University of Bucharest, Romania
Advertising Mythology – A New Dimension of Contemporary Advertising
Abstract: Contemporary advertising may be characterized by many features which could not have been even imagined half a century ago. One of these faces is rendered by the appearance of a new series of guarantees which belongs to a certain mythological universe. It is a fact that advertisements may have a stronger impact upon consumers suppose they make use of the image of certain persons (whether they are VIPs or not), called “guarantees”. Their authority and prestige will influence the consumer and make him purchase the promoted product. They will make him even want to copy the life style of the respective “guarantee”. The present paper is focused on finding out the influences of culture upon advertising. More exactly, the way the guarantees may be created in close connection with certain cultural archetypes well-known by all the community for which the advertisement was created. When we refer to „culture”, we actually mean those spiritual creations rooted in immemorial times. The case study is represented by a series of Romanian contemporary advertisements which have been looked into by means of pragmatics.
Key words: Pragmatic Act; Verbal Interaction; Textual Message; Iconic Message; Guarantee; Headline; Body Text.
Brief Historical View
To speak about myths of advertising might be easily considered inadequate if we take into account the meaning of every single component element of the idiom. As “myths” do not match at all with “advertising”, at least not regarding the generally accepted significance of terms.
A myth is deeply rooted in past. It traces back to immemorial times of discovering the spiritual roots of a community. It is the very spring of inspiration for the artists to come, highly worshipped everywhere in the world. A myth is like a treasure. It represents a symbol for the respective community, an inestimable value. All the greatest museums (The Vatican, The Louvre, The Hermitage, The National Gallery of Art inLondon) consider it a feather in their cap having and exhibiting old paintings and statues. The oldest their exhibited objects of art are, the greater the fame of the museum.
Myths have generated normal and abnormal behavior patterns (“the complex of Oedipus” or “the complex of Electra”), have made possible the appearance of proverbs and sayings (“Never trust a Greek! Not even when making a present”, Ariadne’s thread, the cloth of Penelope, the sword of Damocles). Myths belong to the cultural background which generated them, namely they reflect all the traditions, customs, mentalities of the people among whom they sprang out to life, and turn out to identify the respective society from the spiritual point of view,
On the other side, advertising is strongly rooted in present and it is situated on the opposite pole, regarding its origins in time.
For our Romanian cultural space, advertising could be traced back in 1829, when the first printed publications appeared in our country. If we think that around 1420 the first poster appeared in France, announcing a religious procession in Paris, while in 1611, King James I put the basis of the first advertising agencies, we could understand one of the reasons which determined the differences between our national advertising and the European (namely Western) one.
We could distinguish three main periods in Romanian advertising:
Early beginnings (from 1829 up to the communist period);
The communist period;
Post-revolutionary period (from 1989 up to present times).
The first Romanian advertisements were simple commercial announcements about the places were certain goods can be bought, about price and certain discounts, as well as about the owner of the store. The image of the person involved in producing or trading the product was more important than the product itself. The advertising message was altogether textual, but little by little, the iconic component started to be made use of.
Certain myths have been followed ever since advertising appeared in our cultural space: the protective mother, the hero who does all his best to save people (the cleaning products have been promoted this way successfully). The present paper will focus on the third period.
Advertising may be viewed as the contemporary result of human imagination with respect to promoting products and services able to improve our lives. Semantically speaking, this concept may trigger two distinct meanings for our Romanian speakers. It may mean:
● Presenting intimate exciting aspects of the private life of aVIP(meaning which is rendered by the English “publicity”). As a feature of our every day life , in Romania and abroad, not only singers, TV show-men or Hollywood actors are hinted at, but also politicians who seem not to be bothered at all by their new condition of a front-page character (we have got familiar with getting more and more pieces of hot news concerning the private life of a prime minister or of a president of a country). A public person seems to have no longer the status of a VIP unless he/she has appeared under intimate circumstances in newspapers.
● Promoting products and services in the market with a view to being purchased by consumers (meaning which is rendered by the English “advertising”). Our Romanian “publicitate” stands for the two meanings above-mentioned, while the Anglo-Saxon culture develops two different lexical units, as well as it has been pointed out: “publicity” and “advertising”.
There are many differences between the two concepts.
First of all, we have to mention the proper activity involved by each of the concept within real life.
“Publicity” is free of charge. It is considered to be, sometimes, a benefic way of building a personal image, a way of drawing the attention of the others upon your person, a way of getting rid of anonymity. Rather vulgarly, we daresay. The person under consideration (a singer, an actor, a sportsman, a politician, and so on) often feels comfortably when seeing that media has peeped into his private life and took into account aspects which actually, he/she himself/herself would not have considered too much. Some other times, the person under consideration decides it is benefic for his personal image the action of revealing aspects of his own intimate life.
