Academic journal article Academy of Marketing Studies Journal

Cultural Values in Magazine Advertising: A Comparative Study of the Arab World and the United States

Academic journal article Academy of Marketing Studies Journal

Cultural Values in Magazine Advertising: A Comparative Study of the Arab World and the United States

Article excerpt


Cultural values that are depicted in magazine advertisements are not similar across cultures. Comparisons have been made by a variety of cultures including Japan, Soviet Union, China, Hong Kong, Brazil, Mexico, and of course the United States. Mueller (1987) stated that U.S. and Japanese commercials tended to reflect individualism that is reflective of Western cultures. Building on this research, there were two studies that examined Japan and the U.S. One study by Zandpour & Qian (1992) supported Mueller's findings while the other by Han and colleagues 1992 reported large differences between the two countries. A study conducted by Lin demonstrated that there is a common ground among approaches used in advertising media (Lin, 1993). This common ground is based on contemporary materialism that is ingrained across cultures. Building on Lin's previous study, Lin & Salwen (1995) found that the U.S. used rational and emotional appeals in their advertisements whereas the Japanese applied appeal based on the sex and nudity to stimulate customers and give information about the product (Lin & Salwen, 1995).

The Arab world, consisting of 22 countries with over 90% of Arabs living in the Arab region, has Arabic as the official language and Islam as the official religion. (Central Intelligence Agency, 2012). A majority of a population of over 300 million in the Arab Middle East is between age of 15 and 64. With a greater understanding of the cultural values, companies can start moving into this region and integrate the Arab world into the international marketplace. Organizations investing in the Arab marketplace will increase their bottom line, improve economic condition of the region and thus result in, better economic status and quality of life for Arabs (Al-Olayan & Karande, 2000; Kalliny & Gentry, 2007).

The current research examined differences and similarities in content and appeal of magazine advertisements in between the Arab world and the United States. The motivation behind this research resides in the fact that the Arab culture is going through increasing change that affects consumers' perception and behavior (Kalliny & Gentry, 2007). The change may create confusion and ambiguity in the international marketing environment in this region. This raises two main research concerns: first, previous research findings will have to go through a rigorous review to account for the changes that are sweeping the Arab region. Second, follow-up research must capture those changes and assess their impact on the Arab society and culture. Therefore, the purpose of this paper is to examine the current cultural values reflected in Arab magazine advertisements and compare them to those in US counterparts.

Culture and Values

Culture helps people around the globe to communicate with and understand each other. Culture is not static and is handed down from generation-to-generation via a process of learning. A value system contains a group of values that are personal and diverge from individuals and their cultures. Values shape behavior and both behaviors and values influence culture (Belk et al., 1985). Culture influences each facet of our existence from our thoughts and sentiments to our mannerisms (Markus & Kitayama, 1991; McCort & Malhotra 1993; Triadis, 1995; Triandis & Vassiliou, 1972). Advertising and marketing literature argue that culture influences a variety of factors such as attitudes to promotion and media favorites (Han & Shavitt, 1994; Light & Somasundaram, 1994; Yin, 2003; Zhang & Gelb, 1996), dissemination and changes of new technology and product (La Ferle et al., 2002; Tansuhaj et al., 1991).

Value is an expression identified as

"An enduring belief that a specific mode of conduct or end-state of existence is personally or socially preferable to an opposite or converse mode of conduct or end-state of existence" (Herche, 1994). …

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