Culture Aesthetics In Advertisement Strategies Cultural Studies Essay

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From the analysis of advertising posters in historical and cultural perspectives in the last two parts, we can find that the posters which were designed by the designers from different cultures have apparent distinctions although they have been produced in the same period. These is not just because of the social changes but also because of the designers are heavily influenced by the cultures aesthetic which make them to express their feeling in different ways.

China is an agriculture-based society, henceforward, to be harmonious with nature is the ideal relation. Taoism dominates the Chinese belief for over a thousand years. The worldview of going with the flow of the nature has already taken deep roots in Chinese tradition. "When pitted against nature's vastness, humans are insignificant" (Doctoroff, 2005) (Illustration 2.4). As Michael (2001) pointed out that "The landscape is not conceived in the Western traditions, as a back-drop for human activities, but as the vast context within which people are a small part of the larger scheme of nature. Nor is it intended to be the record of a single visual experience, but an accumulation of experiences flowing out through the artist's brush in a moment of great exaltation" (p.137)

Philosophically, Western paintings express the representation of their desire, their pursuit of the individualism and freedom as they have been influenced by the spirit of the Renaissance; whereas based on the aesthetic of Taoism and Confucian, Chinese artists have been encouraged to be observe the common moral standard which enhances collectivism, and considered that sweeping away all the desires in heart is the highest realm of human being.

Furthermore, Western paintings tend to capture the subject's physical likeness of the subjects, whereas Chinese paintings are attempt to capture the spirit of the subject. Chinese painting is subtle and implicit, but Western is realistic and explicit. In some extent, we can define that Western art is untrammeled while Chinese art is conservative. To illustrate, when comparing the differences between Chinese and Western painting, Western paintings present the direct expression of experience of the real world, whereas Chinese painters looked beyond the external appearances of the subjects and captured the immensity of nature with the simplest of means. They use empty spaces to represent water, mist, and sky in order to capture the cosmic rhythms of the Taoists and "empty silence of infinity" (Michael, 1989). This is also evident in Western painting, geometrical principle, anatomy, light and shadow, perspective, proportion, space, chiaroscuro and so forth are taking into account (Illustration 2.5). When Western artists paint, they will observe the object carefully, and measured it mathematically, then stretch it out from the foreground to the background throughout the geometrical principle. The order of line and shadow render the object into three-dimensional solidness expression. Compared with Chinese painting, the shaper edge and a more calculated grading of tone in Western painting render the subject into more objective form. In contrast, Chinese artists rarely need an actual model to paint, and they do not take much account about the originality but the inner rhythms in the art. For instance, they paint the mountain in their mind rather than a real mountain that they are observing. Because of this special aesthetic, most of the Chinese paintings are two-dimensional looking as they rarely consisted with lines and ignored the light and shade.

In terms of the effects of religion, Western art is traditionally theistic whereas Eastern is atheistic. To the West, God is the centre and man is his supreme creation. To the East there is no centre and God is just part of the total (Michael, 1989).

When advertisers dealing with their consumers from different culture, they will find that some of their plans may only fit a particular culture, but not in all the different cultures they are aiming to communicate. In this situation, system thinking of the different cultures can help advertisers to understand their consumers better. This essay is mainly about Chinese and Western cultures. Therefore, this section outlines the classifications and a comparative analysis of Chinese and Western cultures, and the advertising appeal which are influenced by the two cultures.

Individualism and Collectivism

The dimension of individualistic and collectivistic developed by Hofstede (1991) is the most basic dimension for the cross-cultural studies and research in comparative interpretation. According to Hofstede, Western society like the United Kingdom and Europe appeared to be highly individualistic society. American, in particularly, is a high-individualistic society, whereas China and most of the Asian countries belong to the collectivistic category. People in collectivistic cultures are very group oriented. Their basic needs and motivation are relational and social, whereas Westerners have individual, independent motivation (Katherine, 1996). There is also generally accepted that in the collectivistic societies, especially in Asia, if someone breaks the norms, he or she will feel shame as the "face" in their culture is the ultimate social sanction, improper acts by someone means he or she is losing not just his or her "face", but also the group of which he or she belongs; whereas people in individualism culture, he or she alone will feel guilty because of he or she breaks the internalised set of moral standard.

