Semiotics, the study of sign systems - everything from traffic signals and obscene finger gestures to how the English language works - has long been a dusty corner of academe. But now consultancy Added Value has developed a semiotics decoder for Guinness, which uses it to understand rivals' advertising and marketing. By applying this 'toolkit' to, say, a TV ad, the company can decode the message being put across, whether it is audio, visual or written. Guinness calls it 'stealth semiotics'. The toolkit can be used in any country as long as the campaigns are translated: the company's UK marketeers reportedly decoded some Japanese beer ads with 80% accuracy, the obscure 20% being associated with Japanese celebs in the ads. These, apparently, were beyond the decoder.
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