Theoretical frameworks in the study of press advertisements : Polish, English and Chinese perspective

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of press advertisements:

Polish, English and Chinese perspective


Theoretical frameworks in the study of press


Polish, English

and Chinese perspective

Uniwersytet Śląski

Katowice 2011


Publikacja sfi nansowana ze środków Uniwersytetu Śląskiego

© 2011 by Uniwersytet Śląski w Katowicach All rights reserved

ISBN 978-83-60743-42-3


Ofi cyna Wydawnicza Wacław Walasek Katowice, ul. Mieszka I 15


Projekt okładki:

Michał Motłoch, Gall Anonim and Adam Wojtaszek

Wydanie I

After this edition runs out, the book will be available online:

Śląska Biblioteka Cyfrowa


Acknowledgements . . . 9

Abbreviations used in the text . . . 11

Preface . . . 13

Chapter One Academic refl ections on the phenomenon of advertising 1.1. Introduction . . . 17

1.2. Th e scope of analysis . . . 19

1.2.1. Th e medium . . . 21

1.2.2. Analysts’ favourites . . . 25 Code-mixing in advertising . . . 26 Th e wordplay in commercials . . . 28 Th e application of gender stereotyping in advertisements . . . 31

1.2.3. Dissecting advertisements . . . 35 Illustrative elements: pictures, videos, music, sound eff ects . . . 35 Slogans . . . 37 Brand names . . . 39 Disclaimers and disclosures . . . 44

1.3. Th e input/output perspective . . . 46

1.3.1. Th e content analysis . . . 47 Th e size of the sample . . . 48 Th e selection of focus . . . 48 Aspects of bottom-up and top-down design . . . 51 Exemplifi cation of inductive content analysis . . . 53

1.3.2. Th e processing and responses . . . 55 Th e selection of the input material and the area of focus . . . 56 Th e perspective of the subjects’ responses . . . 62 Th e participant characteristics . . . 66 Summary . . . 67


Chapter Two

Politeness Theory in the analysis of advertisements

2.1. Introduction . . . 69

2.2. Brown and Levinson’s model . . . 70

2.3. Refl ections on politeness, face and the applicability of the model . . . 75

2.4. Modeling the selected aspects of face . . . 78

2.5. Content-analysis-based illustration . . . 80

2.6. Th e theoretical basis of the study design . . . 87

2.6.1. Th e materials and the subjects . . . 89

2.6.2. Th e questionnaire construction . . . 90

2.7. Th e qualitative investigation . . . 94

2.7.1. Th e Polish responses . . . 94

2.7.2. Th e British responses . . . 105

2.7.3. Th e Chinese responses . . . 110

2.8. Th e survey-based intercultural comparison . . . 115

Chapter Three The new perspectives 3.1. Introduction . . . 124

3.2. Salient meanings in advertisements . . . 125

3.2.1. Graded Salience Hypothesis – an overview . . . 125

3.2.2. Static and dynamic attributes of salience . . . 129

3.2.3. Salience as the feature of linguistic and extra-linguistic units . . . 138 Th e exploitation of font . . . 139 Pictorial metonymy . . . 146 Visualisations of idiomatic meanings . . . 151 Visuals directing the interpretation . . . 155 Summary . . . 159

3.2.4. Optimal innovation in press advertisements . . . 160 Study design and elicitation method . . . 161 Gauging the level of innovativeness . . . 162 Measuring the attractiveness of innovation . . . 163 Discussion of the results . . . 164

3.2.5. Salience in advertising: the new territory . . . 167

3.3. Dynamic Nature of Context . . . 172

3.3.1. Dynamic Model of Meaning – an overview . . . 173

3.3.2. Th e perspective of the sender and the recipient . . . 179 Reconstruction of the creative process . . . 180 Predicting the viewers’ reactions . . . 185 Peculiarities of the low-involvement processing of commercial mes- sages . . . 187


3.3.3. Th e role and components of context in advertising communication . . 191 Activation of multiple consenses . . . 191 Th e Stratifi ed Model of the actual situational context . . . 197 Modelling the interpretation of advertisements . . . 204

3.3.4. Expansion and extended application of the model . . . 206

3.4. Summary . . . 215

References . . . 219

Appendix 1 Transcript of advertisements used in the study of face-work . . . 239

Th e Polish advertisements . . . 240

Th e British advertisements . . . 246

Th e Chinese advertisements . . . 250

Appendix 2 Investigation of the elements of face and face-work . . . 255

Th e Polish questionnaire . . . 256

Th e English questionnaire . . . 257

Th e Chinese questionnaire . . . 258

Appendix 3 Investigation of optimal innovation . . . 259

Originality and innovation: Polish version . . . 260

Originality and innovation: English version . . . 261

Appreciation: Polish version . . . 262

Appreciation: English version . . . 263

Index of names . . . 265

Subject index . . . 271


Although placed at the very beginning, this part of the book is usually the last to write. There are at least two very positive aspects of that. Firstly, it rounds up the whole work and gives me incredible satisfaction stemming from the fact that the task has been completed. Secondly, it offers me the chance to look back and reflect upon the contribution of all those important people whose kind presence and as- sistance have brought me to this point.

Although modesty and reticence are usually required under similar circum- stances, I cannot help emphasising how enormous an achievement the completion of this book is for me. Only those who have already accomplished a similar task know exactly what I am talking about. It needs to be stressed in this context that in all my efforts I have been ispired and supported by many people, without whom this accomplishment would not be possible.

I am indebted in many ways to Professor Janusz Arabski, whose encourage- ment and words of support have accompanied me from the very start of my aca- demic career. It was his idea to incorporate the Chinese perspective into my inves- tigation, articulated many years before I formulated the initial plan for the project.

I can still remember our conversation on the topic, on the train from Santiago de Compostela to La Coruña, in 2005, during the Contrastive Linguistics conference.

In the years to follow he always kept showing his concern, to the point of assisting me in the building of the corpus of British press advertisements.

I also would like to express my gratitude to my colleague and friend, Profes- sor Andrzej Łyda, who has always inspired me as a scholar and researcher, maybe without being even conscious how significant and important his remarks and small pieces of advice were for me. Not to overestimate are also his efforts and assistance in reducing the load of my administrative work during the busiest times of editing the present book, thanks to which I was not being excessively distracted and pulled away from the main track.

I have also benefited greatly from the support and advice of Professor Rafał Mo- lencki, who has always believed in the ultimate success of this enterprise, offering me his help and assistance whenever I asked for it. He was the one who in the lar- gest part helped me to get down to writing in due time.


