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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 4 The “Dodgy Territory” of Irishness 83


Chapter 4 The “Dodgy Territory” of Irishness Ireland now inhabits a cultural space somewhere between its nationalist past, its European future and its American imagination. This space, though culturally rich in potential, can be, at the same time, a lonely, displaced and unsettling in-betweenness that has so far failed to of fer either emotional commitment or a new imagining of collective identity.1 Introduction If in the previous chapter I examined how advertising ref lects but also fun- damentally produces ideas about Irishness (and has played a key role in the branding of Ireland), in this chapter I move inside the field of production, and specifically into the advertising agency. As I highlighted in Chapter 2, advertising is a transnational industry that is increasingly shaped by tech- nological change, media convergence, global branding and international consolidation. However despite such convergences – as well as increasingly “stretched” practices and learning (see Chapter 2) – individual workers still primarily draw from the cultural milieu in which they are located and to which their work primarily appeals and therefore culture continues to “matter” in advertising. In other words, it is recognised that advertising is more likely to be inf luential and ef fective (however defined) if it is con- sistent with the schemata – the templates or mental maps through which one sees the world – of the audience (see Balnaves, Hemelryk Donald and Shoesmith 2009: 77–82). Hence, cultural production and consumption are indubitably bound (see Hall 1980). As such, it is important to bear in 84...

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