Life has changed, so that what was meant to outrage our common sense twenty years ago (a divorce of the prime minister, a hot piece of news about the mistress of a president of a country, and so on), seems to be a piece of cake for our contemporary life. No one seems to pay for such pieces of news, but yet they are produced for the entertainment or disgust of people.
On the contrary, “advertising” is a strictly organized activity, very well paid and with a benefic impact on society as it provides thousands of working places all over the world.
It creates a data base of every single member of the community in the sense that people, but for advertising, all the new products and services in the market.
It also creates and offers behavior patterns for the shy persons and help them out of the communication crisis. This is why many advertising slogans have recently entered our everyday talk and we simply utter them as if they were part of our usual language as greetings are.
The present article has focused on the second meaning of the concept (that of “advertising”) in the sense of proving the existence of a link between advertising and mythology (however strange it might seem at first examination).
So let us enter advertising.
It is a fact that advertising surrounds us everywhere we go, whatever we do: in the mountains, in the countryside, when we watch our favorite movie or listen to our radio programme, when we simply read a newspaper, or when we use our laptop.
It is also a fact that we do not pay much attention to the commercials or advertisements we bump into as we have got too familiar with them, so that they might be considered as a part of the contemporary landscape. The image of a town with no banners in its streets is unbelievable and it could remind us of the imaginary – so that, unreal-town in Inception, the movie which enriched once more the fame of Leo di Caprio, as well as of Chris Nolan, the producer. The town above mentioned, designed by Ariadne – the name has not been chosen at random, I think, as it has deep mythological roots- was a surreal projection of the human mind tormented by nightmares. That very town is the single urban place with no advertising banners in its streets.
Far from me the idea of pleading for the necessity of advertising as a part of our lives. The main objective of the present paper is to establish the place of brands within our contemporary life, procedure for which we should first answer the following questions:
● What is a brand?
● What makes a brand so important for everyday life?
● Which are the secrets (suppose we might find them out) that keep the brand into the attention of the public years on end?
● Is there such a brand?
The present article is focused only on the first two questions.
What is a Brand?
According to the dictionary , brand is – as a noun – “a particular make of goods, a mark made by branding”, and as a verb it means “to sell goods under a particular trade mark”.
According to many advertising specialists, a brand is a product that is well-known in the market due to its special qualities which satisfy the needs of the consumer better and faster and more convenient than any other similar products. A brand creates a certain image of the respective product, so that when the customer buys the product, he buys it not only for its inherent qualities, but for the image it brings about, too.
We all know that nowadays almost all the products are not simply promoted for what they actually bring (example: a shampoo will wash your hair, a motor-car will bring comfort and speed for you to face your life and business better, etc.); but they are promoted together with an extra-advantage you will get, suppose you purchase the respective product. Most often, that extra-advantage implies an improvement of the personal look.
Let us exemplify:
● A shampoo will not only wash your hair, but it will also make you look sexier;
● A mobile phone will not only help you to communicate with people, but it will also create you a particular prestige.
We should also remember the experiment David Ogilvy made years ago: he asked his students to taste a glass of water telling them: “Here you have still water. How does it taste?” all of them agreed it tasted normally, namely good, the usual taste we all know: still water. Ten he gave them a second glass with water in it, telling them it was tape-water and asked them to taste it. They all felt something unpleasant in its taste. Moreover, there were students who declared that the water smelled badly, too. In fact, they had tasted the same still water, and the strange taste was due to a psychological factor: they had been told that they would be given to drink something worse. That is, the students had not actually tasted the water for the second time, they had tasted the image.
This is what a brand brings about: the image of a superior, stylish, special way of life, envied by everyone. The advertiser activates the psychological mechanism of persuading the target, inducing (the target) the impression of getting a better life by means of using (if purchasing) the promoted product.
What brands sell, is not only a specific category of products, but a style of life. Consumers usually buy in order to fulfil their needs and to impress the people around them too. They are induced needs which do not actually correspond to their life – we have just mentioned one of the weak aspects of advertising, aspect for which it has been often criticized.
For instance: there are, let us say, ten types of sports shoes on the market. Ten different trade-marks. The consumer is free to choose whatever he wants. So the balance of his choice will bend towards one of the ten trade-marks. But towards which of them? Specialists have spoken about a purely subjective reason which will be taken into consideration and bent the balance. They named it a “feather”.
