Multimodal rhetorical analysis

Multimodal rhetorical analysis

This blog post is a multimodal rhetorical analysis of a series of advertising banners from Apple about privacy. The analysis is based on the strategy suggested by the book "Writer/Designer". In this post I will discuss audience, purpose, and context. Also I will touch on such topics as iconography, form, and semiotics.

Banner 1 Banner 2

Audience and Purpose

The intended audience of this ad is very broad at first sight. The product that is advertised here is Apple's phone. And nowadays, almost everyone can be the target audience of this ad. However, not every person is concerned about their privacy. So, it can be stated that the intended audience is regular people, who are concerned about their privacy but do not know much about it. Apple does not advertise any of the privacy features that they have in their phones. Instead, they just trying to say that they respect privacy in their product without any technical information. Also, there is no target on age or hobbies as in their sport-oriented Apple Watch or very colorful and teenagers-oriented iPod ads. So, the audience is very broad.

The potential secondary audience might be Apple's shareholders. As privacy becoming a very broad problem, Apple might be trying to show their shareholders and investors that they are a step ahead of any other tech company (throwback to the recent events with Meta).

The purpose of this ad, as been stated before, is to show that Apple's product is reliable in terms of privacy. So, people will prefer to buy iPhones more than other phones. Also, they invite people to read more about their privacy solutions on


Nowadays, more and more people are concerned about the privacy of their data. Especially after Meta's data misuse by Cambridge Analytica, the story of Edward Snowden, etc. So, the advert about privacy in their product was a very smart move by Apple.

All banners are placed outside without any specific locations chosen, despite one time when Apple placed one of these banners near the Consumer Electronics Show (the annual show where tech companies usually present their new phones) in 2019.


All banners share the same design. Very minimalistic: solid background, neo-grotesque typeface, high contrast. Banners are made with all Apple design guidelines in mind. However, some of them have different layouts but it does not seem to be intended, more like adapted to the available space.


These banners are very simple yet rich in terms of iconography and form. The image on these posters contains a person with a phone that covers their face. Apple shows that iPhone hides your identity embracing privacy. To be honest, one of the best illustrations of privacy that I have ever seen. It perfectly conveys the idea of privacy on an iPhone.

However, some people did not get that and even posted on Reddit that that "ad creates dystopian effect by appearing to record me in my apartment", which is almost the opposite of what Apple tried to show us. This seems to be one of the wrong iconography interpretation.

Banner 3

Form and Semiotics

In terms of form, I can highlight the black background on each banner. According to the blog post "The Color Black Psychology & Meaning", black color represents protection, importance and "can evoke feelings of safety and covering". Which in terms of the topic of these banners conveys the idea of privacy. Moreover, the black color on the background embraces the iconography by creating a void-like medium around the person, in which the person seems to be private and alone.

If we look at these banners' semiotics we can state that they have:

  • Denotation: A person who holds their phone.
  • Connotation: Privacy, hidden identity, etc.

There are no icons, except the logos of Apple and partner operators. So, I do not see any signifiers here.


  • Ball E. C., Sheppard J., Arola L. K. (2014). Writer/Designer. Bedford/St. Martin's

  • Disgruntledballoon (2020). Apple's new "Privacy" ad.

  • EraGem (2020). The Color Black Psychology & Meaning.