppositions Cont.

The syntagms of this ad is simple. We obviously read the text from left to right. “ All Legend. Zero Compromise.” as well as the description below that. We can also read the syntagms of this from the blurred city in the background, to the car, to the street. The car is getting away from the city, the car or focal point again, and the street again.

The paradigm of this ad goes from the sky, to the car, to the “All Legend…” phrase, to the street, to the Ford symbol to its saying.

The sky doesn’t play an important role, just looks pretty, The car in the focal point of the ad. Its showing you the product you want to buy. The “All Legend. Zero Compromise” quote is next in line it’s telling you what they are trying to say in this all. But this nothing else will work for you. The street plays an important part as well; it shows that the car is going at a fast speed. Then we see the Ford symbol since it is a Ford car, then “Drive one”. Saying drive this car…simple.

The order in how a person reads the Ford Mustang ads takes an important role on how the cars are shot and the placement of the witty quotes we saw earlier or the Ford symbols of the mustang horse symbol is placed.

Logical of Reader: Paradigms & Syntagms

The Text:

  • Fan Clubs on Five Continents-Denotation is just that something has a fan club in 5 continents. We automatically know the Connotation is talking about the Ford Mustang has fan clubs on five continents because it is so popular.

  • 300 Motion Picture-Denotation obviously something has been in 300 motion picture or movies. We know the Connotation is the Ford Mustang has been in or over 300 motion pictures or movies.

  • 40 Years-Something has been made for 40 years. The Ford Mustang has been in manufactured for 40 plus years.

  • One car-What car? The Ford Mustang of course! It is all coming to this. The Ford Mustang is the “it” car. So popular it has fan clubs all over the world, been in movies, made for 40 years. You need this car. It all leads up to this phrase. One car will make you happy.

The myths:

There are myths in this ad that suggest what the mustang is. The mustang is blue with white smoke coming from the tires. The mustang is always suggested as the best and fastest. The color of the car is important; it suggest power and also makes the ad pop out at us.

There is no need to spell out exactly what is going on in the ad because the car is doing it all for you. There is no need to say this car is fast and powerful underneath the picture. The picture states the obvious for the consumer.

The ad as a whole: Denotation, Connotation, Etc.

  1. Cars-vehicles (vans, Suv, etc.) or (Chevy, BMW, Pinto, Supra).

  2. Mustang-the vehicle that is on top. Consumer best option.

  3. Fast-not slow. The mustang is fast compared to other cars.

  4. Not Fast-the mustang is fast. Other cars are slow

The Mustang is a fast car and other cars cannot compete with its speed.

Relation between contraries

Relation between contradictories

Relation of Implication

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Not Fast










Attempt at Quadrature

Information from:

  • Dr. Kevin Williams. Chair of Communications Department of Shepherd University






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