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The discourse of New Zealand and French television advertising: a comparative approach

This thesis explored two television advertising discourses. In a response to a need for more qualitative inductive approaches to cultural/national advertising whereby each culture is seen as unique and is not compared to another through the use of standardised American tools and values, this study blended specific quantitatively oriented strategies with interpretive sensitivity in an effort to engage in a cross-cultural “de-naturalisation” of New Zealand and French television advertising specificities. In this endeavour, the contrastive framework was particularly helpful as it made possible the “de-naturalisation” of advertising representations that are usually taken for granted in a particular culture. The exploration revealed interesting specificities peculiar to each advertising environment. The identification of major discursive objects in the television advertising discourse of each country, the subsequent in-depth analysis of these discursive objects, together with insight into communicators’ thinking, showed that the French and the New Zealand television advertising discourses differ both in terms of communicative approach and in terms of selection of imagery. Two main findings emerged from this study. The French television advertising discourse can be characterised by a heavy reliance on seduction, to the point that advertising and seduction were almost fused. This reliance on seduction was illustrated in the frequent use of feminine soft signs such as female voice-overs and female seductive characters, and the strong reluctance of French communicators to use a direct communicative approach. Interviews with French communicators revealed that their reliance on seduction - embodied in a range of texts that appeal to aesthetics, set up metaphorical or emotionally charged situations, and use female bodies and voices - was due to their being caught in strong traditional discursive formations on politeness and money that create knowledge about the act of selling as a shameful activity. In the New Zealand television advertising discourse, the act of selling was not considered as a shameful activity but was well accepted as the foundation of the communication exchange between advertising communicators and their potential viewers. As a result, New Zealand television advertising discourse did not rely as much on soft signs, on concealment, aesthetics, or on creating the illusion of emotion as French television advertising did, but used a more immediate, direct, and authoritative communication approach. This approach was embodied in the overwhelming amount of male characters and male voice-overs used in commercials, as well as in a majority of explicit messages. Whereas French communicators argued categorically that explicit reference to national values was not helpful in advertising, New Zealand communicators assumed that nationalistic discourse would have a commercial value and would inspire New Zealand viewers to consume products or brands. Their usage of discourses followed a cultural logic prescribed by a strong discursive tradition on the importance of nation. Products or brands were recurrently placed within a national framework embodied in linguistic forms, and so viewers were invited to think of themselves as citizens, and to think about products or brands in terms of their socio-national universe. In order to promote consumption, New Zealand television advertising also drew on sport as a combination of masculinity rituals, social instruction, moral training, and declarations of identity. Mythical kiwi ingenuity imagery was also instrumental in the promotion of consumption and in giving models of consuming behaviour to subject viewers. The thesis revealed that the content and form of advertising messages springs from communicators’ cultural communicative habitus. The choice of advertising elements is made according to rules of cultural communication based on traditional discursive formations internalised by individuals evolving within a particular institutional and cultural structure.
Type of thesis
Desmarais, F. (2003). The discourse of New Zealand and French television advertising: a comparative approach (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/13789
The University of Waikato
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