Brands have such “feathers”. They resist on the market because they will be automatically associated with a positive state of mind, a positive mood, an optimistic attitude towards life. Here is the so-called “psychological advertising” which creates the impression that only by making use of the promoted product the consumer may get a better look and a better position in life.
Let us simply think of one the oldest advertising campaigns in the market, Marlboro campaign which has lasted for more than 30 years.
What was there so special in this campaign? The image of the independent and self-confident cowboy, successfully introduced by Leo Burnett for the first time in the advertising creation. The unknown but highly representative guarantee proved since then to have a strong impact on the target, an impact which turned out to be even stronger than using aVIPas a guarantee.
Why? Because the consumer may easier identify himself with an unknown guarantee.
It is Pierce Brosnan who promotes the well-known Longines wrist-watches. But under such circumstances, we face a stylish product which needs a well-known public person, aVIPfor its image. The glamour of the product is to be supported by a glamorous person, aVIP, too.
We could figure out a relationship between the pyramid of Maslow and brands. The basic needs are placed at the bottom of the pyramid: hunger, thirst, sleep, sex. The products which satisfy these needs determine a low degree of consumer implication in the sense that the individual will not give too much thought on buying a certain trade-mark of juice, for instance. He is simply thirsty and he needs to drink something. What if he buys a type of juice he does not like? Never mind. He will buy another trade-mark, after all it does not cost a fortune. He will simply change it with another bottle.
He will not have the same attitude when he is supposed to buy a motor-car or to make a bank credit. But we have just mentioned another category of products: products with a high degree of consumer implication.
Yet what makes a type of juice better than another one? You may indicate the taste. But the taste is doubtful as it changes from one person to another. And the advertiser needs something to make a great deal of clients feel the same. What will he do?
There are some advertising theories which may be very helpful in such cases. First of all we should mention the theory of childish impulse, based on the following creative strategy:
● Create a new, interesting, exciting story around the product;
● Make the product play the main part in the story;
● Draw the attention of the target to the content of the story (the very first step within the AIDA principle: attention, interest, desire, action);
● Make the public remember both the story and the trade mark. The contextual synonymy is of much help. The copywriter will create a similitude between the promoted product and another object of the real life, relationship which, otherwise, could not exist.
We could exemplify all these theoretic elements taking a look at the way Coca-Cola Company built its advertising campaign in 1927, experimenting the contextual synonymy in advertising creation.
They created a nice story to join the product and to attract the attention of the public: the main hero of the story was a driver who was fighting thirst and hot weather while driving back home. He was feeling like “landing in a ditch” unless something miraculous saves him. And the magic help appeared in the shape of a Coca-Cola bottle. When coming to a gas station, the gas-man told him:” Yes, brother, this is the place where the red Coca-Cola sign stops more people than the red traffic light in the corner”. For the first time, an interesting relationship of synonymy was created between the red traffic light and the red bottle of Coca-Cola. The advertiser made thus the target remember the promoted product within the story (as we know, advertisers often complain that they created funny stories which drew the attention of the public who even remembered them. But, unfortunately, the consumer forgets the product which was promoted by that story, so that all the effort of the copywriter was absolutely in vain.
Another advertising theory which is also of great help in such cases is the theory of cognitive dissonance.
This theory is based on the following creative strategy:
● Contradict the consumer about something he is very sure of (the main quality of a product, quality which is recognized by everybody, for instance);
● Create a communicative tension among consumers, making them doubt about what they have used until now;
● Announce that there is a better product than the one they have regularly used;
● Present the “new product” which is nothing else but their old one in a new shape or wrap/package.
Dove Company made use of this theory when introducing their bar of soap on the market.
The iconic message was representing a bar of soap on which it was written the trade-mark Dove. Yet the textual message was a contradiction: “It looks like a soap, it washes like a soap, yet it is not a soap”. The consumer was right to ask: “then, what is it?” The answer of the advertiser came: “It is ¼ hydrating cream for your face and body”. So, you were given a bar of soap which was not actually a bar of soap because it was containing ¼ hydrating cream.
Thus, they were automatically placing their product in front of all the similar ones in the market, due to its specific composition which was meant to induce new benefits upon the look of the target. And as women are mostly interested in the way they look like, the product was offering them that extra benefit clients are always looking for. It was the “feather” able to make the target decide to buy this very product and not another similar one in the market.
What Makes a Brand That Important
for Everyday Life?
Here we are in front of our second question, a more difficult one because its answer surpasses the borders of advertising and goes deeper into the international marketing domain. The following issues enlighten our answer.
