Academic journal article Journal of Research in Gender Studies

A Specific Conceptual Approach to Meaning and Comprehension in Modern Print Advertising

Academic journal article Journal of Research in Gender Studies

A Specific Conceptual Approach to Meaning and Comprehension in Modern Print Advertising

Article excerpt

1. Argument

In a world of global advertising and shockvertising, where the job offer turns into an ad, along with a long tradition of hostility towards advertising - in 1924, the Vendre magazine signals that "Le public Américain, tout comme le public Anglais, a confiance dans la publicité, il la lit à titre d'information. Tout au contraire, le public Français s'en défie." (Martin, 1992) - we have detected a type of advertising discourse which can attract without seducing, persuade without aggressing - mention must be made that we do not include shockvertizing in advertising aggression, since we consider the shockvertizing a post-modem necessary strategy in terms of its controversial themes, as well as its creative strategy terms.

Since we are not advertising professionals, we do not want to comment exhaustively on the advertising phenomenon, for fear we should become either extremely hostile or enthusiastic. However, we will express our opinions concerning advertising, with respect to the specific conceptual approach of meaning comprehension in print modem advertising.

Concerning the main theme of the present framework, i.e. the gender studies, we agree with the idea of "l'impossible égalité des sexes" (Lugrin, Pahud, 2006), in all fields - otherwise, there are numberless scientific studies on differences between men and women, for example, on the manner of reading: men read in search of information, women read affectively and experientially. It is true, mentality on the issue has significantly changed lately, but not dramatically. Actually, we believe we witness "une impossible égalité symbolique" (Lugrin, Pahud, 2006), advertising is limited to a surface equality trend. We mean that men and women have not only different tasks and experiences, but also different symbolical representations: in terms of advertising objects, a man-object representation will never be equivalent to a woman-object representation. Thus, "l'égalité en matière de représentation publicitaire des sexes est loin d'être atteinte" (Lugrin, Pahud, 2006). Or, for example, think of a black-eyed woman and a black-eyed man in advertising. In the first case, we think of a slogan in a campaign against domestic violence, in the second case, we infer a virility personification. Once again, we state that "Parce que des différences existent, parce que les passés diffèrent, l'égalité symbolique entre sexes restera un mirage... A nous d'oeuvrer pour que, nonobstant, ces différences s'ajustent avec le temps." (Lugrin, Pahud, 2006)

2. Conceptual Delimitations

First of all, we chose advertising because we intended to test Relevance Theory's comprehension procedure (Wilson and Sperber, 2003) against a distinct type of discourse, despite two facts: one, that the theory was not designed to account for indirect communication acts and two, that it is not, in fact, a linguistic theory (more proper to use in discourse analysis), since it sprung from the cognitive psychology field:

Bien que la théorie de Sperber et Wilson concerne principalement des problèmes d'interprétation ¿'énoncés en situation de dialogue, elle n'est pas à proprement parler une théorie linguistique. [...] En d'autres termes, l'approche est fondamentalement computationnelle. Elle se base sur l'idée de système formel non complet, dans la mesure où la procedure de calcul doit être envisagée de façon automatique ou algorithmique. [...] Il s'agit en fait du paradigme des sciences cognitives et computationnelles, qui envisage la validité d'une description en termes de procédures permettant ou non d'obtenir le bon résultat. (Moeschler, 1996: 31,34, 35).

Secondly, we chose print advertising since we consider it, at a first sight, the most deprived form of advertising, lacking both sound and motion. However, at a second sight, we consider print conceptual advertising the least aggressive (in contrast with intertextuality - seen as the most radical and aggressive advertising strategy (Cvasnîi-Catanescu, 2003) and the most concentrated form of advertising, able to chase away "la terreur du signe incertain" since "Print is only one system of signs among many, the one which most emphasizes logic, conceptual thought and substantive content" (MacCannel, 1987), considering that it suits better our conceptual approach, in which "Meaning reduces to conceptualization" (Langacker, 1986). …

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