The inclusion of the Chinese perspective would not be possible without the as- sistance of two extremely helpful and dedicated ladies: Ms Xuefei Wang and Ms Jing Chen. Ms Wang collected almost all the advertisements included in the Chi- nese corpus and translated them into Polish, thanks to which I was able to organise the collection and perform some preliminary analysis. Ms Chen acted as my as- sistant in the research on the Politeness strategies applied by Chinese advertisers:

she translated the questionnaire into Chinese and conducted the interviews with the Chinese subjects. Later, she also helped me with the analysis and transcription of the Chinese advertisements and instructed me in typing the Chinese characters using the Pinyin format. Her contribution was critical to the accomplishment of this ambitious and difficult task.

I also owe my deepest gratitude to Professor Leszek Berezowski, whose con- structive criticism allowed me to discern multiple faults present in the initial draft of the book. His thoughtful comments and recommendations made it possible to eliminate most of the deficiencies and inconsistencies. Thanks to his helpful re- marks I was able to look at the book from the perspective of its prospective read- ers and make it a bit easier in perception.

I am also indebted to all the subjects who participated in the studies reported in the book. Their total number exceeds one hundred and although I would not be able to mention all the names, I still wish to acknowledge their valuable contribu- tion. Most of them are the present and the former students of English at the Univer- sity of Silesia. I hope that for some of them the book will prove in some way useful.

Finally, and most importantly, my words of thankfulness and appreciation go to Magdalena and Paweł, who managed so well to create favourable and encouraging atmosphere at home, conducive to the creative process extended over such a long time. Their patience, love and endurance have been providing me with the invalu- able peace of mind throughout.


CI – Collectivism Index (a culture-related variable)

CSCPs – Culture-Specifi c Conceptual Properties (aspects of word meaning) DMM – Dynamic Model of Meaning

EAM – Exhaustive Access Model (of meaning processing) EEG – Electroencephalography (a neuroimaging technique)

fMRI – functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (a neuroimaging technique) FTA – Face Th reatening Act

GSH – Graded Salience Hypothesis

MEG – Magnetoencephalography (a neuroimaging technique) MP – Model Person (in Politeness Th eory)

NFC – Need For Cognition (a cognitive variable)

OALDE – Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary of English OAV – Ordered Access View (of meaning processing) OIH – Optimal Innovation Hypothesis

PET – Positron Emission Tomography (a neuroimaging technique) RAM – Reordered Access Model (of meaning processing)

SAM – Selective Access Model (of meaning processing) SST – Steady State Topography (a neuroimaging technique) UAI – Uncertainty Avoidance Index (a culture-related variable) WSSPs – Word-Specifi c Semantic Properties (aspects of word meaning)


Science can be viewed as a peculiar transaction: in exchange for better under- standing of the world we have to accept that whatever we describe is just an ap- proximation and secondary rendition of the surrounding reality. Additionally, all those who attempt to focus their scientific attention on surrounding phenomena are aware of the fact that all acts of observation involve a certain amount of intru- sion into the object of observation. The so-called observer effect has been postu- lated a long time ago and recognised by many scientific disciplines. A well-known example is the double-slit experiment in quantum physics in which a single photon is released to pass through a shield with two slits on its way to the screen. If there is no detector attached to the slits, the interference pattern is produced by the passing light, which is only possible when the signal behaves in a wave-like fashion, pass- ing through both slits simultaneously. Placing the detectors at the slits results in the disappearance of the interference pattern, because the photon will physically inter- act with one of them on its way to the screen, exhibiting a particle-like behaviour.

In such a situation, its continued path goes forward only from the slit where it was detected (Greene, 1999, pp. 97–109). This shows that the awareness of the observ- er effect has to be constantly at the back of our head, moderating the strength of our claims about whatever we study and describe.

The impossibility of truly objective (whatever it means) description of reality, echoing the philosophical disputes between believers of realism and those who pro- fess idealism, does not question the sense of scientific inquiry, however. In a certain sense it is a factor contributing to even better quality of our descriptions and theor- ies, as the acknowledgement of the secondary nature of our insights only reflects the true nature of relationships and interdependencies between the universe and the conscious observers who experience it. The quest for better and better theoretic- al accounts of the surrounding world is in itself a fascinating object of observation and reflection, often generating inspiration for novel conceptualisations and dis- coveries in the realm of phenomena which seem to be familiar and well described.

The initial inspiration for the present book came unexpectedly with one of articles which I found in one of the spring issues of Journal of Pragmatics in 2008. It was Istvan Kecskes’s paper ‘Duelling contexts: a dynamic model of meaning’, which seemed to be just another interesting conceptualisation of the process of meaning encoding


and decoding. However, read in the context of my prior research and current in- terests, it turned out to be the necessary catalyst which initiated a chain reaction of inspirations and ideas, whose final product comes in the form of the present work.

For many years preceding the completion of this book I have been fascinated by and interested in the discourse of advertising. A large part of my research was de- voted to this continuously evolving and changing, peculiar form of mass communi- cation. Yet, there were certain aspects of the phenomenon which, although subcon- sciously perceived, escaped attempts at more systematic and reflective elaboration.

Reading Kecskes’s reflections on the nature of context and its role in different types of communication felt like putting on new glasses through which the blurred and indistinct script suddenly became decipherable. I have noticed the analytic poten- tial of his conceptualisations and decided to apply it to the discourse of advertising.

About the same time I also came across the book by Rachel Giora On our mind, which provided yet another illuminating perspective and offered one more power- ful descriptive tool. Her conceptualisation of salience seemed to offer a very useful framework for analysing both the content of advertising messages, as well as the responses which they evoked in the viewers.

Additionally, I have decided to return to the largely unexplored area of apply- ing the theorems of face and politeness to the analysis of advertising communica- tion, which I touched upon in Wojtaszek (2007a), with a view to expand it in future.

In connection with the two above-mentioned frameworks, it seemed to constitute a promising and solid basis for new analytic insights.

At the same time, the question of material for analysis had to be addressed. The choice of press advertisements reflected my recent interest in this particular adver- tising medium, following the earlier focus on radio commercials, represented by my previous book Deciphering Radio Commercials – A Pragmatic Perspective (2002a).

In terms of the contrastive range I have decided to follow the advice of Professor Janusz Arabski to incorporate the Chinese perspective into the project, which not only reflected the current trends in the development of global economy and pol- itics, but also offered a very intriguing comparative angle.