A real brand adapts itself to the specific needs of each and every foreign market, taking into account the real needs of the host-market. Otherwise, the producing company is supposed to pay very much on expensive campaigns meant to present the needs of the consumer in the original market. An example is offered by Nestle Company which modified the strategies of persuading people according to the host-market. Thus, an advertising agency, when introducing a new brand, should keep in mind details referring to: geographical and climatic conditions of the host-country, socio-economic conditions (income, economic development, currency, unemployment, etc); cultural conditions (level of education, religion, the structure of the family, cultural conditions and needs); political conditions (the legal status of competitors, norms of protecting the consumer, norms referring to commercial companies, the copyright).
They should also have details about the other similar products in the market: since when they were in the market, what kind of target did they address, strong points and weak points of the respective products.
A real brand should take into consideration the specific features of the social community it enters (cultural values, traditions, mentalities, ensuring thus a good intercultural communication.
A brand reflects the degree of development of advertising media which is different from country to country, and it is also in close connection with the economic level of each country. The best equipped country from this point of view is the USAwhere there are 815 TV sets and 2123 radio sets for 1000 inhabitants.
For certain brands (alcohol, cigarettes, medicine) authorities watch attentively their promotion within the respective society. There are many countries which simply interdict the TV advertising of cigarettes (Belgium,Germany,Romania), alcohol (Norway,Ireland).
A successful brand is important for everyday life as it makes use of the national language when it enters a foreign market. Let us exemplify: there is a law inFrancewhich forbids the copywriters to use foreign words as long as there can be found French lexical equivalents. There are also laws inPeruwhich insist on promoting the national culture and traditions in advertising. So, a brand is important for everyday life because it saves and protects the national cultural identity of every single host-country.
Entering a foreign market
There should be a strong relationship between the transnational company and the branch-country (host-country). The former enters a new market, but its success within its new home depends on the terms it knows to build the new relationship on.
The transnational company should borrow all the cultural elements of its new home-market. Therefore it is necessary that it should develop serious marketing studies in order to find out:
● Features of the target (age, culture, level of instruction, income, needs, preferences);
● Mentalities of the society;
● System of values;
● Traditions and cultural symbols.
At the same time, the transnational company turns into a spokesman of its native country, helping the host-market to get familiar to its own values.
For very many people, companies like Levi’s, McDonald’s or Coca-Cola meanAmerica, because they illustrate the American style of life.
In case the transnational company feels that the host-country needs its products it may develop a branch over there which can be even stronger than in its native country. It is the case of Toyota Company which transferred the most important part of its activity in the USA. Thus the American branch of Toyota is stronger even than the Toyota Company in Japan.
There are certain techniques of promoting a transnational company abroad, which Coca-Cola made use of:
● A close relationship with its partners;
● SWOT analysis;
● A unitary message (no matter the types of target to which the message should adapt in point of language and expression, the content of ideas, namely the basic pieces of information should stay the same);
● Interactivity (every simple advertisement creates the premises of a direct and indirect dialog with the consumer; therefore the company should know its consumer very well);
● PR events (which help promoting certain products or services);
● Associating commercial advertisements with social adverts with a view to improving the image of the producer (many great companies choose this way of creating a better self-image: Benetton, Coca-Cola among them. Thus they succeed in holding the consumer responsible for the social issues of life (drugs, prostitution, alcohol, domestic violence, potation, racial discrimination, religious discrimination, etc);
● Making use of the national language (the slogan will be translated into the national language in order to be affectively closer to the consumer. For example, immediately after the Revolution in 1989 in Romania, Coca-Cola entered the Romanian market with its original American slogan “Always Coca-Cola”. Two years later, it was translated into “Intotdeauna Coca-Cola”. In Germany, the company developed a similar advertising campaign as in its native America (we refer to the campaign in 1929): “Trink Coca-Cola, kostlich und erfrishend” translated the American “Drink Coca-Cola, delicious and refreshing!”;
● Enlarging the perception upon the brand: at first, the juice (Coca-Cola) was created for usual consumption at home; then it was meant to refresh the worker/ clerk/ secretary after or during a tiring working day; it was extended then at using it for special parties and social events or during holidays;
● Creating a suggestion (by means of the so-called “psychological advertisement): to induce a benefic state of mind, and a positive, optimistic mood. The consumer will thus associate his drinking Coca-Cola with optimism. He will be tempted to copy the attitude and the style of life of the guarantee;
● Covering almost all the forms of advertising (regarding the object of advertising, its aim, the geographical area it developed into, “the age” of the promoted product, the channel of communication);
● Making use of certain advertising theories and advertising strategies of persuasion in close connection with the type of the promoted product.
