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Communication in Commercial and Public Service Advertisements Term Paper

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Updated: May 17th, 2021


Intercultural communication in both commercial and public communication is very important. Scholars have conducted research in this field in order to help organizations come up with proper ways of communicating with the public under different cultural settings. In this section, the researcher will review existing literatures in reference to this topic.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is one of the tools that organizations must take into consideration when developing commercial and public service advertisements (Mariake 69). It is believed that people of different social needs will view advertisements from different perspectives. The model is very important when communicating with customers in a highly diversified marketplace. The figure below shows the different social needs that people may have.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
Figure 1: Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Source (Krishen and Bui 544).

As shown in the above figure, the most basic of the needs are the physical needs. They include food, water, clothing, air, sleep, reproductive needs, and excretion. As Fang notes, these are needs that one cannot do without (28). When designing a commercial that targets people in this group, it is important to ensure that the message focuses on their specific needs. They may not give importance to fancy items needed by those in higher ranks of the ladder. The second stage in the hierarchy is those with safety needs. Security of family, resources, employment, health, and morality are of importance. People in this stage, according to Linlin, want to be assured of their future (154). Advertisement targeting these people must be focused on their need for safety.

The third stage has people who desire a sense of belonging. They want to be loved. Issues such as family, friendship, and intimacy are very important to these people. Most of the products they purchase are designed to meet these needs. As such, Fang says that advertisements that target them should carry the message of love and a sense of belonging (71). The second-last stage is esteem. According to Jinrong, these are people who value self-esteem, confidence, respect of and from others, and achievements (148). To them, they are an integral part of society, and their input is often needed in every important decision. When developing a commercial for this group, the message should reflect their importance in society. They need to know how the product they are purchasing will help in reflecting their significance in their society. At the top of the ladder is self-actualization. As shown in the pyramid, it has very few people, but they are very wealthy and successful people. They are individuals who believe and have reasons to, that they have achieved all that they desired in life. To them, morality, lack of prejudice, spontaneity, and creativity are very important (Kaylene 17). Commercials meant for them must reflect these values. Understanding this model and using it to classify customers is the first stage in making successful communication with customers in a highly diversified society.

Hoftede’s cultural dimensions theory

According to Fang, Hofstede’s cultural dimensions theory is one of the most important tools that one must consider in intercultural communication in both commercial and public service advertisements (78). It is a very important tool for firms operating in a global market. A message designed for an audience in the United Kingdom or the United States may not be appropriate for an audience in China or Japan. Before is a figure of Hofstede’s cultural dimensions theory.

Hofstede’s cultural dimensions theory.
Figure 2: Hofstede’s cultural dimensions theory. Source (Jiaming, Prybutok, and Chao 350).

Individualism versus collectivism is one of the most important factors that one must consider when developing an advertisement. In some societies, such as the West, the emphasis is placed on individualistic goals, while in some regions, such as in China, people value collectivism. It means that an advertisement that emphasizes family values will be more successful in China than in the United States (Kaylene 18). Masculine versus feminine is another factor that should always be considered. In masculine culture, men are treated as superior to women, which is completely different from feminine cultures where men and women are considered equals. Chinese culture is more masculine than that of the United States, especially when it comes to issues of leadership and decision making (Kaylene 19). A commercial meant for the Chinese market should take this factor into consideration. Uncertainty avoidance is also critical. According to Mariake, in the United States, there is a popular culture that embraces uncertainty (75). People do not fear embracing new ways because they believe they will always remain in control. However, this is the complete opposite of the Chinese culture, where people cherish existing systems. People prefer working with what is known.

According to Linlin, another important factor to consider when using this model is the power distance (156). It refers to the degree to which the society can tolerate the unequal distribution of power. In China, there is a high power distance where coercions are common, and power resides at the top. The few who are at the top have absolute power, while the majority are expected to follow instructions. Such an environment may not be conducive for an American. In the United States, power is with the people. Whether it is in the political landscape or in a commercial setting, top managers are expected to offer leadership in this country. They are not expected to issue instructions without giving concern to the junior officers needs.

Time perspective is another factor that must be considered by marketing officers using this model. In some societies, a lot of emphasis is placed on long-term plans, while in other societies focus is on short-term goals. Both Chinese and Americans are long-term-oriented individuals. However, the Chinese are often concerned about the future, partly because of their fully-to-develop economy. As such, they focus more on saving for the future. Indulgence versus restraint is the final factor in this model. Indulgence is more common in the United States, where people enjoying life and have fun without facing any restrictions (Minkov 74). As long as their fun does not interfere with the rights or freedom of others, they are at liberty to enjoy life. However, the Chinese government still has laws and regulations that define what the Chinese can or cannot do in terms of having fun in life. Gambling and betting are restricted to specific cities in China.