Understanding these two Eastern and Western social norms can result in better communication with the customers in designing advertising posters. For instance, most of the Western advertising posters advocate individualism, freedom and distinct from the others, whereas Chinese poster tend to convey the atmosphere of family, warm public relationship and harmony.

Generally speaking, the characteristic of individualistic and collectivistic cultures can be summerised as follow:

Individualistic cultures tend to embrace:



Low context culture

Explicit verbal communication

Individual priority

Personal space

Universalistic values

Low context communication system

Whereas collectivistic cultures refer to:

"We"- conscious


High context culture

Implicit verbal communication

Group priority

Socialised space

Particularistic values

High context communication system

High context and Low context

Hall (1990) classified cultures into two categories by measuring the degree of the context in the communication systems. In a high context culture, the information that people convey is implicit, because of the messages it is part of the context which are already internalised by the interaction with each other during years. However, in the low context culture, people tend to convey information explicitly. Consequently, Westerners who come from the low context culture often find it is difficult to understand the correct meaning that is conveyed by people from the high context culture, especially when they are communicating with Chinese people. In general, Collectivistic cultures tend to use the high context communication system, whereas low context communication systems are normally found in individualistic cultures. This difference is also evident in advertising design (Figure 1.2).

The Effect of Religion

John (2009) mentioned that Doctoroff (2005) and Allik and Realo (2004) suggested that individualism emerged from religion. According to them, the belief in God is the creator of the world decided the Western societies to adopt have individualistic values and political libertarianism. "The Protestant individual separated himself form the natural ties of the community, and all his animal impulses were overthrown by a rational and methodological plan of conduct that might secure his own salvation" (Allik & Realo, 2004, p.30). "Thus the 'Protestant ethic' became the dominant cultural theme in the west, while in much of Asia, the Confucianism theme of collectivism prevailed" (John, 2009, p.98).

Taoism and Confucianism militate against the freedom of thought and individualism. Both of them are anti-individualism because they consider individualism might give rise to the challenge to the authority. Confucianism is the cultural core of Chinese tradition values, and it creates a well-ordered society which dictates the importance of family and the hierarchical structure of social life (John, 2009).

Taoism still dominates Chinese tradition by the evidence of sustained practice of feng shui, herbal medicine, acupuncture and TaiChi. On the contrast to the Westerners believe that human is separate from the nature and they should conquer and control the nature for human convenience, Taoism encouraged Chinese people to "going with the flow". This worldview not only affects Chinese people's values, it also influences the style of Chinese painting. Taoism reinforces a worldview that balance is the best relationship within everything, whereas Westerners tend to believe that there is a natural law that survival for the fittest. Taoism suggested that "non-action is to follow the rule of nature instead of overriding it" (Doctoroff, 2005).

Accordingly, throughout the different characteristics among them, Chinese invented firework to celebrate festival and for enjoyment, whereas Westerners reformed it as a weapon to use for war. Chinese invented ships and traveled around the world to visit the other cultures and share their knowledge together, whereas Westerners travel for seizing others and colonised them.

The differences between Eastern and Western cultures have reflection on how we design and communicate to each other in our advertising posters. Marieke (2005) has illustrates the advertising styles of different countries in Figure 1.3.

Figure1.3 Advertising Styles

In summary, Yong (1995) and John (2009) summarise the differences between Western and Chinese advertisings are as follow:

Western commercial/advertisings

Encourage consumerism and individualism, hedonism (Illustration 2.0)

Get to the point fast

Argumentation and rhetoric

Higher information content

Use both symbolic and utilitarian values (Illustration 2.2)

Contribute to an ideal and unique identity

Chinese commercial/advertisings

Encourage collectivism, harmony (Illustration 2.1)

Build up a relationship and trust first

Symbolism or indirect verbal expression

Lower information content

Resorted more often to symbolic cultural values (Illustration 2.3)

Serve the need to conform to others in order to preserve harmony