Sign Symbol

.. rn position, according to which advertising offers a pleasurable synthetic experience as a surrogate for reality.(Chiara Giaccardi,TV Advertising and Social Reality) Advertising is therefore meaningful as it creates a sense of familiarity with the ways of experiencing it in a represented form. However as Gillian Dyer states in Advertising as Communication;We must recognise that the images conveyed by the media have, over the last thirty years, become so sophisticated and persuasive that they now organise our experiences and understanding in a crucially significant way. Advertisements encourage extravagant expectations because they are more dramatic and vivid than the reality – reality cannot match up to the image. Therefore cultural knowledge is obtained through the medias sign system. Which is evident through my knowledge of many countries and cultures without ever travelling overseas. Stereotypical elements of particular cultures shown through the media allow me to have perceived meanings and understandings of other cultures.

However the stereotypes of culture portrayed through media signs are predominately tourist stereotypes. There are many advertisements in the print, audio and visual media that portray cultural knowledge. Particular signs that we can link to specific cultures, due to the familiarisation with them through the media. For example the television commercial for Simpson washing machines which showed Indian Dhobi washer women banging their clothes against a washing machine to clean them, instead of a nearby rock. Using the tag line The hardest working appliances in the world, suggesting that the product is trustworthy and has stamina. The sign systems that the media used where firstly the opening shot of the Ganges River in the foreground with Indian temples in the background.

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You then see a mass of Indian women in traditional dress washing clothes in a traditional manner. Although hard working the commercial suggested that their product was also as strong as a rock. The use of the washing machine as a rock for clothes washing and the dumbfounded look on their faces when they saw the electrical plug, suggests that India is a third world country and the people do not have electricity. Although they did not know how to use the machine they continue to use it in place of a rock. Throughout the entire commercial traditional Indian music was played.

The music and appearance of both the people and the structures clearly suggests to the viewer that it is India. However these signs would not have been recognised without prior media familiarisation. Therefore through cultural stereotypes providing cultural knowledge. Another example is the West End Gold beer commercial. Animation is used to view two mosquitoes talking to one another. The setting is a barbecue with a group of stereotypical macho male friends getting together after a hard days work to eat food and drink beer.

The mosquitoes are happy that the men are now drinking mid strength beer as they are not falling asleep, making fools of themselves, and they are able to drink more blood. Although referring to themselves it was clear they were actually talking about the men involved. Suggesting that they can spend more time with their friends, consume more beer and have more fun. The commercial was set in a middle class backyard, which features a run of the mill Australian barbecue in which the beer is helpful to people with subtle humour. Traditionally Australian beer commercials have portrayed beer as a reward for hard manual labour or driving through the desert, such as the Victorian Bitter campaigns. The Australian cultural signs used were the image of the macho male okka, drinking beer, having a barbecue with only male mates.

I believe these images are used to promote the Australian barbecue culture. These images are also known across the world due to the movie Crocodile Dundee. Another example is the use of the Mexican cultural stereotype to promote a new McDonald’s burger. As the burger had an added sauce that was spicy the advertisers used the Mexican image to portray this. As traditionally the Mexicans eat very spicy food such as Tacos.

You instantly know that the characters are Mexican due to their appearance, dark skinned, long moustaches, wearing ponchos and sombreros, riding horses through the desert. The music and appearance of the characters are the main signs used to recognise Mexico. However the poor dubbing of their voices and the words ondelay ondelay are also common cultural signs portrayed in the media. Italian signs are also often used to sell food products such as pizza and pasta. For example the Dolmio commercials that use to be on television. They showed a large Italian family(Italians like large families) having pasta for dinner(traditional Italian meal), they had napkins tucked into their shirts(suggesting they were going to eat a lot of food in a messy manner), the characters were primarily large, they used the words mama and papa(Italian words for mum and dad) and the main character had pasta sauce on his mouth with the tag line do you wear the Dolomio grin.

All of which are signs the media use to portray Italian people. Once again the music also played a major role in recognising the cultural stereotypes. Even the name Dolmio sends a linguistic message of Italianicity. If the media do not understand the cultural characteristics of a country they would not be aware of the shared cultural values of the community and could easily offend the country. For example the eating of beef in India is not practised, the colour white is a symbol of death in China, and the left hand in some countries is known as the toilet hand.

This demonstrates the differences in culture that could be very embarrassing for companies. The simplicity of colour or a name could be very offensive and have disastrous implications, which demonstrates the necessity for market research. However I believe that cultural values also need to be lived to be learned, for more accurate results. The media are a very powerful tool of communication. They are used as a tool to educate, inform and entertain people all over the world.

However the common sign sytems in which they use to portray many groups are often sterotypical. I know that Australian men are not all like what is portrayed in the beer commercials, due to experience of the culture. However all I know ofd the other cultures around the world is what the media portray, therefore providing me with my cultural knowledge. Bibliography Hall Stuart (1997) Cultural Representations and Signifying Practices Sage Publications Chapter 1 Dyer, Gillian (1982) Advertising as Communication Routledge London & New York Chapter 5 Giaccardi, Chiara (1995) Television Advertsing and the representation of Social Reality: Theory, Culture & Society, Vol.12, pg 109-131 SAGE, London, Thousand Oaks and New Delhi Wiliamson, Judith (1978) Decoding Advertsing; Ideology and Meaning in Advertsing Marion Boyars, London Kline, Stephen(1995) The Play on the Market: On the Internationalisation of Childrens Culture,in Theroy Culture & Society, Vol.12, pg 103-129 SAGE, London, Thousand Oaks, and New Delhi Berman, Ronald(1981) Advertising and Social Change, pg 13 SAGE, Beveley Hills and California Czinkota, Michael R and Ronkainen, Ilkka A (1996) Global Marketing Dryden Press Boone, Louis E and Kurtz, David L Contemporary Marketing Plus Eighth Edition The Dryden Press Chapter 7 Wells, William, Burnett, John & Moriarty, Sandra (1995) Advertising Principles and Practice Third Edition, Chapter 5 Prentice Hall Inc., Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey.