Judith Williamson explains that advertisements translate statements from the world of things into a 'form' which means something in terms of people. In doing so, they create an ideology for the product. For example, an ad for a fast washing machine translates speed into the 'form' of efficiency and good management of one's time and resources. The ad provides an ideology for the washer that is accessable to the consumer.
The relationship between the "referent system" and the product system is important because the ideology of the "referent system" is constantly being recreated in relationship to the ad and the commodity it represents. We often give certain meanings to particular products. We then connect this meaning with other meanings which are outside of the frame of advertising. The process of exchange between signifiers creates an ideology about a product. We are not participants in a specific ideology until we are active within in its creation.
Williamson points out that "any system of values constitutes an ideology" (43). She acknowledges that values do not exist in things per se, but in their conveyance; what is more, she states that ideology is always that of which we are not aware.
In ideology, we make assumptions which we do not question, because we already perceive them as "true". Ideology works through us, and not at us, because we are active participants in it. In this way, our own ideologies are at work in the transference of values which take place when we work with any two systems of meaning (referent and product's) that are present in advertising.
As pointed out by Robert Goldman (257), advertising is an ideological apparatus in the sense that ideologies are reduced to the role of adjectives used to "boost the flavor of this or that commodity." In this way, advertisers use ideology in their ads to construct social illusions, or to simply promote a different vision of the world and the relationships that surround us. According to Goldman, the advertising scene is ideological "because it constructs socially necessary illusions and it normalizes distorted communication."
Dick Hebdige (98) provides an illustrative example of how punk's threat to the family was made "real" through the usage of a certain ideological framing, in this case the newspaper headline, "Victim of the punk rock punch-up: The boy who fell foul of the mob." This headline was placed next to a photograph of a child lying in the road after a punk-ted confrontation, and by placing the two together, the desire effect is to equate punk with violence, and therefore leading the reader to the conclusion that punk is a threat to peace and family life.
Williamson ads a twist to this idea by focusing on the ideology of the natural. She explains ideology in terms of a culturally determined mis-recognition of the real relationship between nature and culture. In this sense, ideology functions by misrepresenting our relationship to the means of production; the system of "the natural" is filled with products that we are urged to buy, and the meaning is that we try to attain "the natural" because the product is made to symbolize nature.