The potentially disputable issue is the selection of the advertising discourse as the object of focus. Many publications have accumulated over the past years, dis- secting and analysing multifarious aspects of this peculiar form of communication, so yet another book on advertising might seem unnecessary. In spite of the above, however, the choice seems to be well grounded for a number of reasons.

Firstly, the discourse of advertising is a continuously evolving phenomenon, breeding new forms and tendencies on almost daily basis. Therefore, it is extreme- ly unlikely that this object of study will ever be exhaustively described. There will always be something new to notice, inspect and account for. Additionally, given its complex nature, it invites insights from many different perspectives, rendering the investigation of advertising discourse a truly interdisciplinary venture.

Secondly, in spite of many efforts of deconstructing and exposing the persua- sive and manipulative practices of the advertisers by crowds of critical commenta-


tors and theoreticians, the commercials still perform their roles around the whole world. And if certain tricks stop being effective, they are immediately replaced by new ones, creatively elaborated by never-weary advertisers. It is therefore fascin- ating how it is possible that in spite of changing times and fashions, in spite of the rising awareness of the consumers, even in spite of their frequently antagonistic at- titude, the commercial messages are invariably successful in serving their main pur- pose. The above observation additionally points to how little we still know about the mechanisms of composition and interpretation of advertising discourse.

Finally, advertisements constitute a fascinating object of reflection not only for scientists investigating the phenomenon from different perspectives, but also for the general public, who treat them as a form of entertainment, a source of information and an interesting subject of conversations. That is why publications on the adver- tising discourse are usually very popular and inspire many young people in their choices of the topics for dissertations and theses, not only in strictly economic de- partments. The present book might prove useful, in this context, for many students of the discourse of advertising as a valuable source of information.

There are several aspects in which the present book is unique. First of all, it tests the analytic potential of theoretical concepts and constructs which have not yet been applied to the analysis of the advertising discourse, although such a possibility was envisaged by some of the authors (e.g. Giora, 2003). Secondly, it offers a compara- tive elaboration of advertising corpora from three different cultural backgrounds:

Polish, British and Chinese; a combination which has not yet been, to the best of my knowledge, covered in literature. Finally, it is also heavily biased towards critic- al methodological reflection, exposing many aspects of making certain choices vis- à-vis the analytic perspective and material. It was possible thanks to the application of such a viewpoint to unmask and appreciate the contribution of the observer ef- fect in the study of the advertising discourse. Especially in the context of application of the Politeness framework to the analysis of commercials the book has managed to demonstrate how big may be the impact of the way of viewing. The evaluation of the practicality, usefulness and common sense of such applications is left to the readers, who may disagree with the author in this respect.

The book unfolds in three stages. In the first chapter the contributions of par- ticular types of selective focus applied in the study of advertisements are presented and critically evaluated. In particular, the impacts of choices pertaining to the ob- ject of the study, the preference for the approach (bottom-up versus top-down) and the alternatives implicit in opting for the content analysis or the investigation of responses were examined. The second chapter elaborates on an attempt to look at the advertising discourse from the perspective of Politeness Theory, as a peculiar forms of communication between the advertiser and the recipients. Following an extensive discussion of the applicability of the framework and the necessary meth- odological modifications, a two-step study is presented in which Polish, British and Chinese participants were reflectively commenting on a selection of press ad- vertisements from three corresponding corpora. The subsequent comparative in-


vestigation of their responses allowed for identification of language- and culture- related idiosyncrasies. The third chapter, which is the most extensive, is divided into two major parts. The first one draws upon Giora’s (2003) Graded Salience Hy- pothesis in proposing the constructs of static and dynamic salience which are sub- sequently used in the analysis of the corpora, followed by the investigation of Opti- mal Innovation Hypothesis applied to selected advertisements. In the second part of the third chapter, Kecskes’s (2008) model is applied to the description of adver- tisements from Polish, British and Chinese newspapers and magazines. In particu- lar, the notion of context is decomposed into several distinct sub-categories, con- veniently summarising and explicating the contributions offered by each of them.

The visualisation of the context takes the form of the Stratified Model, whose lev- els perform specific roles in the model of the process of interpretation of advertis- ing messages, outlined in the final parts of the chapter. In connection with Giora’s concepts, the constructs of endo- and exo-links of varying degrees of salience are suggested as useful descriptive tools in the analysis of advertisements. Through- out the whole book many methodological comments are offered, pertaining to the consequences of applications of the models under consideration.

It is my hope that in spite of applying a relatively wide range of viewpoints and illustrating a multitude of aspects the book is not excessively eclectic in its approach and that the leading theme of critical methodological reflection is sufficiently ex- plicit throughout its contents. In elaborating on the elements of intercultural com- parison I do not make any claims to the exhaustiveness of the conclusions, which were formulated on the basis of comments of relatively small groups inspired by a relatively small selection of advertisements. Nevertheless, it is arguably not inci- dental that my observations seem to find strong support in a much more extensive (in terms of scope) publications, such as Bogdanowska-Jakubowska (2010). Final- ly, I hope that the methodological suggestions and analytic constructs introduced in this book will prove illuminating and useful for many scholars fascinated, like myself, by the discourse of advertising.


Academic reflections on the phenomenon of advertising

1.1. Introduction

Advertising is not an invention of modern times, it has constituted an import- ant ingredient of civilisation for hundreds and thousands of years. The theoretical accounts of the phenomenon enumerate scores of examples, tracing its roots back to rock-art paintings in the caves all around the world, papyrus sales messages and wall posters in ancient Egypt, commercial messages and political campaign dis- plays of the Roman Empire and ancient Arabia, ‘lost and found’ messages in an- cient Greece and Rome, craftsmen’s marks and symbols perpetuated on their prod- ucts and outdoor displays and billboards inviting guests to the inns along the trade trails of the Middle Ages. Even geographical names instantiate advertising practi- ces: Greenland, for instance, allegedly owes its name to a Viking explorer Eric the Red, who wanted to attract prospective settlers in his homeland, Norway, to emi- grate there by evoking ‘a picture of temperate climate, rolling meadows and lush farmland’ (Berkowitz, 2004, p. 1) as early as 981 A.D.

