Russian Cultural Studies: An Introduction

By Catriona Kelly; David Shepherd | Go to book overview

11
Creating a Consumer: Advertising and Commercialization

CATRIONA KELLY


The Rebirth of Advertising

Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, advertising, like eroticism, has arrived explosively on the Russian scene, and, like explicit coverage of sex, seems to some an assault on cherished assumptions about the nature of Russian culture, and particularly about the elevated, didactic character that all the arts, but especially print culture, are expected to have. As the director of one successful advertising agency, Roman Frolov, put it recently: '[Russian] people shouldn't trust advertising as much as they tend to at the moment.'1Though the idea of reading between the lines of a text, or indeed rejecting it altogether as false, was perfectly familiar to Russian audiences in Soviet days, the process of adopting a new, self-conscious attitude to advertisements is slow and painful. They are seen as a Western product; since many Russians idealize Western culture, they find it hard to associate the 'crude' and 'aggressive' reklama now being foisted on them with the perceived sophistication of Western culture (though in fact many of the Western-made advertisements used in Russiaare exactly the same as those used for Western audiences). At the same time, anger is inspired by Western advertisements that fail to register the specificities of Russian culture -- ubiquitous advertising of petfood far beyond the means of most households (the slogan 'vasha kiska kupila by Viskas' -- 'your cat would buy Whiskas' -- invites the riposte that the cat is the only member of the household who could be naïve enough to waste money on that stuff), or publicity for a combined shampun″-koditsionerwhose authors had failed to realize that the

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