Academic journal article The Journalism Educator

Reviews -- Culture and the Ad: Exploring Otherness in the World of Advertising by William M. O'Barr

Academic journal article The Journalism Educator

Reviews -- Culture and the Ad: Exploring Otherness in the World of Advertising by William M. O'Barr

Article excerpt

O'Barr, William M. (1994). Culture and the Ad: Exploring Otherness in the World of Advertising. Boulder: Westview Press. 212 pp. Paperback, $17.95. Hardback, $59.

This book makes the point early that foreigners' portrayal in advertising has received little critical consideration or research attention. William O'Barr, a cultural anthropologist at Duke University, examines the area from the perspective of a Marxist semiotician. What he has written here is an interesting and useful though sometimes one-sided and poorly organized contribution to the discussion of how advertisements depict people from outside mainstream American society.

Among the strengths recommending Culture and the Ad are a clear writing style, understandable explanations of the author's assumptions and methodologies, and some interesting interpretations of individual advertisements. The book does an excellent job of describing how advertising may include secondary discourse or underlying messages about culture and social structures. Reprints of more than 100 ads are included as illustrations of various points O'Barr tries to make.

Chapter by chapter, the book raises issues that in some cases seem only remotely related to the theme of "otherness" in advertising. The first two chapters lay out a framework for evaluating advertising messages and present a valuable discussion of subtle effects that ads might have, including the fascinating and well-argued idea that camera and travel ads influence the kind of vacation pictures most people take. By extending this section with an analysis of photography manuals, the author wanders from his supposed central focus on advertising, a flaw that occurs throughout the book. …

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