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New Vocabularies, Old Ideas

Culture, Irishness and the Advertising Industry


Neil O'Boyle

Advertisements are often viewed as indices of cultural change, just as the advertising industry is often imagined as innovative and transformative. Advancing from an alternative position, which borrows much from practice-based research, this book instead highlights the routinisation of practices and representations in advertising. Drawing extensively from his own study, the author uses Irishness to investigate the relationship between cultural symbolism in advertising and the cultural vocabularies of advertising practitioners. While globalisation and immigration to Ireland have putatively unhinged taken-for-granted understandings of Irish identity, the author argues that representations of Ireland and Irishness in the global context continue to draw from a stock of particularisms and that advertising practitioners continue to operate with largely essentialist understandings of culture and identity. As the first of its kind in Ireland, this book makes a case for renewed attention to advertising by academic scholars and promotes the benefits of interdisciplinary research.


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Chapter 1 Introduction 1


Chapter 1 Introduction Advertising is clearly a cultural phenomenon, culturally inspired and created within the expectations of a culture1 Culture matters One day, in the midst of interviewing an advertising practitioner for my doctoral research, I asked her what she felt is the most important trait or ability that one should possess to be successful in advertising. “Synthesis as a mental capacity”, she replied. I have been mindful of her reply ever since, and especially while writing this book, not only because this particular construction of expertise is reminiscent of dispositional theories of identity (such as the familiar construction of Irishness as innate) but also because the present work (like academic works in general) is fundamentally concerned with synthesis. Despite being part of an Irish Studies series, this book is more accurately a blend of insights drawn from a variety of academic fields, including cultural studies, media studies, sociology and marketing. On one hand this eclecticism will hopefully make it interesting and relevant to both academics and advertising practitioners alike; on the other hand catering for dif ferent audiences without “thinning” the mix can be a dif ficult task. In this respect my position is akin to that of advertising professionals who are required to produce compelling advertising campaigns for corporate clients yet often within exceedingly narrow parameters. In my own case, deciding how to frame this book, and more precisely, deciding what to include and what to omit, was a source of considerable dif ficulty. 2 Chapter 1 After...

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