Thursday, August 24, 2006

Bib #31 "Cross Cultural Advertising Jangles A Nerve"

Fernando, Angelo. "Cross Cultural Advertising Jangles A Nerve." June 2001:, August 2006.

This article by Angelo Fernando, a Marketing Communications person is basically about a TV commercial for Polo mints that received the highest award at a recent Ad awards. There were a lot of controversy going around the mint commercial, one is a protest by the Chairman of the Chartered Institute of Marketing, Dr. Uditha Liyanage, who "wrote to protest his disgust at the idea of awarding a trophy to the advertisement. In his opinion, although he contends that the commercial is 'extremely creative' and 'engaging', the heady mix of the 'vita' and the 'mint' is an example of advertising's insensitivity to our local identity, a cultural "hotchpotch".

Fernando discussed further on about how ad agencies & marketers tend to overlay one culture on another by forgetting the nuances and values of each. Also how the Western culture pose a threat to a country's indigenous values through ideology and techniques of advertisements employed. "Famous examples are advertisements that celebrate taboo behaviours in conservative cultures, those that recommend instant gratification over time-worn traditions, technology over human interaction, or independence of the individual over family traditions revolving around inter-dependence".

One point I thought was very important mentioned in the article was made by Dr. Liyanage. He commented on the direct relationship between 'relevancy' and 'effectiveness' in advertising. "The Big Idea, he observes, can only be effective when it resonates 'cultural nuances and trends', our 'identity and ethos'".

This point of his is supported by an interview he did. (Link -

Q. In advertisements, there are no shortages of good ideas that suffer bad execution. What guidelines should creative people be aware of when taking their 'big idea' forward?

A: I do not think that it is simply a matter of execution as opposed to content. The "big idea" itself should be rooted in one?s culture for it to be relevant and therefore effective. For example, "pain" in the local setting relates to a dozen expressions that typify a dozen sensations of pain. For example, "Wedanawa" "Kakkuma" "Rudawa" "Rideema", are disparate sensations. Are we aware of these expressions when we talk of "relief", say in an analgesic ad?

Do we portray the right contexts in our advertisements in communicating these "sensations" and expressions?.

Moreover are we cognizant of the thought processes that capture the meanings of specific concepts. In the English Language the distinction between ?praise" and ?flattery" is less marked than in the Sinhala and Tamil languages. In English, "flattery" is merely excessive praise, which serves a legitimate purpose of gratifying or inspiring one. In the Sinhala and Tamil languages "flattery" is clearly praise overdone, which transforms it into something deceitful, false and empty. This means that the positive expression should be used sparingly and with extreme care when promoting products in our cultural context. Are we aware of these cultural differences and do we reflect them in developing our "big ideas" and expressing them?


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