Culture Stereotypes in Advertising
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Keywords: cultural stereotypes in the media, advertising stereotypes
Case study: HSBC Eel's AD
According to standard view, a culture is a complex set of shared beliefs, values and concepts which enables a group to make sense of its own life and which provides it with directions for how to live. This set might be called a basic belief system. ...By internalizing a particular belief system and its attendant forms of feeling and interaction a person acquires the basic of his or her identity. A culture penetrates its individual members mentally and socially. This penetration produces in them their distinctive capacities and characteristics. In this holistic way identity is a function of enculturation..." (cited in Holliday, Hyde and Kullman, 2004, pp.60-61)
HSBC- a public limited company based at United Kingdom since 1993 in the expansion name of Hongkong and shanghais Bank Corporation. It is one of the world's largest banking groups. It has enomorous operational base and local branches all over the world saying in their advert tagline "HSBC-World's local Bank". The adverts about the company and its services have come through distinctive since its establishment. The advertisements that come through have always been the representation of neither Chinese nor English culture or both for its promotional campaign on television. I would like to argue why the culture is represented in the context of stereotypical characteristics in the (Eel's) HSBC advert.
What process does stereotype involve? Hall (1997:268) writes that "stereotypes get hold of the few simple, vivid, memorable, easily grasped and widely recognized characteristic about a person, reduce everything about that person to those traits, exaggerate and simplify them, and fix them without change or development to eternity. Moreover stereotype both reflects and promotes particular perspectives", O'sullivan, (Hall, 1997, cited in Holliday, Hyde and Kullman, 2004, p.126). With the help of Stuart Hall theory on stereotypes, the representation of culture in the advertisements and its characteristics can be explained.
In the HSBC Eel's Advert, set in a Chinese restaurant where the English man is served a meal and the English custom believe it's a slur on your host food if you don't clear your plate and the Chinese generosity to fill up the plate until they are satisfied. In this Advertisement both the culture is represented and especially the Chinese culture is portrayed in a stereotypical and in a comical way. Most of the HSBC Ad's are interlinked with the representation of Chinese culture because of its brand from country-of- origin. ..."It is generally assumed that things go wrong because two cultural groups behave differently, which makes communication between them problematic. ...So 'culture' becomes negative term rather than a positive one". (Cited in Holliday, Hyde and Kullman, 2004, pp. 62)
The ways in which we commonly understand the advertisements are the categories and concepts that are historically and culturally specific. This means that all the ways of understanding are historically and culturally relative in some way. Our current accepted ways of understanding the world, is a product not of objective observation, but the social processes and interactions of the people are still constant.
There are always two ways of representation involved; mental representation and public representation. Beliefs, intentions and preferences are mental representations and signal, utterances, texts and pictures are all public representations. Public representations are material oriented. Public representations are generally means of communication between user and a producer distinct from one another. So these representations are used to serve the purpose of commodity by the producers through consumers.
"Culture identity - Is it that 'collective or true self hiding inside many other, more superficial or artificially imposed "selves" which a people with a shared history and ancestry hold in common' (Hall, 1990). Above all in relation to the process of globalization, which I would argue are coterminous with modernity( Hall, 1996) and the process of forced and 'free' migration which have become a global phenomenon of the so-called 'post-colonial' world"( Hall,1996, pp. 3-4). The concept of identity is both theoretically and politically discoursed in the modern developed world. The definition of culture identity is always under ongoing changing process according to the culture variations in generation.
Stereotypes are defined as social classification of particular groups and people as often highly simplified and generalised signs, which implicitly or explicitly represent a set of values, judgements and assumptions concerning their behaviour, characteristics or history. Stereotypes however, not only identify general categories of people, it also signifies national populations, classes, genders, occupation in a deviant groups. It also seems that we commonly have stereotypical ideas about people on basis of their language accents.
In the HSBC Eel's ad the Chinese set of values, characteristics are portrayed as stereotypical, alike in the 'Guillin fisherman', 'Lantern', 'Ant energy', advertisements of HSBC. These stereotypical aspects are because of the brand's country-of-origin effect. In terms of market discourses, it can be defined as the country which a consumer associates with a certain product or brand as being its source, regardless of where the product is actually produced. Since the prior knowledge that a given country is associated with a certain brand ensures that exposure to the brand name triggers recall of that country and its attributes. ..."It is important to point out that this experience may take actually result in a purchase, and it may in fact have nothing to do with any purchase decision whatsoever. It may take place purely in the realm of experiencing and processing, consciously or subconsciously, advertising messages about brands, countries and language to which individual is exposed every day" (Cited in Kelly-Holmes, 2005, pp.29).
