What is it about?

In this paper (published in 2000), I analyze how computers are metaphorically compared to something else in advertisements promoting them. Computers are visually rather boring things, and they all look more or less the same. So it is appealing for advertisers to promote a computer, or its brand, by presenting it in terms of something else (= the metaphor's "source domain"). This source domain is chosen because it saliently evokes certain features and emotions that the advertiser wants the viewer-reader to "transfer" to the product. This procedure also enables the advertiser to think of an attractive visualization of the source domain, so as to make the ad look more colourful, spectacular, and/or beautiful.

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Why is it important?

The paper helps both develop visual metaphor theory and tells us something about the marketing of a specific product -- computers. It is surely no coincidence that the metaphor's source domains often personify the computers, and pertain to exciting fields such as magic, wizardry, adventure, creativity, thereby undoubtedly appealing to humdrum users with possibly somewhat boring lives. Another finding is that the source domains often exemplify shiny, metal "toys for boys" that may be more appealing to male than to female consumers.


In my own work, this was the first time I investigated a "corpus" (27 ads) featuring visual (or: pictorial) metaphors with the same target domain: computers. Since then I have done more of such corpus research, also in other genres (specifically: political cartoons).

Dr Charles Forceville
Universiteit van Amsterdam

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Compasses, beauty queens and other PCs: Pictorial metaphors in computer advertisements, HERMES - Journal of Language and Communication in Business, February 2017, Aarhus University Library, DOI: 10.7146/hjlcb.v13i24.25568.
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