Let us take a glimpse into these advertising theories in order to understand better the choice of the advertiser (although David Ogilvy clearly stated that there is no recognized recipe for building a successful advertisement – the advertiser should be simply proud of his creation, so proud that he/she would not be ashamed of showing it to his family).
More than fifty years ago, the American specialists in advertising have discovered and founded the principles of three main theories which proved to have great importance in advertising creation:
1. the theory of learning;
2. the theory of cognitive dissonance;
3. the theory of minimal implication.
They are all based on the assertion that there are several main stages in targeting the consumer.
In close connection with these stages, the theories mentioned above developed themselves and let advertising creations come to life for the benefit of people. Here are the stages:
1. the informative stage (known as “LEARN” stage);
2. the affective stage (known as “LIKE” stage);
3. the behavior stage (known as “DO” stage).
The present paper uses the qualitative research methods as it presents my personal point of view regarding the issue under consideration. More exactly, I have used the case study, as the most relevant method of research. I have selected a number of print advertisements belonging to the Romanian cultural space, and I have analyzed them taking into consideration the pragmatic resources of the advertising message. I have considered pragmatics suitable for the case study of the paper because the advertising discourse is one of the most relevant samples of usual and every-day talk, and pragmatics deals with common speech.
I have been mostly interested in depicting the typology of the verbal acts, as well as the communication dynamics of the deictic elements. But a keen investigation of the advertising discourse (which is constituted of both iconic and textual message at the same time) has to take into consideration the pragmatic acts, the context, the situational context and the type of verbal interaction.
We have already mentioned that we will focus our attention on the contemporary Romanian advertising. We intend to establish whether we could detect certain human archetypes made use of in advertising creation, and whether these creations have been influenced somehow by the universe of mentalities, traditions and moral, social and cultural values of our society.
We intend to find out whether these archetypes are representative for our society and why. Whether they bring about images with which our public has been accustomed (belonging to the fairy tales we all know).
As advertising discourse is the most obvious sample of spoken language, the investigation of the advertisements taken into consideration was based on pragmatics tools. It is known that pragmatics is the linguistic discipline focused on everyday talk, interested in the extra non-linguistic message even more than in the proper linguistic one. Pragmatics will never reject any message on the reason of its being ungrammatically built. On the contrary, it will accept it as it finds out more interesting information behind the proper uttered message (it take into consideration the context, the situational context, the situation of communication, the pragmatic acts, the type of verbal interaction and many other items of the kind.
The principles of communication with their rules have been also taken into account when looking into the mechanism of advertising creation. More exactly, the rule of quality and the rule of relevance.
Advertising may be viewed as the mirror of our contemporary society. The way one may read a person after he knows his/her friends and family is the same way one may characterize a society after taking an attentive look at the adverts in the street. Just take a walk in the streets of an unknown country which you have not seen before, look through its newspapers and magazines, and consider the adverts you see. You may draw a keen conclusion referring to the system of values of the respective society and to its medium income, too. There are countries, for instance, where Bentley brand has not entered, yet, as well as Longines.
Actually, these aspects (traditions, mentalities, material or spiritual culture) could be considered the very items an advertiser should keep in his mind when trying to enter a new market. Here is one of the secrets of the transnational companies (like Coca-Cola, Ford, McDonalds’, Tuborg, Cacharel, Marlboro and so on). They entered lots of foreign countries and each and every time they adapted themselves to the new circumstances offered by the respective market: specific cultural aspects, religion, traditions, social values appreciated by the respective community, income, degree of education of the individual, and so on.
This is why every single target would like to be in the center of interest of the advertiser. The consumer will thus feel that the advert is created for him only when it speaks his own language and mirrors exactly what he himself would like to see and find about (his needs).
In spite of its being new, advertising should be rooted in the history of civilization of the respective social community. Advertising should borrow patterns coming from the cultural universe of the community under consideration in order to be able to mirror the society which created it. Here is the very link between advertising and mythology. Specialists spoke even about a connection between advertising and fairy tales world.
Let us exemplify how every single cultural space develops its specific mythology, in close connection with its own culture and civilization.
Cosmetics are generally promoted everywhere inEuropeandAmericaby means of a beautiful female guarantee: she always appears to be attractive, young, happy and content with herself, available. She is the advertising “fairy” who promises the consumer to be as beautiful as she is suppose the consumer uses the promoted product. Young girls are invited to buy this or that shampoo if they want aHollywoodlook. Men are promised to be more successful in life (private or professional, it simply does not matter) if they achieve this type of mobile phone, or this type of computer, or drink this trade mark of beer. The advert “speaks” much, it is always funny or it contains an amusing story so that the consumer should remember the promoted product easier.