Notwithstanding its omnipresence in the history of mankind, advertising had not received any serious reflective interest from the great minds of many epochs until relatively recently. It was only when it became an important ingredient of com- mercial activity that scholars and practitioners became aware of the necessity of systematic investigation and description of the phenomenon. Initially, the reasons were quite pragmatic in nature: at the end of the 19th century, in order to intensify the persuasive effectiveness of advertisements, opinions related to their perception were collected from the general public by Harlow Gale of the University of Minne- sota (Honomichl, 1986, p. 173) . Soon afterwards, at the beginning of the 20th cen- tury, commercial marketing research developed into an important branch of econ- omy. Still many years were to pass, however, before linguists brought the language of advertising under closer scrutiny.


When we take into consideration the linguistic bias in the approach, it may be assumed that the first major publication, both in terms of scope and thoroughness of coverage, was Geoffrey Leech’s English in advertising. A linguistic study of adver- tising in Great Britain (1966). Subsequent changes and developments in the style and strategies of advertising, the available media, the linguistic and psychological theories used for description and the analytical tools applied to the research, yield- ed an impressive collection of publications on the subject, contributing to the al- most fifty-year-old tradition.

Given the complex and multifaceted nature of the phenomenon itself, the abun- dance and profusion of approaches applied in the analysis of the advertising dis- course comes as no surprise. It is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to present a comprehensive account of the literature on the subject, let alone identify the ma- jor trends and fashions in the methodologies applied in the studies. Any attempt at such systematisation and description is, therefore, deemed in some ways incomplete.

Consequently, neither the entire book nor this chapter in particular endeavours to represent the complete portrayal of the scientific reflection upon the language of advertising. Instead, it offers a selection of critical insights into certain aspects of linguistic studies of advertising, in an attempt to prepare the grounds for the de- velopment of analytical reflections in further chapters of the book and to point to certain promising but yet relatively unexplored possibilities for future investigation.

Specifically, the chapter will contain accounts of such issues related to the study of advertisements as the problem of the scope of analysis, the input-output dichot- omy and the elements of inductive and deductive approach in the study.

The problem related to the scope is best illustrated by Cook (1992), who argues that advertisements are always engaged in a complex interaction with the texts around them, music, images and the people who make and experience them. Con- sequently, any exhaustive analysis should take all these aspects into account. This however, is quite often both impracticable and unnecessary; many scholars prefer to sacrifice exhaustiveness of description for descriptive accuracy on a certain level.

As it often happens, scientific investigation is a matter of compromises and mak- ing choices between available options and analytical purposes.

The input-output dichotomy is related to the observable tendencies of scholars to focus either on the content of the advertising messages, or on the reactions and responses which they evoke in the recipients. Whenever both aspects are includ- ed, it seems that references to one of them are always subjected to the better expli- cation of the preferred bias. Section 1.3 will attempt to provide major characteris- tics of both approaches.

The choice between inductive and deductive approach in scientific study is not restrained to linguistics, it reappears every now and then on all pathways of sys- tematic investigation of the surrounding world. Cap (2003) observes that in linguis- tic investigation the selection of the relevant approach is often determined by the type of text under scrutiny. While this is undoubtedly the case, especially with cer- tain types of discourse which somehow naturally seem to lend themselves to only


one type of description, the review of relevant literature shows that in many cases the addition of the apparently less promising analytical alternative yields very in- teresting, albeit unexpected findings. This is also the conclusion drawn by the au- thor of the aforementioned book.

All the issues outlined above do not constitute self-contained problems, the dis- cussion of one of them will undoubtedly necessitate making references to the other, the choice of one option will often be shown to bear important consequences for the other aspects. However, their separate discussion in different sections grants satis- factory articulation of claims and suggestions which are fundamental and critical in the context of the major purpose of this book, which attempts to show the po- tential and perspectives offered by such synthetically extracted viewpoints. One of the side-effects of such an approach is the necessity of referring to the same studies on a number of occasions, whenever their analytic focus shows sufficient compat- ibility with the issues discussed in particular sections. It is better, however, to men- tion the same study a couple of times in connection with different issues than to discuss each one thoroughly only in one place, because the latter alternative would undoubtedly obscure the clarity of presentation.

Finally, a choice had to be made between a more detailed presentation of a small- er number of studies, with the inclusion of certain examples quoted by the auth- ors, and the more comprehensive overview of a biger number of investigations, entailing reduction of exemplification to a necessary minimum. In the light of the overall purpose of the whole book and this chapter in particular, the latter option seems to be more appropriate.

1.2. The scope of analysis

Advertising is a hybrid form of communication, almost always applying sever- al channels simultaneously. This is one of the reasons why any analysis of adver- tising messages faces a major dilemma at the very outset. Focusing exclusively on the language seems to be not only undesirable, but also impossible. Most import- antly, there are no clear-cut borders separating the linguistic from the non-linguis- tic; such phenomena as the prosodic features accompanying articulation, gestures and facial expressions, the graphic form of written texts, mental stereotypes, meta- phorical frameworks, the symbolic values associated with particular languages or even social status of participants would be included within the scope of linguistics by some scholars, while excluded by others. However, even if we apply the broad- est possible definition of linguistics, there will be aspects not covered by it, and yet definitely not negligible in the analysis of advertising discourse. On the other hand, any analysis focusing on too many variables runs the risk of departing from descrip- tive accuracy, as there would be no place for very thorough or exhaustive treatment of selected items. Therefore, decisions have to be made concerning which elements should be included, and which ones neglected in the analysis.


The dilemma has been quite successfully resolved by Guy Cook in his publica- tion Discourse of Advertising (1992). Cook claims that his approach is much broad- er than that of other researchers. The key word is ‘discourse’ in the title of the book.

It encompasses a number of elements which are unaccounted for in many publica- tions on advertising communication. ‘Contrary to the theory and practice of some schools of linguistics, which treat language as a neatly isolated object, discourse an- alysis views language and context holistically’ says Cook (1992, p. 1). Consequent- ly, beside the text the book enumerates such variables as substance, music, pic- tures, paralanguage, situation, co-text, intertext, participants and function (Cook, 1992, pp. 1–2). Applying an ever-increasing perspective, the author sets off with the analysis of the medium, illustrations and language, moving on to the discus- sion of textual features, finally focusing on the narrative voices and the function- al perspective. In spite of the risks related to such an approach, outlined above, the publication does not make an impression of being incomplete or lacking in accuracy. It constitutes, however, an infrequent departure from the more com- mon practices embodied in much greater degrees of selectivity in the design of the scope.

