Friday, November 9, 2012

Research Paper on Advertising

American Advertising Research Paper

American Advertising: The Collective Use of an Individualistic Culture
American businessman and advertising guru David Ogilvy says “If you’re trying to do persuade people to do something…use their language, the language they use every day…in which they think”. David Ogilvy’s job, like the job of many creative directors and advertising executives, is solely based on recreating the image of oneself within a brand in order to sell it. In essence, this means that the brand being advertised must reflect the target group and its values, attitudes, lifestyle and opinions. 

Today’s American youth has been raised in a capitalistic society in which advertising has played a pivotal role. Seeing as youth and young adults are widely considered the ones with the largest amount of disposable income, these target groups are majorly affected. The weapon of choice for those in conquest of this type of consumer is the art of rhetoric, which includes the usage of modern day applications of logos, ethos and pathos. These rhetoricians dissect their target groups and then communicate the values these groups would like to, or are convinced they should, incorporate into their life. The following paper will apply these principles in the determination that advertisement merely reproduces the individualistic nature of American society, regardless of the product they are selling or the means through which they sell.

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For example, the image is an advertisement for a drink called Gatorade G2. The flavor in the bottle is fruit punch. The advertisement shows an NBA (National Basketball Association) superstar by the name of Dwyane Wade soaring through the sky, towards the hoop for a score. The caption reads, “Float like a butterfly sting like a bee”, which is a famous quote, words spoken by boxing legend Muhammed Ali. On the right half of the advertisement, the product is presented with some copy about the nutritional benefits and uniqueness of this drink as opposed to others, along with some standard disclaimer and copyright information.

Gatorade is a well-known refreshment, commonly consumed by amateur, collegiate level, and professional athletes. It’s sponsorship of sport is unmatched, making it one of the most popular refreshments in the world. However, the image design chosen by Gatorade to present this product does not remotely represent the concept of most sports it sponsors, which is team play. This image promotes individualism over collectivism, which is not surprising and makes complete sense. Western society, on the whole, is an individualistic society compared to that of the East. Here we see a basketball champion rise to his goal but we do not see the path he has taken to get there. Any NBA player will tell you that this path includes teammates, trainers, and coaches, as well as the support of many others.
The concept of individualism over collectivism is furthered by the caption above the baller, which is that of a boxing legend. Although it does fit well with the image, it does not do justice to the sport of basketball, which is a team sport. Boxing is an individual’s sport. Should the creative minds behind this ad have thought to create a more team oriented advertisement, there could have been many ways to work it in to the concept as well as many fantastic quotes to use from basketball legends to describe the journey depicted in this photo. Instead, highlighted is the importance of individual achievement of superstars such as Muhammed Ali and Dwyane Wade, as a means to communicate the message “you are important” so you should drink the best in order to be the best. This can be contrasted by a similar advertisement produced by the same company, for Adidas China.

In other ad, we can observe a female basketball player soaring to the hoop as well. Only this time, there is a sea of grey-shaded people pushing her upwards, as well as pushing the hoop towards her. The female star stands out due to the emotions of triumph and achievement associated color, but she is not as recognizable as the superstar in the American advertisement (China’s equivalent would be Yao Ming, Kobe Bryant).  This puts an emphasis on team play and collectivistic nature in two ways. Firstly, there is a team of people supporting the player to get her to her destination. Secondly, the level of superstardom reached by this player is not accented and therefore it is not deemed as important.
A study conducted by the European Advances in Consumer Research experimented on the effects of individualistic and collectivistic advertising on a sample of the German and Chinese population. The results showed that the more Western, capitalistic German population responded positively only to the individualistic advertisements while the Chinese population received both types of ads equally well (Sandra Diehl, 2003). While these results can be understood as a positive argument for individualistic culture and communication, one can also gather from this that collectivistic cultures are more diverse in their way of thinking. Nevertheless, the study indicates that the most effective way to reach Western consumers is through individualistic advertisements.
A question posed and discussed by many great philosophers such as Aristotle and Plato is “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” This causality dilemma is often used to examine the origins of life in this universe. The same concept can be applied to the dilemma of American advertising and American youth. Do the parents bring up the youth individualistically? Did corporations, through advertisement, influence the parents beforehand? In this case, it is evident that successful American advertisements, regardless of the things they sell, use an individualistic approach to communicating their brands’ messages. Given the amount of money spent on advertising annually, it is not farfetched to believe that it has contributed to the individualistic culture of North America. However, it is irrational to conclude that the advertising industry can successful in being the initiators of a change.

Therefore, where the chicken is American advertising and the egg is American youth, chronologically the chicken came first and is the cause of the value structure of young American people. 

Nevertheless, it is the people who give the power to the advertisements. In conclusion, advertisements tell young people to value the same individualistic qualities their parents, teachers and the majority of American society tells them to value. It seems as if the advertising industry has stopped trying to innovate and instead follows the advice of Senator James E Watson: “If you can’t lick em,jine ‘em” (Shapiro, 2009).

Thesis Statement:
“Advertisement merely reproduces the individualistic nature of American society, regardless of the product they are selling or the means through which they sell.”

P1 Introduction:
    Advertising quote
    Overview: Advertising / American Culture
    Thesis Statement
P2 Analysis of Ad 1
    Background Information/ Context of Ad
    Highlight use of Ethos
    Highlight Individualism
P3 Comparison to Ad 2
    Highlight Collectivism
    Highlight use of Pathos
P4 Individualism/ Collectivism
    Reference study
    Interpret study
    Relate study to topic
P5 Conclusion
    Stir up philosophical debate
    Affirm thesis statement in favor of advertising
Communicate the message advertising sends to young adults.   
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