“Advertising may be described as the science of arresting the human intelligence long enough to get money from it.”Stephen Leacock
The role of advertising in the realm of global communications is multifaceted, and the most interesting aspects of advertising on a global scale has been the brand reorganization that we see in not just our home soil but around the world. Internationally, we recognize brands such as Coca Cola, Pepsi, Nike. Getting these brands to reflect to the ever shifting tides of the international world is a task that takes careful consideration and time and a great deal of research and mastery over design, language, rhetoric, marketing and cultural sensitivity.
I remember some of my first interest in this chapter was sparked by a few stories I read of marketing campaigns failing in other countries for instance, Pepsi had a difficult time in China during the 1970s because Pepsi’s slogan of “Come Alive with Pepsi” which in Chinese loosely translated out to, “Pepsi brings your relatives back from the dead”. Another interesting case comes from Gerber in some regions of Africa had a difficult time selling their baby food to the locals since in Africa it is customary to print food packages with the labels of what the product contains, since Gerber prints a picture of a baby on each jar, that did not go over so well.
One of the more interesting aspects of global advertising was clearly outlined in Chapter 15, “The biggest unresolved issues in global advertising is still focused around a historical debate concerning standardization of all advertising versus adaptation of copy as well as strategies to local markets and tastes.” (McPhail 335) this is an issue I saw mostly while abroad last summer, despite the logos and brands still looking the same places such as McDonald’s in Austria the food that was served there was radically different from what we knew as typical McDonald’s fare in the States. Also Coca Cola for instance was the same, despite being the same brand, Fanta, Sprite, Pepsi, Coke the taste was the same and often times in multiple languages and the advertising around it did seem to reflect more local and regional concerns as I travelled around the European continent than with these brands stateside that reflect broad generalizations that seem to apply to every average American.
Brand and ad placement is a key aspect of marketing and one of the most interesting concepts following the idea of the electronic colonialism is the appearance of brand material in the most remote of locations. Coca Cola can be purchased in Tibet, Pepsi can be found in the Middle East. Nike can be found in Dubai and The New York Times is still one of the most well-known and respected newspapers globally. This inundation via advertising has become the wave on which electronic colonialism spreads its influence. These brands are markedly Western yet their influence globally is undeniable.
The spread of these brands is entirely based on income and growing power of the company. For example, there are various local stores and brands but they simply do not have the brand strength to survive internationally, like Dad’s Root Beer, a regional drink that is very popular in the US but lacks the strength to make it outside of at times not just its region yet alone internationally. These companies spend billions of dollars annually to place their ads in strategic places, such as these new cultural centers such as Dubai and Hong Kong also Tokyo and European centers of business like Berlin, Stockholm, London, and Paris.
This placement also acts as an agent of electronic colonialism when Western influence, in being Japanese culture club president, I’ve studied a bit into Japanese culture and one of the most upsetting things to the older generation of Japan is the appearance of Western culture and that burying effect that Westernization has over their traditional ways. The younger generation is eager to abandon the more traditional ways in favor of the increasingly socially acceptable Western ways and a large part of this Westernization is Western brands and ads becoming more recognizable internationally.
The idea of electronic colonialism also comes in to play because ad placement is a form of cultural replacement. By supplanting cultural norms like soda drinking and certain fast food affinities, these companies are actively changing the culture of whatever region is then being taken over and influenced by the West. As more traditional activities are replaced by more Western activities cultures are then lost and then become subject to this cultural domination known as a part of electronic colonialism.
The other more interesting concept of the chapter to me was the influence of Dentsu Inc. in Japan. Dentsu got its start in 1901 by Hoshiri Mitsuguna and founded it as an advertising company. In 1951 the company began to incorporate radio and television. They now have offices internationally and has over 15,000 employees, 6,000 clients including “Canon, Sony, Hitachi, Bell Atlantic, and Toyota.” (McPhail 344). I know about Dentsu because they produce a great deal of the anime that comes in from Japan to the US and I wasn’t quite aware of their power until I started looking at all the titles they represent such as Bleach and knowing that anime is only a small aspect of their influence and yet it was already a well-known name by the American anime fan. I also appreciated Dentsu’s company statement as “’Communications Excellence’” (McPhail 334).
What I took away from this chapter was mostly the concern that international ad placement is the concern for social tact. For example, in certain countries and cultures images and words are taboo. In Muslim countries Allah cannot be depicted so any advertising that would attempt to depict a religious figure or make a remark about religion would not go over well in the Middle East. And we have noted before that many companies have employed the name of God or religious concepts to sell products as common as soda and toothpaste.
Language also becomes a major concern as stated with my study of Japanese, in Japan there are at least 3 distinct dialects within that country and that country alone. As we discussed, there is a similar issue throughout Asia with all the countries and the various ethnic differences within each country, also for instance with China, just between Hong Kong and the over various provinces and parts of the country language and culture attitudes are vastly different.
Another issue impacting global advertising is the delicate balance of cultural consideration. There are a vast amount of gestures and phrases that cannot be said in various other countries that to an American would have no issue being stated. It requires a great deal of time, research and information to get all of cultural taboos of whatever target culture “for example, these agencies employ the latest in research including surveys, focus groups, knowledge management, and demographic analysis, so that foreign customers look to these agencies rather than to local, frequently small firms, which do not have the arsenal of services, staff resources, or highly educated professionals with MBA or PhD credentials, they would need in order to compete effectively.” (McPhail 337).
In conclusion, the role of advertising globally has become an agent of electronic colonialism and a new agent of gatekeeper theory. These brands and ads keep us culturally very similar and with that similarity comes domination and control over other cultures. While placing and working with ads internationally, marketers must be tactful and considerate of various sociopolitical and cultural factors, not to mention the consideration with language and gesture views along with connotation and denotation of the advertisement. As we continue to promote the global colony, advertising will change and as Westernization continues to sweep across the globe, the role of ads will change as well.
McPhail, Thomas L. Global Communication. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010. Print.