Before a more detailed discussion of the choices made by different authors is of- fered, one more problem related to the available descriptive apparatus has to be sig- nalled. While the basic and prototypical categories of language have found proper labels and formulation in the metalanguage, there are still many phenomena which escape attempts at neat categorisation. It is relatively easy to identify and describe the form and function of modal verbs in advertising slogans, the linguistic mani- festations of the ‘telegraphic’ character of advertising messages or the forms of ad- dressing the audience used in them. It becomes quite problematic, however, when we try to evaluate the contribution of the graphic illustrations, the influence of sound effects or even the significance of a given typeface of the text in relation to the linguistically encoded propositional meaning. We do not possess proper ter- minology, enabling precise and comprehensive categorisation in such situations.

It seems that there are three options to be considered in such a case: either to sur- render and exclude difficult items from the analysis, to borrow the necessary meta- language from a field more closely related to the tricky phenomenon, or to attempt to develop novel terminology and definitions, expanding and modifying the ones already functional in the linguistic description.

While the first of the options mentioned above would be discarded as wide off the mark by many scholars, the other two usually result in the shift towards more qualitative analyses, where individual examples are very well accounted for, but the impossibility of generalisations and parsimonious categorisation related to the non- linguistic variables renders quantitative conclusions quite unreliable. Instances of terminological problems related to the difficulty outlined above will occasionally surface in the following discussion.

All in all, it is quite natural that particular studies focus on certain selected as- pects of the advertising situation. In the sections to follow an attempt will be made


to characterise the major choices pertaining to the scope of analysis made by schol- ars in their approaches to the description of advertising language.

1.2.1. The medium

The majority of publications on the language of advertising implicitly focus on a particular advertising medium in order to achieve a higher degree of consistency and homogeneity. The most prominent books, frequently quoted in numerous con- figurations, testify to this tendency very evidently: Leech (1966) is devoted pre- dominantly to press advertising, which is also the major medium in Tanaka (1994), Vestergaard and Schrøder (1985) or Cook (1992). Forceville (1998) extends this to include also billboards, while Geis (1982) chooses television advertising. Wojtaszek (2002a) devoted his study to radio advertisements, and an increasing number of book-format publications concentrate on various forms of Internet advertising.

While the media mentioned above definitely do not exhaust all available options, they certainly belong to the most important ones, where the lion’s share of adver- tising budgets are located. No wonder that whole books focusing entirely on the analysis of the advertising language in the less prominent media, such as promo- tional leaflets or direct mail, are virtually non-existent.

The perspective of the advertising medium is present in almost all publications investigating the discourse of advertising, but only a few bring it to the foreground.

One of such exceptions is Phillips and McQuarrie’s study (2002) of magazine ad- vertising. In other works we often find characteristics of the language of advertising which follow directly from the medium employed by the advertisers, as each type of medium naturally entails certain choices related to the linguistic form. However, such limitations are typically either briefly summarised in introductory remarks or simply called upon in explanations for the tendencies observed by the research- ers. Thus, they constitute a certain background information for the major findings of the studies rather than the leading incentive for them. In other words, it is quite rare that the purpose of a given piece of research is the exhaustive description of genre characteristics of advertising language within a given medium. The excep- tions include usually studies of advertising in novel and modern environments, where the new medium imposes innovative restraints on the linguistic forms being employed and their collective description emerges as an intriguing and appealing task. It seems that, apart from the presentation of the findings related to the func- tion and form of language used in spam messages, this was one of the major ob- jectives of Barron’s (2006) study.

The reference to the advertising medium in titles of many publications consti- tutes a very convenient method of constraining the variability of the analysed input.

Thanks to this simple operation the researchers may focus on the material which is easier to handle and involves a smaller number of variables to be taken into con- sideration. In this way, the medium becomes a convenient background for other analytic purposes, as in Grzenia (1994) or Lewiński (1997). The opposite tendency


would be expected only in situations when one of the explicit aims of analysis is finding systematic and important differences between advertising messages pre- sented in different media, as in Kotliński and Sobocińska (2006) or Ożóg (1995).

Since an exhaustive comparison of advertising in different media is not the focal point of our considerations, only brief characteristics of the most important fea- tures in the most prominent media will be presented below.

The features of press advertising copy have been extensively analysed and de- scribed by Leech (1966), and many researchers have applied the terminology and divisions introduced in that book without many significant modifications. The style and language of press advertisements underwent a moderate evolution, but their basic structure remained more or less the same. The most significant changes in- volve an increased use of subtle tropes, such as puns and metaphors, which require significant processing effort on the part of the reader, and an attempt to involve the reader in the construction of the advertising message on the basis of multi-lay- er processing, rather than presenting the message in any straightforward manner (Phillips & McQuarrie, 2002), as well as giving more weight to the pictorial ele- ments at the cost of the verbal components (McQuarrie & Phillips, 2008). Leech’s original division of press advertisements into headline, illustration(s), body copy, signature line and standing details seems to offer a very convenient and function- al framework. The language forms used in particular parts possess a set of distinct characteristics. Thus, slogans, appearing in the headline or signature line part, are short and often elliptical, it is in this part where wordplay or linguistic innovations are found, while standing details contain contact details and disclaimers, usually in much smaller font size than the rest of the text. It is the body copy which is the least consistent and regular in its content, form and structure, this is the part of the advertisement where copywriters can exercise their creativity and inventiveness.

It also happens more and more often that the body copy in press advertisements is totally absent, especially with certain types of products, such as cigarettes or per- fumes. Leech (1966) suggests, and many researchers follow his proposal, that his original division of press advertisements can be quite conveniently applied also to commercials in other media, after certain necessary modifications.

Comparing press advertisements to outdoor displays, prototypically represented by billboards, one feature seems to be of utmost significance. Namely, billboard ad- vertisements are characterised by almost total reduction of the body copy. This is necessitated by the limitations related to the time of exposure of the advertisement to average viewer. Usually it is very short, so the message must be communicat- ed in the most economical manner possible. That is why in billboard advertising the pictorial elements communicate a large portion of the message, which is ac- companied by headlines and signature lines allowing for the identification of the product and the producer. If disclaimers are legally required, they are virtually in- visible. Thus, in outdoor advertising the requirement of brevity and economy of expressions exerts the biggest influence on the form and content of the linguistic message.