In the perspective of language, it is a fundamental human activity through which we communicate our particular representation of the world. Cultural values and beliefs are transmitted from one member of a society to another and from one generation to another primarily through language. We can often see the structure of language that reflects the way that particular culture is viewed by this world and kinds of distinctions that are held to be important. Even in the HSBC Eel's ad the language spoken by Chinese are suppressed by the English voice over showing the power and prestigious. One language may be imposed and another suppressed by dominant power. In some situation, the power and dominance are portrayed to maintain their own variety, or move to a more extreme variety of their dialect, in order to emphasise the difference between themselves and the person or people they are talking to. In the UK, Advertisers draw on the ideas using country accents to indicate and advertise nature of food products or using more prestigious accent to promote financial services. Language as a form of representation, highlight power relations and promote particular perspectives like advertisements for commodities.
A sense of cultural identity is often centred on a particular language and speakers perceptions of the connection between the languages they use and that identity is well supported. Language is always used as a medium of communication in ethnic majorities and groups that hold social and political power. The knowledge the advetisee has about these relationships and about common sense assumptions in the advertisements is acquired through experiencing the particular habitus on an everyday basis.
Consumerization or socialization into consumer society happens, primarily through example and through language. It is worth keeping in mind here that advertising messages are simply explicit. It encompasses a whole range of texts and objects, such as toys, books, television programmes, packaging and so forth. Consequently, the employment of foreign words in advertising has the potential to create in groups and out groups and contribute both directly and indirectly to societal attitudes to languages and multilingualism.
"Multilingual advertising communication is, in this book, defined as the appearance of a number of different languages or voices in a market-discourse situation. This appearance may be minimal, consisting of only one word, or it may be fairly extensive, consisting of entire texts or blocks of text. The word may come from an entirely different language of the medium of text within which they appear, or they may be familiar, coming from his/her everyday linguistic repertoire" (Kelly-Holmes, 2005, pp.25).
Even in the HSBC Eel's ad, it is a multilingual communication of advertising, initially the Chinese chattering and followed by the voice over of the English dominantly suppressing to show power, so the purpose of commodity serves the specific culture. ..."The effects of multilingual advertising on the other hand, have the effect of reinforcing this monolingualism by making speakers of another language the object of humour in advertising and by constructing them as an out group. In all cases, however, the examples of multilingual advertising communication discussed in the following chapter have two things in common: they are driven by the market, and have meaning within the context of the society and culture imposed on the market and they do not permit a purely monolingual communication experience". (Kelly-Holmes, 2005, pp.25).
Even the music plays significant role in the culture representation and identity. The issue is not how a particular piece of music or a performance reflects the people, but how it produces them, how it creates and constructs an identity in particular television ads. In most of the HSBC advert the traditional Chinese folk music will be played as back ground music so as in the Eel's advert, again which is a stereotype representation of culture identity.
The social categories or labels of identity are frequently imposed on some groups by others, who may be in a more powerful position than they are. Your social identity is not something you can always determine on your own, it is by how others perceive you. In the west representations of ads will very largely respond to the public demand. So they show the power of dominance in a multilingual advertisement through their accents and performance suppressing the other culture. Here the Chinese culture in Eel's ad is portrayed in an innocent and comical way and English culture in a decent and dominant behaviour being the product, country-of-origin in china. Most of the multilingual ads are being portrayed on their own cultural demands. Beside cultural beliefs and ideals apply to people in differential positions of power. Moreover a result of norms and ideals result from histories of struggle in which significant voices are silenced.
In an International advertising, Cultural objects may be made into saleable products. For e.g. the country houses may be sold as a second home for the urban. So cultural products are from other places can be marketed in global supermarket. This may include foods, drink, dance, music, sport, and holidays abroad almost all consumable things.
..."Applying Marx's idea to the use of foreign or other language in advertising today, the use-value of languages can be seen to have become obscured by their exchange or symbolic value. The use-value of the language can be equated with its referential function, its utility as a means of communication... The language appears to achieve value independently and this value is not the product of its communicative, but rather of its symbolic value in process of advertising communication" (Kelly-Holmes, 2005, Pp.24).
Why does English deserve special treatment? For many people in the world, it is simply foreign language, other or second language, so its contribution to multilingual advertising communication is massive and has a huge effect. English is presented as both an inevitable consequences of the marketization of such economies, and, at the same time, almost one of the driving forces behind the transition to market economy.
There can be no doubt that we absorb the messages around us about the media and culture, we are in project the illusion. There is also no doubt that today the media is a very powerful tool for those who want to control society and to sell ideas and products to its members. The representation of media is more political in that, it is controlled by external bodies that offer images and understandings in an influenced way for us to consume.
At the conclusion I would like to summarise my points that the media plays a significant role in representing culture and their identities. There is always a personal demand for a particular culture to denote oneself dominant even in the multilingual, intercultural communication. The HSBC ads are a good example of how the Chinese culture is represented as a stereotype in almost all of their advertisements against the dominant English culture in a Bi-lingual advertisement. Language also plays an equally important role in showcasing their own particular culture and identity and the usage of foreign language produces advantages and disadvantages. Thus in a way these adverts are served for the purpose of commodity and personal demand of representing their culture in power and dominant style.