Commercials as Co-text

One of the things I’m interested in is the impact advertisements can have on the narratives they are trying to sell.  The idea that a reader will draw on other texts as he or she constructs the meaning of text is not new.  Barthes, Kristeva and others have argued that readers construct the meaning of a text as they read by, partly, applying intertextual links.  But what outside text could be more relevant in forming a text’s meaning than an advertisement for that text?  Advertisements are often syntheses of narratives that break down the text they are selling into its most crucial (or attractive) aspects and present them in an extremely compressed format.  It should be no surprise that ads can be a powerful referent in a reader’s construction of a text

Advertisements are usually developed by independent agencies with little input by authors or creators of the target text and sometimes with little access to the actual source material.  Ads may be developed long after the target text is completed (for a second printing, for example) Therefore texts rarely refer to their own advertisements.   Readers may be referring to advertisements in order to construct a text’s meaning, but a literary analysis that looks at the intertextual references within a text itself will not pick up on those sources of meaning.  Readers (or generally, consumers) are immersed in a dialogic commercial landscape that inevitably contributes to the meaning they construct for narratives they consume.  I propose that commercials can be a co-text or pre-text for the texts they advertise.

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