Television is undoubtedly one of the most important advertising media. TV commercials usually employ three parallel channels of information transmission:

the spoken language, the written language and the visual illustrations. The pro- portions in which these three elements are combined can vary, but it is very infre- quent that any of them is totally absent. While it would be extremely difficult to form generalisations concerting the proportion and character of the pictorial ele- ment, there are certain regularities governing the use of spoken and written form of language. The written form is typically reserved for presentation of the slogan, the product name and logo, the name of the producer or service provider, the contact details and the disclaimers. The TV counterpart of the press advertisement body copy is presented in the form of spoken language. Different elements of the writ- ten message also tend to show high regularity with respect to certain features, such as the length of presentation, the type and size of font used, the level of formality, etc. Thus, the product names and logos are usually centrally exposed for a longer period of time with the use of peculiar font types of a large size. Contrastively, the disclaimers are presented in a very small font, often quite inconspicuous because of a similar colour to the background, and presented for such a short time that hardly anyone is capable of reading all of them. Important pieces of information are often presented both in spoken and written form at the same time. It seems that more and more often the identification of the advertised product or the service provider is postponed to the final phases of a commercial spot, and the major focus is shift- ed towards a presentation of an intriguing and humorous story, sufficiently attract- ive to capture and hold the viewer’s attention for the length of the whole commer- cial. With certain product types (e.g. cars) the proportion of the visual illustration to the linguistic elements is significantly increased.

Radio advertisements were extensively analysed by Wojtaszek (2002a), with the focus on the application of pragmatic devices for persuasive purposes. The frame- work of analysis which was applied took advantage of Leech’s (1966) division of press advertisements into parts, suitably modified to match the requirements of the medium under analysis. Radio advertisements use the oral form of language only, but they have developed their own methods of hiding the unattractive pieces of in- formation, corresponding to the small print known from press or TV ads. Thus, if disclaimers must be presented, they are significantly faster than the rest of the mes- sage, often beyond the processing capabilities of the largely uninvolved audience.

Radio ads can take full advantage of prosodic features to modify and shape the lin- guistic content of the message, often taking up the form of short songs. Music and sound effects mirror the role of pictorial illustrations in other media. The price of broadcast time also reduces the size of the content and imposes some limitations on the forms of expression, but they are not as significant as in the case of billboard advertisements. Quite a large proportion of radio advertisements (significantly bigger for Polish ads in comparison with the British commercials, cf. Wojtaszek (2002a)) involve the division of the spot into the primary and secondary address part. The former usually is more clearly related to the advertised product, some-


times even identifying it for the first time, following the dramatised performance by secondary participants in the first part of the ad. The division of the type of ad- dress used in commercials into direct and indirect (or primary and secondary) is borrowed from Leech (1966). It has been expanded and more thoroughly discussed in Wojtaszek (2002a, pp. 24–28), where such notions as primary and secondary par- ticipants (or characters) are introduced, the former being the original senders of the message (producers, service providers, announcers directly speaking on their behalf), whereas the latter any fictional characters appearing in role-plays or celeb- rities endorsing the products, who act as mediators between the producer or ser- vice provider and the recipient. This kind of distinction will be used throughout the book wherever relevant discussion requires it.

It is the secondary address portion of the commercial which allows for the big- gest freedom of expression and is the advertiser’s territory where his inventive and creative talents can be fully demonstrated. No wonder that this part is almost un- constrained when it comes to the linguistic and non-linguistic forms which we come across. The primary address part is much more predictable and regular, fol- lowing a number of well-established patterns of message presentation, whose con- tent and structure is often predetermined by the advertised product or commodity.

The medium whose importance for the advertisers was first noticed some twenty years ago, but which became a really significant component of advertising cam- paigns only in the 21st century, is the Internet. The papers written on Internet ad- vertising focus primarily on such topics as ‘effectiveness of Internet advertising, interactivity, electronic commerce, advertising processes, attitude toward the site/

ad/brand, and comparison to traditional media’ (Kim & McMillan, 2008). The jour- nals which were taken into consideration by the above-mentioned study include titles with a clear marketing bias, so papers with a clearer linguistic focus were not counted, but certain issues with very distinct impact on the language were never- theless considered. Thus, the issue of interactivity seems to emerge as one of the important factors characterising this new emerging medium. Internet advertising is much closer than advertising in traditional media to direct marketing, where the contact with potential customers is to a significant degree personalised and in- dividualised. Thanks to such devices as cookies or semi-legal spying programmes information is gathered about particular users in order to direct to them adver- tisements finely-tuned to their preferences and lifestyles, partly disclosed by their Internet-surfing habits. A large portion of Internet commercials reaches us nowa- days in the form of spam messages, which in many cases are distributed to recipi- ents selected on the basis of the knowledge that relevant institutions have managed to collect about them. This kind of tendency, although stemming from the advan- tages offered by information technology, has many interesting consequences per- taining to the use of language. Some of them have been studied by scholars who focused their attention on electronic promotional mails, such as Barron (2006) or Cheung (2008; 2010). Apart from identifying the component parts and propos- ing the analytical framework for this type of persuasive genre, they also managed


to describe such frequently used tactics as capturing addressees’ attention by in- clusion in the subject line of items mimicking private correspondence (use of first names, suggestive imperatives) or pre-established contacts (FWD, RE:), devices increasing the chance of soliciting a response (promises of prizes and benefits), and incentives to act quickly (stressing the uniqueness or short-lived character of the offer).

The analysis of advertising in all media leads to the conclusion that it very quick- ly adapts to the changing circumstances and aptly takes advantage of all newly avail- able methods of information transmission. In the world satiated with advertisements one of the central issues is the necessity of attracting and maintaining the viewers’

and listeners’ attention. In their quest for being noticed advertisements often walk on thin ice, running the risk of infringing the recipients’ freedom of choice. This is especially true of the Internet commercials in form of banners and pop-up windows, which are often reported to be very irritating, as the advertisers deliberately apply constantly developing devices making their removal virtually impossible before the planned exposure time. More and more often clicking on the cross icon previous- ly switching off the commercial does not bring the desired result and we are forced to view the entire spot. Although Diao and Sundar (2004) argue that the benefits stemming from brand awareness raising satisfactorily outweigh the disadvantages caused by potential annoyance, reporting only one study which found the oppos- ite tendency (Best, 2004), it has to be remembered that the speed of technologic- al development renders their observations a bit outdated. It seems that on the one hand there exists much mutual understanding between the advertisers and the tar- get audience, but on the other hand we also witness a kind of war in which one of the sides bombards the other with more and more sophisticated advertising mis- siles, while the recipients attempt to protect themselves with more and more in- genious shields. Two such defensive mechanisms worth mentioning here are the development of anti-commercial software, blocking almost all forms of unsolicit- ed advertising messages, and the invention of digital television decoders supplied with hard discs, which allow TV viewers to record programmes and then skip the advertising breaks while watching.

