Perspectives on Advertising

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Perspectives on Advertising(C) Key concepts While the traditional cognitive information processing view of advertising continues to be the most viable way of thinking about advertising, there are other perspectives that can help in understanding how advertising works, and its effect upon society. These other perspectives may be thought about in terms of their assumptions about the target audience and the level of explanation at which they are working. These two considerations provide the axes of a ‘mapping’, whereby the different perspectives on advertising may be seen in terms of either passive individuals, passive social or cultural groups, active individuals, or active social or cultural groups.For many years all areas of marketing research, and particularly advertising research, have been dominated by the cognitive information processing perspective. However, in this chap-ter we review a wide variety of alternative perspectives on how advertising works and its ef-fects on society. Some of these approaches have emerged as explicit criticisms of advertising and are not concerned with advertising as a managerial practice, but some new approaches to visual imagery and meaning-based models, together with an understanding of cultural differences, hold great potential for developing more effective advertising strategies.Audiences and Individuals The practice of advertising has for a long time been the butt of attacks from some economists (for example, Galbraith’) and social and political theorists of the Frankfurt School (for example, Marcuse2). But recently sociology and anthropology have started to take consumption seri-ously as a central element in modern (or postmodern) culture, and, together with a developing interest in semiotics, advertising is now studied from a plethora of social science perspectives. To enable us to locate these differing and complex viewpoints, we can organize them along two dimensions in relation to their assumptions about the audience (active versus passive) and to the level of explanation at which they are working (individual versus cultural), and construct a map of perspectives on advertising (see Fig. 2.1). This provides us with four sectors into which we can slot most approaches to understanding advertising and society: Sector 1: Passive Indi-viduals; Sector 2: Passive Social/Cultural Groups; Sector 3: Active Individuals; and Sector 4: Active Social/Cultural Groups.2 PERSPECTIVES ON ADVERTISINGPassive audience ASector 1—Passive individualsLearning theories Psychodynamic theoryInformation processingPsycholinguistics Emotions IndividualSector 2—Passive social/cultural groupsPropaganda Critical theory & ideologyStructuralism & semioticsPostmodernism Anthropology CulturalLevel of explanationInformation economics Consumer scepticism Narrative transportation Uses & gratificationsSector 3—Active individualsSocio-linguisticsLevel of explanation FeminismSocial semiotics & visual persuasion theoryPoststructuralism & meaning-based modelsSector 4—Active social/cultural groupsActive audienceFigure 2.1 Conceptual Map of Perspectives on AdvertisingSector 1: Passive IndividualsThe major theoretical approaches used by marketing academics and advertising practitioners for explaining ‘how advertising works’ are located in this sector.Learning Theories and Information Processing Learning theories such as classical or Pavlovian conditioning focus on repetition and the crea-tion of simple associations between elements (for example, a brand name becomes associ-ated overtime with a slogan), while more sophisticated approaches to learning are concerned with how advertising messages are stored in memory. These processes of storage and retrieval are the major focus of the dominant perspective in cognitive approaches to advertising, that of information processing. The approach taken in this text is an information processing ap-proach, which assumes that the audience can be conceived of as largely passive, and that25

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