The new tendency in our Romanian advertising is making use of feminine nudity in order to sell absolutely everything, not only cosmetics, but also motor-cars, household appliances or gardening tools. A modern Sleeping Beauty we might say, ready to conquer every target.
But let us take a look into the Oriental advertising. The advert is short and clear because, according to the Japanese system of values, being serious and quiet is a sign of deep trust. This is why the TV spots within this area are no longer than 15 seconds, while in Europe, America, Australia and large areas in Asia, it is generally about 30 seconds. Within these areas the advertiser cannot communicate a credible message in 15 seconds unless the campaign started with an advert lasting for 30 seconds. The so-called “short” one has the function of reminding what the “long” advert announced.
The female guarantee will be always fully dressed as it will be simply outrageous to exhibit her body in public. It will be an offence to the morality of their society, a mistake which will put a clear and definite end to the existence of the respective product in their market. No one will purchase it for fear he/she might be rejected afterwards by the people around.
Within the European or the American advertising, when promoting feminine cosmetics, the woman guarantee is often accompanied by man, as he is regarded as the final beneficiary of the product (he is the one to appreciate how soft her skin is, or how delicate her scent is). The procedure may be achieved the other way round, too. Masculine cosmetics are generally promoted by a male guarantee, accompanied by a woman, regarded as the final beneficiary of the promoted product.
We might draw the conclusion that there is a sort of co-operation between man and woman when promoting cosmetics addressed to one of them. The “co-operation” is out of question within the Oriental advertising. Man cannot be present in the same advertisement together with a woman in order to promote feminine cosmetics. He is forbidden to interfere the feminine universe, he cannot have opinions regarding her option for a certain perfume or shampoo, although he is the final beneficiary of the fine look his partner will have after making use of the promoted product. This “co-operation” turns out to be shameful by all means.
Case Study. Accomplishments
Advertising is thus the mirror of society from all points of view.
Let us focus our attention upon promoting motor-cars.
Ford brand within our Romanian advertising is promoted both by means of feminine or masculine guarantees who are presented against a typical background: office-mates speaking about what type of car they would like to have. Some other times, the guarantee has already bought the car and is happily driving it, fully satisfied with its technical performances. The scenery matches with our surroundings: crowded streets, people in a hurry. The situational context is made up of subjective deictic elements of space. And we consider them to be subjective as the space presented is always an ideal one: the office (which is generally associated with the idea of work) turns into a comfortable place (which is not the real perception of it, actually), the mountain landscape is wonderful, the street, even crowded, is perfect for a ride.
The same brand is differently promoted within the American advertising (the advertiser has taken into consideration the cultural values of the respective area, the mentalities, etc). Here is the advert: a young surfer faces high waves and bravely handles them. The surfer guarantee matches perfectly well with the American space, as this sport is part of their life (the surfer would not have had the same impact upon our Romanian target, because our people is not familiar with this activity).
It means that we have succeeded in finding out the link between the two apparently different concepts: myth and advertising. Advertising is able to reflect all the representative features which may identify a society.
Here we are in front of another interesting concept: the advertising identity of a community. What does it mean? How could it be defined in terms of mythology and advertising?
A first significance of the concept above-mentioned is that of totality of values with which a social community may identify itself. This significance the multitude of human identities in adverts (proper to different social communities according to their culture, traditions, mentalities): the sportsman, the mother, the successful business woman, the dandy, the father, the son, the lover, the housewife, the non-conformist teenager, the worker, the dentist, and so on.
Another significance is that of the myths created by advertising (the myth of the savior hero, the myth of the protecting woman). Suppose we take an attentive look at these images, we will see contemporary hypostasis of the well known Prince Charming or Sleeping Beauty. Here is how the centuries old mythological characters get off their immemorial patterns and enter our 21st century life.
Let us follow the way these two mythological hypostasis (mentioned above) develop themselves in Romanian advertising nowadays, reason for which we have embarked upon a brief case study.
The feminine typology meets the most various identities:
● The mother;
● The lover;
● The innocent bride;
● The non-conformist teenager;
● The successful business woman;
● The dentist;
● The housewife.
All these images of feminine identity actually develop one single feature: beauty. All the guarantees mentioned above are young, beautiful, fresh and smiley, relaxed and attractive. They are all in an excellent mood as if nothing wrong in the world could happen.