1.2.2. Analysts’ favourites

There is a number of elements which almost invariably appear in many forms of advertising messages and are relatively easy to identify and isolate, therefore rank- ing high in the hierarchies of analysts’ choices. Their description and categorisa- tion does not constitute a high research risk and the findings and conclusions are rarely disputable. One might argue that such highly predictable results of scientific inquiry do not exhibit any significant interest value, but they definitely possess at least two important assets: they may constitute a very convenient departure point for more ambitious investigations, but at the same time provide a very informative input for reflections pertaining to the use of methodologies and theoretical frameworks.

(28) Code-mixing in advertising

Focusing first on the elements related to quite narrowly understood language use, let us start with the reflection upon the studies of borrowings in commercials.

Many works of larger and smaller size have been devoted to this issue. When it comes to the book format, we could mention Chłopicki and Świątek’s study of anglicisms in Polish advertisements (2000). The whole book is devoted to the diligent and ex- haustive analysis of various elements of the English language found in Polish com- mercials. The authors apply a normative and evaluative bias in the book, pointing to a multitude of problems caused by advertisers’ incompetent application of elements not properly understood or sufficiently reflected upon prior to the composition of the message. They partly absolve the copywriters of the responsibility by referring to the functional perspective of the use of English borrowings, as quite often they are not meant to be thoroughly understood, but merely recognised as symbols of certain claims or values. Two other books where the motif of items borrowed from other languages is also the most important constituent of the structure and argu- mentation are Kelly-Holmes (2004) and Martin (2006). Kelly-Holmes’s book is an impressive study of the functional and motivational issues related to multilingual- ism in the discourse of advertising in many countries of the world, while Martin’s interests are more ‘local’, focusing primarily on the complicated role the English language plays in French advertising. Related issues are also discussed in Tanaka’s (1994) account of advertising in Japan, where many English borrowings were found and granted author’s foremost attention. Hermerén (1999), on the other hand, fo- cused on the entire advertisements published worldwide in the English language, the lingua franca of contemporary commerce.

Many journal articles and book chapters address this issue as well: Baumgard- ner (2006; 2008), Bhatia (1992), Chen (2006), Cheshire and Moser (1994), P. Fried- rich (2002), Gerritsen (1995), Gerritsen et al. (2000), Gerritsen et al. (2007), Haar- mann (1984), Hsu (2008), Kelly-Holmes (2000), Martin (2002a; 2002b; 2007), Piller (2001), Schaller-Schwaner (2003), Sun (2007), Takahashi (1990), Ustinova and Bhatia (2005), Ustinova (2006), Wojtaszek (2004a) and Zabawa (2004; 2007;

2009a), to mention but a few. They all attempt to analyse the form and function of elements borrowed from other languages in commercials of various types, and they all invariably testify to the significant role which such elements perform in nation- al advertising. In many advertisements foreign language elements perform purely symbolic functions, aimed at evoking specific connotations related to the product quality, originality, exoticism, technological advancement or status. Thus, the Eng- lish language symbolically embodies civilisational development, internationalism, the United States or the world of business and commerce, French is related to cui- sine, refinement and perfumes, German represents excellence in design and qual- ity, and Swedish epitomises simplicity and sturdiness.

The papers mentioned above also show the intricate ways in which foreign (main- ly English) language elements are interestingly blended with the languages of lo-


cal communities to serve various persuasive, associative and innovative purposes.

This is especially true of Martin’s (2002a), (2002b), (2006), (2007) and (2008) stud- ies, where she demonstrates how the advertisers manage to circumvent the legal restrictions introduced by the Toubon Law or how they create new meanings and senses by ingenious code-mixing.

The act mentioned above is the most important piece of French legislation pro- tecting the French language from all foreign (especially English) influences and safeguarding comprehensibility and intelligibility of all texts for the French. Arti- cles 2 and 12 of this act stipulate that equally legible, audible and intelligible French translations must be provided for all foreign language material in print, radio and television advertising distributed in France (Martin, 2007, p. 173). The complete text of the Toubon law can be found in French, German, and English on the French Ministry of Culture’s website at

Without any intention to underestimate the value of the studies mentioned above, one comment has to be made related to a certain methodological problem, render- ing the comparison of the findings a little complicated. The problem is related to the definition of borrowing, or a foreign language item, which constitutes the ob- ject of investigation. Some authors chose not to explicitly define the phenomenon under investigation (Ustinova, 2006), some use a selected lexicographic point of ref- erence, e.g. a dictionary (Gerritsen, Korzilius, Van Meurs, & Gijsbers, 2000), some refer to other publications which discuss the nature of borrowings (Baumgardner, 2006), while others reallocate the issue of defining to the sphere of the law (Mar- tin, 2007). It is also possible to restrict the study to certain component parts of the advertisement, for example leaving out the signature line containing the company name, which leads to a drastic change in the percentage of the reported use of for- eign language elements (Chen, 2006). Moreover, the manifestations of the ‘foreign origin’ can take up different forms, residing in the pronunciation, the script which is used (the English Roman alphabet as opposed to the Cyrillic, Arabic, logograph- ic or other form), the lexical items or orthographic modifications applied.

It is unreasonable to expect that all publications will apply the same, unified per- spective in the definitions, given the variety of language systems under considera- tion. Consequently, the important thing is to pay a very close attention to this issue before any attempts at comparing the results are made. An extended discussion of this issue is to be found in Wojtaszek (2010d).

Recently, an important shift has taken place in the research from the focus on borrowings and loanwords to more extended analysis of multilingualism in adver- tising (Piller, 2003). Multilingual discourses are more and more frequently employed in advertisements to evoke associations with various cultural stereotypes and index the identities represented in the commercials. Thus, incorporation of various lan- guages into the advertising copy has produced another significant and increasing- ly important site for language contact.

(30) The wordplay in commercials

Another item attracting the attention of many researchers is the pun. The stud- ies usually concentrate on lexical ambiguity, but sometimes they encompass also other forms of language play. The discourse of advertising not only very frequent- ly exploits the existing forms of ambiguity, but often attempts to create novel ones, based on ingenious juxtapositions of meaning-carrying elements. The resulting ac- cumulation of iconic, indexical, symbolic and allusive references provides the in- vestigators with plethora of examples to be studied. Additionally, given the hybrid nature of many forms of advertising, such multidimensional meanings are often the result of unique interplay between the linguistic and the illustrative elements employed by the advertisers.