Chinese traditional culture and specific symbols with special implied meaning in China, Buddhism belief in Thailand

According to Jiuquan, intercultural communication in both commercial and public service advertisements should always take into consideration traditional cultures, which are still valued within a given community (54). Chinese traditional culture and specific symbols are still very significant when designing a message to the audience. For instance, red is a color that one must be very careful about when using to communicate with Chinese people. Fang says that the color red is strictly forbidden at funerals because it epitomizes happiness (42). It means that firms dealing in funeral arrangements or items used during such functions should not use such a color because of what it implies under the Chinese context. However, when this color is used on happy occasions such as birthdays and weddings, it brings out the right mood because it symbolizes not only happiness but also good luck.

An American firm operating in China will need to understand these facts before developing a commercial for this market. Different symbols also have different meanings in China. The giant Panda is a treasured animal in China. When one develops an advertisement that vilifies this treasured animal, then the advert may fail to achieve the success for which it was intended. In fact, there are cases where the Chinese government may directly intervene and order for the elimination of such advertisements if it feels that it contravenes the national culture. Jinrong says that the Chinese government is very keen on protecting the national culture and often do not hesitate to take action against individuals or organizations whose actions are seen to be contrary to popular beliefs and practices (141). Buddhism in Thailand also has a number of practices that directly affect the kind of message that can be directed to them in an advert. For instance, they are very strict vegetarians, and trying to convince them otherwise in an advert will be seen as being offensive (Minkov 87). Such adverts can only yield hatred towards the product instead of admiration.

Studies about fear appeals and emotional appeals in advertising

According to Jiuquan, some advertisements use fear appeals to convince clients to purchase a given product (56). Insurance companies are very skilled in using such appeals. They inform their clients that life is full of risks and that the only way of being absolutely safe from some risks is to have insurance cover. People respond to such adverts because of the fear created in the message. Others use emotional appeals. Coca-Cola Company has excelled in using emotional appeals to attract customers to its products. They always convince their customers that their drinks embody love. It means that the best way of expressing love is to buy a loved one Coca Cola drink. Their emotional appeal has proven to be very successful among the youths who are keen on gaining societal acceptance and love from their peers.

Apple Advertisement

Apple advertisements in China and America

Apple advertisements in China and America have registered impressive success because the management took time to analyze and understand the culture in these two markets. In China, this firm understood that the family is a highly valued unit in the social structure of the society. It also understood that the elderly are cherished, and instead of sending them to homes for the elderly, most Chinese families prefer staying with them. In the commercial given in this case, we see a young girl interacting so closely with her grandmother. She records her song on her iPhone. The grandmother is so pleased to hear the recorded version of her granddaughter’s song. As the advert comes to an end, the two embrace each other lovingly, with the grandmother still holding the iPhone and listening to the song. The product (iPhone) targets teenagers and young adults. However, the message passed is that it is a product that will be pleasant for all the family members. Even the aging grandmother will find the product attractive. That is a unique way of advertising a product (Krishen and Bui 538). It shows that the marketer clearly understands cultural forces in the market.

In the United States, iPhone is advertised in a completely different way. Unlike in China, where the emphasis is placed on the family setting, the advert in the United States focuses more on individuals. The firm knows that when it comes to making purchasing decisions, especially on products such as smartphones, members of the family play a negligible role. One would purchase a product that is pleasant to him or her without giving any consideration to what other people may think about it (Linlin 155). As a result, most of the adverts targeting the American audience focus on the needs of individuals as opposed to the needs of family members.

Description and comparison of both advertisements

When comparing the two advertisements, one meant for the Chinese and the other meant for the American audiences, a number of differences come out. The environment for the Chinese advert is a family setting. This is completely different from the setting in the other advertisement. In the advert for an American audience, there is only one primary character that is targeted with the product. On the other hand, the Chinese advert has two primary characters, close family members. The background music in the Chinese advert is meant to be pleasant for both the two primary characters, something that is lacking in the other advert. It is also important to note that in the plot of the Chinese advert, the product (iPhone) brings the two family members even closer. It brings happiness to both, as seen in its ending. However, the one targeting the American audience brings happiness specifically to the individual targeted with the product.

Public Service Advertisement

Description and comparison of both advertisements in Thailand and British

The British culture has significant differences from that of Thailand. Public service advertisements in the United Kingdom are always very different from that in Thailand. This is not only because of the socio-cultural differences in the two countries but also the difference in their political systems. The United Kingdom is an advanced democracy where power is with the people. However, Thailand is a developing democracy. Currently, the country is headed by a former military chief. The recently passed constitution allows the National Assembly to elect a military officer to be the head of state and government.