But how does a woman look like in real life? Whether she is a housewife, a doctor, a mother or a successful business woman? The everyday life marathon makes her not be always smiling and self-content, fashionably dressed and attractive. After all, she does not always wear high-heeled shoes and her coiffure is not always perfect.
So that, if we are supposed to overlap these two images (the former one which is perfect, but ideal, and the latter one which is not so attractive, but real) we could distinguish two different spheres they belong to: the former image is linked more to a fairy tales world (where everything is nice and tidy, but not real), while the latter belongs to real life.
It seems that some of the producers noticed it. Dove company initiated in 2002 a striking advertising campaign for promoting the new Dove bar of soap with a new composition: ¼ hydrating cream. This was the very headline of the print which was meant to draw the attention of the target. Actually, an efficient advert is able to sell the product by means of a clever headline.
The advertiser presents a group of ordinary middle-aged women (in point of look and body shape) who are not ashamed of their bodies at all. Although their bodies are far from the standard sizes 90-60-90. The body text is: “8 out of 10 women would choose Dove” which has a strong impact on the feminine target. Why? Because it is basically made up of ordinary women, with ordinary bodies and they will feel more comfortable seeing that the promoted product was actually meant for them, not for those special slim young ladies whom they will never look after, perhaps.
The message is built on both representative and comissive verbal acts.
The strategy of authority makes use of a group of women characterized by the general features of the target: the ordinary middle-aged woman.
In 2009, Nivea Company launched an advertising campaign of promoting a face cream. They wisely chose an old lady as a guarantee. Their option was benefic for the success of the product in the market. They understood that only a wrinkled old lady could efficiently promote an anti-ageing face cream because it is only at that age when a woman faces the unpleasant existence of wrinkles on her face.
The campaign makes use of two persuasive strategies: the strategy of authority and the strategy of dissociation. The latter is built as follows: the iconic message shows two different images, the old lady before using the promoted product (her face being visibly wrinkled) and the same woman after using the anti-ageing face cream.
We rightly ask ourselves the following question: if the anti-ageing face cream is promoted by a young lady, will she be credible enough in front of the consumer? How could the target believe that the guarantee has successfully used the promoted product and noticed obvious benefits in her look if she (the guarantee) is beautiful not because of the benefits brought by the promoted product (the anti-ageing face cream), but because she is actually young. The consumer is represented by wrinkled ladies who are, at least, in their forties and who would like to regain their younger look of 20 or 30 years old.
Our question is: will the 25 years old guarantee make the 45 years old consumer trust this face cream? Psychologically speaking, when your look is affected by age, you will trust only that product which made another at least 45 years old lady look younger.
This is why we do believe that such cosmetics should give up the myth of the pretty fairy and should be promoted by old or, at least, middle aged guarantees. Yet, many cosmetics companies use a young and beautiful guarantee hoping that she will impress the target with her attractive look (hair dye, anti-ageing products, anti-cellulite cream). A clear example is provided by the Garnier company which chose Andra, the pop singer, to promote a hair dye. The body text contains the following remark: “Let me tell you something more: it perfectly covers all your white hair”. When the consumer hears the words “all the white hair” she will obviously think of much hair, just as she, as a middle ages woman, has. But the message is uttered by a young lady in her twenties, so that, could she, the consumer trust those words? The message would have been credible if uttered by a middle aged guarantee whose hair needs indeed to be dyed. But poor Andra is a young lady who has her hair dyed only for the sake of change, not out of necessity. So, unfortunately, the advertisement develops the following pragmatic act: “much ado about nothing”. And we do think that it was not the real communicative intention of the advertiser to make such fuss for a mere trifle, for nothing.
We should also mention that category of advertisements which simply suggest the target they address to (no guarantee is physically present in the iconic message, but for objects reminding us of her identity).
Let us exemplify.
Iconic message: inside the shape of a fashionable high-heeled woman boot, the following words are written: “you are more self-confident when you wear something that suits you well”. The pragmatic act overemphasizes the idea that a lady will always want to have an interesting and attractive look.
Textual message. The textual message cannot be separated from the iconic one, as they make up together a single unitary message. We try to understand what the advertisement does promote (it is obviously something which “suits her well” and which makes her feel self-confident at the same time. After we take a look at the logo down page, we notice the trade-mark: Always wads.
The dialog developed between the advertiser and the consumer is based on a series of affective verbal acts as well as on a personal verbal interaction. The personal deictic elements “you”, “suits you well” emphasize the friendly terms of the conversation. Thus the advertiser plays the part of a good friend of the consumer whom he is close to, being familiar to all her needs (as the consumer is a lady, of course). The importance of the affective verbal acts has been brought out into strong relief. (“A person convinced against his will is of his opinion still”). Affective arguments are considered to be stronger than the objective, rational ones.
