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Textuality and Contextuality

Cross-Cultural Advertising from the Perspective of High- vs. Low-Context Cultures in Europe


Aneta Smolińska

This study offers a contrastive analysis of culturally grounded differences in discourse by comparing advertising strategies in three European languages: (British) English, French and Polish. Taking a critical stance and considering changes through globalisation, the author aims to find out to what extent the classic distinction between high-context (individualist) and low-context (collectivist) cultures can be empirically maintained. To paint a differentiated picture, the investigation combines findings from Sociology, Anthropological and Discourse Linguistics and uses both quantitative and qualitative methods. The data reveal ground-breaking differences in the use of foreign languages, the relation between text and images and the interaction between advertising images and readers.

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Chapter 1: Introduction


German’s largest pharmaceutical manufacturer introduced a headache pill on billboards throughout the Middle East showing three photos: on the left, a picture of a grim-looking man with a bad headache; in the middle, the photo of the man taking a pill; on the right, a photo of the man smiling, looking relived and happy. The campaign failed miserably.1

(Kotler et al. 2009: 467)

Why was that? In our world, it is common to use global campaigns to introduce products, but such messages cannot guarantee success. This thesis aims to determine whether advertising messages, as worldwide promotional announcements, can meet the requirements of successful communication acts. This piece of work researches the genre of advertising at the interface of Sociology, Anthropological Linguistics and Discourse Linguistics, and is a symbiosis of verbal and visual communication. It is contrastive research into cultural differences that impact on advertising strategies in three languages: English, French and Polish. The agenda is interwoven with the intercultural differences of the theoretical frameworks of high-context (collectivist) versus low-context (individualistic) cultures established by Hall (1959, 1966, 1976) and Hofstede (2000, 2001, 2003, 2005).

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