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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 3 Advertising, Irishness and the Nation Brand 53


Chapter 3 Advertising, Irishness and the Nation Brand The more anxious, confused, uncertain, and bewildered modern society gets, the stronger will be the role played by advertising1 Introduction This chapter considers advertising’s importance as a socio-symbolic force and specifically, the role that advertising plays in the construction of Irish identity. Throughout the chapter I investigate some of the ways in which Irishness has been represented in advertising texts, both within and with- out Ireland. However, I begin by examining the main academic critiques of advertising, which generally locate its development in the context of wider processes of modernisation, the globalisation of media and the emergence of mass consumer culture. Advertising has also played a central role in the ascendancy of “brands”, which are considered increasingly important in an era in which self-identity is understood as a ref lexive project (Giddens 1991). Following this, I move to examine the role of media in establishing national identities and the relatively recent idea of “nation brands” (which in fact is not all that dif ferent from much older processes of nation build- ing). In this part of the chapter I ref lect on how Brand Ireland has evolved from tranquil backwater to economic powerhouse (then failure) and, in more recent times, to a hazy assemblage of cultural contradictions (Fanning 2006). The chapter concludes by considering the “everything and noth- ing” status of Irishness as an identity currency in the global marketplace (see Negra 2006). 54 Chapter 3 A brief history of advertising critique...

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