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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Family value portrayals in journal advertising, a comparison of North American and Tamil magazine advertisements Patnaik, Vineetha


The term 'culture' is generally used by anthropologists to describe traditions in a live social milieu. However, the concept is equally applicable to other domains such as advertising, art, children's storybooks and the like. Therefore, they too are eligible for being qualitatively analysed and interpreted for their cultural and symbolic content. The intention of this study is to demonstrate that such an application to advertising is appropriate, and that it can yield interesting, insightful results. For this purpose, a comparative analysis of family value portrayals in North American and Tamil magazine advertisements has been undertaken. The data for this study was drawn from the main data base of the Advertising Archives at the University of British Columbia. The original sample however was not used as it stood. Based on operational definitions of family and individual advertisements, two sub-samples were formed. Operationally, a family advertisement was that which textually, visually or in total depicted a family scene or a family relationship based on objective indices like the presence of wedding ring, children, family rituals and/or explicit statements in the text. An individual advertisement, on the other hand, was any advertisement that textually, or visually, or in total depicted an individual, other than in the capacity of a family member. The persons could be concerned about their own self, wishing or trying to groom themselves, or making any other explicit or symbolic portrayal of their individuality. Prom this list, one product was chosen for selective study from each of the following product categories; Domestic Durables, Domestic Consumables, Personal Consumables, Personal Care and Services. A product example was drawn from each of the decades 1905-1975 for the North American sample, and in the case of the Tamil advertisements, from the nineteen seventies only. The earlier decades were used only for the purposes of background inquiry. The in depth analysis was based only on the Personal Care and Services class advertisements of the seventies. Three expectations, gathered from written sources were set out at the beginning of the study. They were that: 1. The North American sample would contain more individual oriented advertisements whereas the Tamil sample would have a higher proportion of family oriented ones; 2. Extended family portrayals would be minimal in both samples, but that they would be especially rare in the North American one; and 3. Role portrayals in both samples would be similar. Man would be the economic provider and woman, a homemaker, shown as engaged in domestic work and child care. The observations gathered were very supportive of expectation (1). This was later strengthened by the use of Chi-square testing. As regards expectation (2), the extended family portrayals were so few in both samples that they could not be compared statistically. Expectation (3), was also confirmed, although certain subtle differences in the emphases accorded sex roles were detected between the two cultures concerned. Therefore, this study illustrates how advertisements do, in fact, provide a rich source of cultural information. However, it is cautioned that cultural behaviour depicted seems to be the expected behaviour; it need not be actual or empirically normative. Also, the data used was drawn from a limited category of journals, namely, family and women's type magazines.

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