FedEx Advertisement

Signifier and Signified in FedEx Advertisement

FedEx Express – USA-Brazil

FedEx is a logistics company which transports packages across the world with its huge delivery network. Created by DDB Brazil, this “Neighbours” campaign was designed to communicate its global presence and ability to send goods effortlessly from one continent to another in the same way you can pass a parcel to the people next door.

This preferred reading is encoded by the effective use of three or four dominant signifiers, making it a great text to analyse in terms of Ferdinand de Saussure’s sign theory.


Analyse the following print advertisement in terms of the signfiers and what they signify.

FedEx Advertisement
FedEx Advertisement

Points to Consider

Saussure was a linguist who was interested in how words (spoken and written) achieved their meaning. His model suggests we use a variety of physical forms, which he called the signifier, to communicate our thoughts and feelings – the signified. Together, these two elements make up a sign.

When you are exploring signs, it is important to describe their physical form because it will enable you to make a stronger argument about its broader meaning. For example, the signifier of the UK and Europe painted onto the wall signifies the actual geography in real life, but the map also plays an important role in the advertisement’s message because FedEx is a global company that has the capacity to deliver parcels all around the world.

You should comment on the informal setting of the painted wall used to represent such a multinational conglomerate. You should also look carefully at the choice of actors how they are being represented. The viewer will probably assume it is an apartment complex and the two people are neighbours. Why is this important to the preferred reading of the text.

Consider the use the rough brown colour for the land masses and the paler brown to signify the sea. Do you have any ideas why a delivery company might use this particular colour scheme?

The dominant signifier is the package being passed down to the window below. If you have read our guide to paradigms and syntagms, you could use these terms to analyse this particular part of the advertisement. For instance, the message relies on the audience’s recognition of the syntagmatic relationship between the actors and their position on the map.

What impact does the image of the package have on the audience? Finally, comment on the positioning of the company’s logo in the advertisement.

Remember, you must refer to sign, signifier and signified in your answer. Quite a lot of students actually forget to use the word “sign” in this type of essay because they are so focused on explaining the connection between the signifier and what it signifies. To achieve the top marks for this particular question, you might also be expected to explain the arbitrary relationship between the signifier and signified.

Further Reading

Thanks for reading!