Subject Material

8 The Linguistics of Advertisers’ slogan

Published: 13.12.2009
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On the right below you will find a list of producers who advertise – or have advertised - their products and services by means of the slogans on the left.

Question 1

Match the slogans with producers/service providers. Use the letters and numbers for ease of pairing off.

A A Moving Experience for 35 Years 1 Zanussi (producer of household appliances)
B Grace…Space… Pace 2 The Independent (newspaper)
C Better in Jams than Strawberries 3 Timex (producer of watches)
D Nothing Runs like a Deere 4 Installer of Air Conditioning
E Don’t Just Book it – Thomas Cook It 5 Greater London Council
F Are you a Cadbury Fruit and Nut Case? 6 Jaguar (car maker)
G First Relationships Last 7 Manufacturer of Small Cars
H I think, therefore IBM 8 Barnes and Smith – the Removal Men
I Say No to No Say 9 Alka Seltzer
J Weather ...Wise Choose the Right People 10 Manufacturer of Tractors
K It Is - Are you? 11 Cadbury (the chocolate people)
L Better Late than the Late 12 First National Bank
M Taste - Not Waist 13 Finnair (the airline)
N Plop, plop, fizz, fizz Oh, what a relief it is 14 Thomas Cook the Travel Agent
O Disappear into Thin Air 15 IBM ( Producer of Personal Computers)
P It Takes a Licking and Keeps on Ticking 16 Road Safety Campaign
Q The Appliance of Science 17 Weight Watchers

 

Key

KEY

The Linguistics of Advertisers’ slogan

The original slogans/advertisements appear on the left below. The material on the right has been added to assist you in pairing off ads with the right company, especially since you may not be familiar with many of these producers/ service providers.

A A Moving Experience for 35 Years --------- Barnes and Smith – The Removal Men

The slogan trades on the double meaning of moving; 1) ‘touching’ and 2) ‘move
something’; both appropriate for somebody in the moving business.

B Grace …Space… Pace --------- Jaguar (make of car)

The three words rhyme; two apply to the animal jaguar (grace and pace), all three apply to
the high-quality car Jaguar.

C Better in Jams than Strawberries --------- Manufacturer of Small Cars

The slogan capitalises on the double meaning of jams: 1) ‘preserves’ (syltetøy), 2) ‘traffic
congestion’, and a small car is better when the roads are congested/jammed!

D Nothing Runs Like a Deere ---------  Manufacturer of Tractors.

DEERE is the name of a tractor producer; at the same time deer is the English word for  
‘hjortedyr’.

E Don’t Just Book It  - Thomas Cook It --------- Thomas Cook – the Travel Agent.

The rhyme: Book- Cook makes this an appealing slogan. Thomas Cook is used as a verb
to mean an action where the travel agent competently handles your travel needs.

F Are you a Cadbury Fruit and Nut Case? --------- Cadbury (the chocolate people)

‘A nut case’ means a ‘somebody who is ‘strange/weird’.  In this context a Cadbury Fruit
and Nut case means somebody who craves the chocolate bar: Cadbury Fruit and Nut, and
implies somebody who is so weird that he/she must have that type of chocolate.

G First Relationships Last --------- First National Bank

This clever slogan exploits the double meaning of First and LastFirst is a short name for 
a huge American bank in addition to being an ordinal number (‘ordenstall’); last is used as 
a verb meaning ‘endure’. There is also the allusion to a relationship between two people:
Your first relationship with a man/woman lasts. Carried over, it means your first
relationship with your bank endures.

H I think, therefore IBM --------- IBM (producer of personal computers)

This slogan alludes to Descartes’ famous: ‘I think, therefore I am’; a cause-effect
relationship, which here is transferred to one’s choice of computers. Since I think, I choose
IBM. In addition, when pronounced, M rhymes with am.

I Say No to No Say --------- Greater London Council

This slogan exploits grammatical aspects of English. The first Say is a verb, the second is a
noun meaning ‘influence’. The first No functions as a noun, the second as a pre-modifier.
The slogan carries the implication that you should go against political initiatives that
deny you influence.

J Weather… Wise - Choose the Right People --------- Installer of Air Conditioning

Here there is a play on weather... wise. When spelt in one word, weatherwise means ‘as
regards weather’, but when split, we more easily get the meaning ‘as regards weather, be
wise’ (and choose us as your installer of air conditioning)

K It is - Are you? --------- The Independent (newspaper)

This clever slogan works with a phrase that can be used both in the statement: It is and the question Are you? Lots of adjectives can, but only one is at the same time the name of a respectable newspaper in the UK(obviously with the article in front: The Independent)

L Better Late than the Late --------- Road Safety Campaign

The crucial word here is the ambiguous word late, which means ‘not in time’ and ‘the deceased’.  The two meanings make the slogan starkly true.

M Taste not Waist --------- Weight Watchers

The meaning of this slogan is not all that transparent. We recognise the rhyme in Taste - Waist, and when linked to Weight Watchers, a slimming club, the meaning becomes clearer: tasty food, recommended by weight watchers, which does not expand your waist.

N Plop, plop, fizz, fizz Oh, what a relief it is --------- Alka Seltzer

This slogan capitalizes on a rhyme and the onomatopoeic words plop, plop, fizz, fizz, which refer to the sound the digestive Alka Seltzer pills make when dropped into water.

O Disappear into Thin Air ---------  Finnair

‘Disappear into thin air’ is an idiom which means something like ‘forsvinne sporløst’. The rhyme on air and (Finn) air also makes the slogan catching, implying something like’ take off effortlessly with Finnair’.

P It takes a Licking and Keeps on Ticking --------- Timex (producer of watches)

Clocks tick, and this make of watch takes a licking (stands tough handling (without stopping)). By choosing the phrase keep on…the advertising agency has prompted the form: licking, which the grammar of English  requires after keep on, so we get the rhyme:licking…ticking

Q The Appliance of Science --------- Zanussi (producer of household appliances)

This ad opens many avenues of interpretation. That in itself makes it effective. The advertisement on the left has the rhyming words Appliance and Science, the first of these is related to the verb to apply. So if you apply science, you use science to produce something useful. At the same time, the English word for ‘husholdningsvarer’ is appliance(s). So we get two related meanings:

  1. the application of science:  anvendelsen av vitenskap/teknologi
  2. the appliance of science:vitenskapens/teknologiens dings
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Question 2

Most successful slogans exploit devices such as rhymes, alliterations, allusions, ambiguities, puns, word plays, etc. to make them stick in the readers’/listeners’ mind.

Comment on what you think are cases of such literary devices in the slogans above.