Some other times, the feminine universe is suggested by a series of elements which belong to the feminine identity.
Here is an advertisement which belongs to a Volvo campaign from 2009.
The headline is: “What do women really want?” and it develops a pragmatic act of the implicit assertion type. We should read thus “What kind of a car do women want?” as well as “What do they expect from life?” Under such circumstances, the advertiser plays again the part of a friend because he seems to know what women are generally interested in. Only a friend knows your tastes, your needs, your expectations. As long as the advertiser knows all these things about his consumer, it means that he has been long enough preoccupied by his target, so that the promoted product will meet all these needs.
This advert perfectly illustrates the interrogative advertising discourse. Although it is formally expressed by a question, the message is actually a pseudo-question as the emitter (the advertiser) does not intend to get any answer back. The pseudo-question is in fact a pretext for the emitter to offer the receiver (the consumer) the best answer to the problem she is preoccupied by: the woman is interested in purchasing a motor-car meant to represent her, namely to be characterized both by high technical performances and by an attractive “look”.
Let us focus our attention for a while now upon the second significance of the concept of mythological advertising: the savior hero.
He reminds us the Prince Charming in fairy tales who was saving the princess out of all the troubles around.
There are more and more products and services which struggle for bringing more and more advantages in the life of the consumer. The cleaning products, for instance, clean fast the sanitary installations saving the housewife of much work and trouble (the general mentality is to be noticed: it is the duty of the lady of the house to be responsible for cleaning the sanitary installations). The woman is also saved from any conflicts she might have with her mother-in-law on this topic.
The well known Mr. Proper reminds us of The Spider Man who comes just in time to save the victim. Both dust, dirt and rust are quickly and efficiently pushed away by this cleaning product.
So, the savior of the woman is the man. He deserves all the merits and appreciations, no matter how much would have the woman worked.
The masculine savior hero also appears in promoting feminine cosmetics. The hair stylist is the one who helps the lady out of all her problems arising from building an attractive look. He is the one to recommend the best hair dye or the strong hold hairspray.
Regarding the cooperative principle of communication, the following can be said: the rules of quality and relevance are constantly broken when it comes about promoting a product by means of a mythological image. The rule of quality is not kept on purpose. The advertiser knows for sure that there is Prince Charming any longer, yet he pretends to believe in such a character in order to create a good mood for the consumer. The same can be said about the “he-fairy” created by Transylvania Bank. The consumer will feel good to enter again the magic and wonderful world of his childhood when everything came true on the spot of the moment. Now, the magic wand is in the “hand” of the Bank which will play the part of the fairy in the tale: will help him (the consumer) fulfill his dream and have what he longs for: a house, a personal credit, a car, and so on.
The Bank places itself on stronger positions and the client will be more confident in it. Besides, there is an affective relationship also which connects the two: client and bank. Persuasion turns out to be stronger than any scientific reason. “A person convinced against his will, will be of his opinion still”.
The rule of relevance is also broken on purpose. The advertiser starts creating a fairy tales discourse: Santa Claus in his magic sledge, white little angels flying around, the Little Red Riding Hood with her grandma, and so on. But actually, the referent of the discourse is the promoted product.
The first topic is replaced (on purpose) by the second one in order to create a stronger impact on the consumer. Because he will be, no doubt, more impressed by a nice fairy tales image than by a strict and cold series of scientific data (no matter whether banking services or everyday products are involved). The consumer will let the child inside himself get out and smile.
At the end of this snapshot view on the contemporary Romanian advertising, we could conclude that:
● One can speak about a mythology of advertising in the meaning that advertising creation is deeply rooted in the cultural universe of our community;
● There are two distinct mythological identities on which the advertising creation is based: the fairy and Prince Charming;
● The textual message develop pragmatic acts generally based on personal verbal interaction;
● The deictic elements of time and space are always of subjective structure;
● The interrogative discourse, when it appears, is never a proper question, but a pretext for persuading the consumer to purchase the promoted product/service;
● The creation of a link between advertising and mythology turns out to be a very efficient persuasive strategy because people have been always impressed by stories rooted in immemorial times. It seems that advertisers have understood this fact and have changed it into a profitable tool in their work. For the benefit of everybody: consumers, producers and advertisers.
Limitations and recommendations
The present paper offers only one possible perspective upon the issue under consideration. The rhetoric interpretation would be another path of investigation of this advertising reality. Anyway, this paper could be considered to be a starting point for further analysis.
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