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Advertisement as a Form of Discourse Research Paper

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Updated: May 9th, 2022

Introduction

Advertisements are an integral part of the integrated marketing product promotion process. They deliver messages that are widely constructed from diverse environmental discourses and conditions. The purpose of advertisements is to introduce a wide range of consumer goods to targeted consumers and influence their purchase decision. It has become common knowledge that advertisers manipulate the social values and attitudes of the targeted customers rather than actual communication of information to the consumers (Dyer, 1982).

Messages in advertisements are carefully delivered to the audiences, through the skillful manipulation of certain traits that are believed to influence the target audience more. Further, the picture of well-being projected in food advertisements are a necessity, as this would induce prospective consumers to be happy when they see pictures of well-being on viewing the product in an advertisement. Advertisements present their message in such a way as to reach the consumer’s most intimate concerns such as sex roles, stereotypes, happiness and contentment, influence on youth, etc. Advertisements use events and situations that assume prominence and importance in people’s lives and transform them into their structured construct.

The discourse in advertisements, therefore, is through and about the object that is being promoted. Advertisements are designed carefully to target individuals or groups that for an informal segment and disseminate all that the segment associates with. Well-being too is a concept that arises from the intrinsic human need to be happy. Therefore, a consumer would be more likely to purchase a product that is shown in the promotions to spread happiness, health, and well-being.

This is a strategy, I believe, is taken by advertisements. The aim of this paper is to analyze the contents of advertisements and see how certain social characters portrayed in the advertisements pertain to the target segment of the product being promoted. In other words, the essay analyses the role played by brand name, language used, model/celebrities in the adverts, age group of the characters, and gender in disseminating the discourse of well-being through television commercials.

Literature Review

Advertisements are discourses that are “paid, non-personal communication forms used by identified sources through various media with persuasive intent.” (Rotzoll, 1985, p. 94). However, one cannot object to the fact that the main intent of the advertisers is to alter the intentions and attitudes of individuals or groups. They intend to command the behavior of the target group of people. Therefore, advertisements that aim at such alterations in behavior are bound to have serious consequences on the cultural and social life of the people (Pollay, 1986).

Advertisements are again defined by psychologists as a process of learning and cognitions while sociologists believe that the “role modeling” aspect of advertisements has serious consequences on the social behavior of people (Pollay). Psychologists, sociologists, anthropologists, educators, and communication specialists have seriously questioned the role of advertisements. Most of the criticism of advertisements is based on their social roles while most of its support is derived from their economic impact.

Advertisements have been studied from various perspectives. For instance, it has been studied from the point of view of its effect on child development, gender role, sexuality, masculinity discourse, body, image, etc. others have also studied the historical effect of advertisements and its changes over time (Dyer, 1982; Rotzoll, 1985).

Change in advertisements has been studied from the perspective as a survival tactic when a product is being initiated in the market, showing excessive concern over the traditional culture, environmental concerns, humorous advertisements specifically targeting the internet users, feminist advertisements, and the bizarre advertisements post 2000 (Kim & Cho, 2012, p. 502). Usually, advertisers utilize the aforementioned techniques to deliver their message. I aim to study the relation of advertisements to age, gender, and brand name.

One research agenda that has occupied advertisement researchers is the well-being trend. Well-being in advertisements has become the new mantra for advertisers in promoting consumer health and new market trends. Usually, well-being is used in advertisements to project environmental or health related concerns. The increasing concern on the health and happiness of people that may be fulfilled through recreational sport or cooking has become a focus for advertisers for some time (Kim & Cho, 2012).

The question that arises is what is well-being? Physical well-being can be easy to understand as it relates to the “absence of disease or infirmity” (Kim & Cho, p. 502). However, understanding mental well-being is more difficult to understand. Well-being has been defined as “a state of joy, other positive emotion” or quality of being satisfied with one’s subjective well-being” (Kim & Cho, p. 502).

Well-being can be measured based on two forms – subjective and objective well-being (Kim & Cho, 2012). Objective well-being is measured through the measurement of the economic and social indicators such as income, age, years of education, length of life, etc. subjective indicators can be determined by interviewing people and asking questions to assess their life. The well-being concept has been often adopted for advertisements of food products, especially healthy food, and has been extended to advertisements of consumer durable and non-durable products. Presently, the importance of living a healthy life has become indispensable, and advertisers have made the most use of this psychological requirement of people.

The present study is a qualitative content analysis that allows us to ascertain the trend in the use of the concept of well-being specifically for food advertisements and see its connection of brand name, age, and gender of the characters used in the advertisements. the study will try to determine what message the advertisers try to convey to the target audience related to well-being – 1) conveyed through the brand name of the product, 2) brand name in the native language or any other language, and 3) how the message alters with the age and gender of the celebrity/model used in the advertisements. This is done through a qualitative content analysis of television advertisements. Based on this understanding, the next section will help in the formulation of the hypothesis.

Hypothesis

Effects of Brand Name

The brand name of a product shows the personality and image of the product. The brand name demonstrates the personality of the product and results in a higher recall. Research has shown that a suggestive brand name helps in higher brand recall through marketing communication (Keller, Heckler, & Houston, 1998). It is believed that a memorable and meaningful brand name helps immensely as consumers seldom read through the instructions and therefore helps in building brand awareness and association. Studies have shown that the brand name can be of two types viz. one that is suggestive and the other that is coined or arbitrary (Keller, Heckler, & Houston, 1998; Kohli, Harich, & Leuthesser, 2005).

