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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 6 The Smithwick’s “Locals” Campaign 143


Chapter 6 The Smithwick’s “Locals” Campaign The land, Katie Scarlett! Why the land is the only thing that matters!1 Introduction While it constitutes only one of innumerable threads of connectivity between advertising producers and consumers (and advertising and adver- tisements), I have so far argued that Irishness provides a useful analytical prism through which to examine the relationship between representations of Irish identity in advertising and the cultural vocabularies of advertising practitioners. Although this narrow vista works against detailed considera- tion of the many other facets of advertising production, I have suggested that it provides a very useful route into the operation of informal cultural knowledge in advertising. More broadly, it of fers a way of bringing recent renegotiations of Irish culture into dialogue with advertising and market- ing discourses (which remains under-researched in Irish Studies). This chapter examines an award-winning advertising campaign for Smithwick’s ale that was televised in Ireland throughout the 1990s and is referred to as the “locals” campaign. As I suggest below, the “locals” cam- paign animates a variety of sociologically-significant themes in contempo- rary Ireland, including migration, urban-rural relations and changing modes of masculinity. However, in respect of my interests here, the discursive re/construction of the campaign presented provides an especially good example of how brand identities are carved from (and invested with) wider cultural meanings. In particular, this chapter focuses on how distinctions in Irishness are summoned for the purposes of brand dif ferentiation. The 144 Chapter 6 comparisons made below between the...

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