Most of the public service advertisements in Thailand are designed to make the public believe in autocratic power exercised by the ruling class. The public in Thailand still believes in the fact that sometimes citizen is powerless when faced with instances where their interests conflict with that of the ruling class. However, the public in the United Kingdom is very enlightened and keen on protecting their interests. They know when and how to hold their leaders accountable. As such, those in political leadership in this country are very keen on the kind of message passed to the public. Using threats or fear appeals is not common in the United Kingdom. Most public service advertisements are based on reason and political propaganda.

Over 93% of Thais are Buddhists. On the other hand, about 60% of Britons are Christians. According to Kaylene, most of the public service advertisements in Thailand are developed on the basis of cultural practices defined in Buddhism (21). Issues such as the social structure of the society and relationships are very important in this country. However, the British system is more secular. Although the community is predominantly Christian, the government acknowledges that there are minority cultures that must also be respected when making public service advertisements.

At times such advertisements may be seen to be inclining more towards Christianity, but the government is always keen to avoid any form of discrimination based on culture. According to Minkov, it is the responsibility of the government to ensure that the rights of its citizens are respected (68). The first entity to respect the rights of the minority is the government. The United Kingdom, being one of the world’s leading democracies, is keen in its public service advertisement to ensure that its messages are not seen to discriminate against the minority (Mariake 71). However, the Thai government, led by the junta that is pretending to embrace democracy, is always keen on pleasing the majority of the population (Claudia, Simone, and Cassandra 440). That is why most public service advertisements are designed in a way that ignores the social and cultural rights of the minorities in society.

Buddhism belief in Thailand; the role of kids

Buddhism is the main religion in Thailand, accounting for over 93.2% of the country’s population. According to Jinrong, religion has remained popular in the country because of the strict policies that have been in use in the country for decades (133). The country has experienced several cases of military coups, but the religious beliefs have remained firm. In Buddhism, every member of the society has a role to play in promoting the religion. Children are given a special role from a tender age. Those who want to become monks are always taken to a school for the monks where they learn how to serve others and protect the religious beliefs of their forefathers. Children who do not intend to become monks are also taught how to live in a society where Buddhism is the primary culture. Children learn how to relate with adults and how to pray. They are brought up knowing that they have a role to play in protecting the social and cultural practices of their parents. This is done through public service advertisements and the education system.


The analysis was done above clearly demonstrates that advertisements are culturally-based, so that importance is attached to intercultural differences. It is clear, from the analysis of self-centered western countries, Buddhism in Thailand, and Chinese traditional culture, it is important to develop advertisements in different countries based on the local culture to reduce cultural conflicts in intercultural communication. Whether one is developing a commercial or public service advertisement, one of the guiding principles should be the cultural practices of the targeted audience. The message in the advert should be in line with the cultural beliefs of the audience in order to get the desired impact.

Works Cited

Claudia, Amonini, Pettigrew Simone, and Clayforth Cassandra. “The Potential of Shame as A Message Appeal in Antismoking Television Advertisements.” Tobacco Control, vol. 24, no. 2, 2015, pp. 436-441.

Fang, Zhou. On Collectivism-Individualism Dimension in Chinese and Western Family Relationships. Oxford University Press, 2011.

Jiaming, Fang, Victor Prybutok, and Web Chao. “Shirking Behavior And Socially Desirable Responding In Online Surveys: A Cross-Cultural Study Comparing Chinese And American Samples.” Computers in Human Behavior, vol. 54, no. 4, 2016, pp. 343-396.

Jinrong, Hahn. “The Situation And Trend Of Smoke Free Legislation.” Global Law Review, vol. 1, no. 2, 2012, pp. 133-150.

Jiuquan, Zhang. “Cultural Differences between Chinese and Western Verbal Humors.” Journal of Taizhou University, vol. 33, no. 1, 2011, pp. 53-56.

Kaylene, William. ‘Fear Appeal Theory.” Research in Business and Economics Journal, vol. 1, no. 2, 2013, pp. 13-21.

Krishen, Anjala and My Bui. “Fear Advertisements: Influencing Consumers To Make Better Health Decisions.” International Journal of Advertising, vol. 34, no. 2, 2015, pp. 533-548.

Linlin, Chen. “A Survey of Chinese Public Service Advertising From Systemic Functional Perspective.” Canadian Social Science, vol. 11, no. 3, 2015, pp. 153-157.

Mariake, Mooj. “The Hofstede Model: Applications To Global Branding And Advertising Strategy And Research.” International Journal of Advertising, vol. 29, no. 2, 2010, pp. 69-83.

Minkov, Michael. “Hofstede’s Fifth Dimension.” Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, vol. 43, no. 3, 2012, pp. 66-88.

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