The brand name has a great influence on brand perception (Wänke, Herrmann, & Schaffner, 2007). The brand name image that is used for the products affects the brand imagery and recollection significantly (Robertson, 1987). This study aims to understand the relationship between well-being related product (in this case food) and the use of brand names. This study recognizes the previous researches findings that quality and attitudes towards products are affected by brand name perception (Kohli, Harich, & Leuthesser, 2005).

Most of the well-being products try to portray the image that the product is clean, pure, healthy, and pollution-free. Usually, brand names used in advertisements indicate these attributing words and therefore evoke images of well-being. The literature review leads to the hypotheses that brand names more effectively indicate well being if the viewers of the advertisements know the language.

  • H1: In well-being advertisements, brand name in native language usually has greater recognition.

Effect of the Model in Advertisement Character

Usually, advertisements use characters that are famous or well-known figures who are termed as celebrities. Usually, research has demonstrated that using celebrities in advertisements has higher attention from viewers as celebrity endorsements increase the credibility of the picture of well-being projected in the advertisements. This brings us to the first part of the second hypothesis i.e. more famous celebrities are shown in advertisements that aim to show a higher degree of well-being. Another issue that has been observed is that advertisements that want greater well-being also have celebrities who are lower in age. This leads us to the third hypothesis i.e. celebrities are lower of age in advertisements that want to higher well-being.

  • H2: In well-being advertisements, younger celebrities are used as endorsers.

Gender also played a serious role in advertisements. Research has demonstrated that women have improved reception of advertisements more than male characters (Hsu & McDonald, 2002). Women are mostly used to promote domestic and personal care products while men are shown to be the beneficiaries of the activities undertaken by the women in the adverts. Therefore, it is pressured that female celebrities are more used for well-being advertisements.

  • H3: Female persona is used to show product well-being.

Effects of Advertising Appeals

Advertising appeals refer to the influence that an advertisement has on consumers or viewers of the adverts. This indicates the ability of advertisement, in order to capture the attention of the viewers and spark their interest. The appeal these adverts have may be rational, emotional, educational, or humorous. Emotional appeals normally evoke emotions. The study will therefore focus more on the emotional appeal of the advertisements and the emotion that it delves by showing some emotional image. Therefore, it can be intuitively deduced that product promotions tend to appeal more to emotions than to information.

  • H4: Well-being of products is advertised using emotional appeal to the viewers.

Methodology

Content analysis is done on television commercials specifically of food products. it involved an examination of 20 advertisements used to promote well-being. However, the products selected for the analysis were randomly selected from various categories. The main products used for the analysis can be segregated into the following categories: food, personal care, beverages, and health.

Coding

In doing the content analysis of the 20 television advertisements, first, the content of the adverts was segregated based on the product category. Then the brand name is analyzed. The brand name is coded either being of “meaningful” or suggestive nature for which the value “0” is denoted while other brand names are coded as non-meaningful” or unrelated names and are quantified as “1”. The language used for the advertisement is categorized as a native and foreign language, where the former is coded with a value “0” and “1” for the latter.

Further, in showing gender, male characters are coded as “1” and female characters as “0”. Further, adverts with the educational or informational appeal are coded as “0” while advertisements with the emotional appeal are coded as “1”. The content analysis data is analyzed using simple descriptive statistics like frequency to demonstrate the position of the well-being advertisements.

Reflections

The data derived from the content analysis demonstrates that the advertisements aim to affect consumer behavior by promoting an image of well-being through images, sights, and sounds that promote well-being. The data show that the entire hypothesis related to promoting well-being through advertisements has been satisfied indicating that advertisements try to promote the message well-being. The meaningful brand name is more in number indicating that more well-being adverts use meaning brand names. Further, there are more adverts in local/native language indicating that the hypothesis is true.

However, more male characters were used in the adverts than female characters indicating that the gender-related hypothesis taken in the essay being erroneous. However, well-being adverts have been found to have a greater emotional appeal to the viewers than educational appeal. Therefore, the content analysis has shown that the well-being adverts were found to be consistent with the hypothesis developed from the literature review and consistent with the previous researches.

References

Dyer, G. (1982). Advertising as Communication. NA: Psychology Press.

Hsu, C.-k., & McDonald, D. (2002). An examination on multiple celebrity endorsers in advertising. Journal of Product & Brand Management, Vol. 11 no. 1, 19 – 29.

Keller, K. L., Heckler, S. E., & Houston, M. J. (1998). The Effects of brand Name Suggestiveness on Advertising Recall. Journal of Marketing, vol. 62, 48-57.

Kim, K., & Cho, Y. C. (2012). A Content Analysis of Advertising ZTransitions: Impact of Brand Name, Persona, and Appeals. Journal of Busienss and Economic research, vol. 10, no. 9, 501-512.

Kohli, C. S., Harich, K. R., & Leuthesser, L. (2005). Creating brand identity: a study of evaluation of new brand names. Journal of Business Research, vol 58, no. 11, 1506–1515.

Pollay, R. W. (1986). The Distorted Mirror: reflections on the unintended consequences of advertisements. Journal of Marketing, 896-914.

Robertson, K. R. (1987). Recall and recognition effects of brand name imagery. Psychology & Marketing, vol. 4, no. 1, 3-15.

Rotzoll, K. B. (1985). Advertisements. In T. A. Dijk, Discourse and Communication: New Approaches to the Analysis of Mass Media (pp. 94-105). New York: Walter de Gruyter.

Wänke, M., Herrmann, A., & Schaffner, D. (2007). Brand name influence on brand perception. Psychology & Marketing, vol. 24, no. 1, 1-24.

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