Practically speaking, any attempt to analyse the language of advertising is bound to involve some reference to ambiguities used in commercials, even if the major focus is on something apparently unrelated. Leigh (1994) maintains that 10 to 40 percent of advertisements contain some form of wordplay, depending on how narrowly we define the notion, while Djafarova (2008, p. 267) adds that ‘puns are characteristically exploited by advertisers, which makes it an interesting subject for (…) research’. Also McQuarrie and Mick (1992, p. 180) contribute to this opinion: ‘puns surprise and en- tertain, expressing multiple meanings with a single word or phrase (Redfern, 1982).

These qualities may explain why puns and wordplay regularly appear in advertise- ments (Grinnell, 1987), including many award winners (Beltramini & Blasko, 1986)’.

Wordplay in advertising is not a new phenomenon, it has a long and well-estab- lished tradition. No wonder that it has been attracting the attention of many scholars for decades: Leigh (1994), Kirshner (1970), Quirk (1951), Redfern (1982), Sheldon (1956), or Tanaka (1992). Phillips and McQuarrie (2002) even point to a gradual in- crease of tropes, including puns, in magazine advertisements over the years, which additionally provides a good reason for studying them. It is especially true of the use of puns in English advertising. Kirshner (1970) maintains that he found twice as many puns in English and American ads as in French, so in some languages or cultures they seem to be more popular than in others (Tanaka, 1992). It seems that the English language lends itself to punning quite easily, due to lack of inflection and the existence of significant number of homonyms, homophones, homographs and polysemous items (Vestergaard & Schrøder, 1985). Whether the tendency noted by Kirshner and by Tanaka holds in comparisons between English and other lan- guages, and in particular between English and French nowadays, requires more sys- tematic investigation. The task might prove quite difficult, however, given the dir- ections in the development of advertising strategies, relying more and more on the application of internationalisms and borrowings, a shift towards the pictorial level of representation (Phillips & McQuarrie, 2002) and new types of code-mixed pun- ning (Martin, 2006; 2007). Modern developments place a burden of open-mind- edness and care in defining what constitutes wordplay on the researchers, before they go on to offer any comparisons.


Notwithstanding the dispute whether puns in advertisements in some languages are more frequent than in others, one has no choice but to concur with the observa- tion that they represent one of the key elements of the advertising discourse. From a prescriptive perspective, there were voices raised against the feasibility of using wordplay in ads (e.g. Hopkins (1927), Rossiter and Percy (1987)), but is seems that they came predominantly from the advocates of the hard-sell strategies, which are well-grounded in certain contexts and with specific groups of products (Petty &

Cacioppo, 1985). It seems that nowadays the range of such contexts and product- groups is in decline, and that in societies exposed to a long tradition of omnipres- ence of commercial messages the traditionally understood persuasion is no longer the central function of advertisements (Crook, 2004; Sutherland & Sylvester, 2000;

Świątek, 2006). Such circumstances are only conducive to the extensive use of vari- ous forms of punning in advertising messages.

There are so many benefits inherent in the use of wordplay in advertisements that the advertisers have no choice but to employ the strategy as frequently as they can. Puns are often the carriers of humour, they offer the opportunity of con- structing riddles to be solved by the recipients, they contribute to the economy of expression, ensure the proper level of diversification and uniqueness, they attract viewers’ attention, allow to circumvent certain legal restrictions and to avoid re- sponsibility for unsubstantiated claims, they help to escape accusations of decep- tion and manipulation, and they are very powerful in establishing desirable men- tal associations. Almost all of the advantages mentioned above are undisputable, while others found confirmation in relevant research. Many studies, for example, confirmed that a certain amount of mental effort on the part of the audience, re- quired to solve a riddle or a puzzle encoded by ambiguous items, positively influ- ences commercials’ appreciation and enhances recall of the communicated mes- sage (Djafarova, 2008; Dyer, 1988; Lagerwerf, 2002; van Mulken, van Enschot-van Dijk, & Hoeken, 2005).

The traditional views on communication, attributing only one possible illocu- tionary force to a single speech act, or only one (more or less direct) interpretation to a conversational contribution, or a unique relevance to an act of ostensive com- munication, fail to account for the tendency, discernible in advertising messages more often than in other uses of language, to make communicatively relevant more than one meaning or intention at a time. The recipients of the message often should not reject one of the interpretations, integrating mentally only the more relevant one, because in spite of the fact that one of them might be in fact more clearly re- lated to the advertiser’s intentions, the other, less obvious meaning, is also instru- mental in the construction of the global effects, and should be maintained along- side the more relevant one. A recent Polish advertising campaign can serve here as a perfect example.

This carefully planned provocative campaign started on the radio, where the lis- teners were surprised to hear:


Dlaczego zostałem zatanistą? Ponieważ nie miałem wyboru. [Why have I become a Zatanist? Because I had no choice.]

Since there is no such word in the Polish language as zatanista, everyone reported hearing satanista [Satanist], as the initial voiced fricative in the word was interpreted as its voiceless counterpart, which was the only option allowing to make some sense of the message. This was additionally reinforced by a partial neutralisation of the voiced/voiceless opposition in the phonetic context under consideration. Obvious- ly, such an interpretation must have produced a rather shocking effect, arousing interest and curiosity at the same time. Many listeners followed up and decided to check the website, typing in their browser address window. Since the advertiser was expecting just that, such an action caused being redirected to the, this time with a [z] in front. That was the moment when the trick and the riddle became partly transparent, because the next screen displayed a warning note:

Uwaga! Strona zawiera treści zatanistyczne. Wchodzisz na własne ryzyko.

Wchodzę / Dziękuję, nie tym razem

[Warning! Zatanist content on the website. You enter at your own risk.

Enter / Thanks, not this time]

Upon seeing the written version of the word, the users realised that it had noth- ing to do with Satanism, and many knew already that it involved a wordplay built upon the phrase ‘za tanio’ [cheap/too cheap], which was confirmed when the Enter button was pressed. It turned out that the advertised service was yet another price- comparing device, in addition to the ones already well-established on the market.

Thus, zatanista was supposed to be reinterpreted as a new word, derived from za tanio [too cheap] phrase, by addition of the noun-formative suffix -ista. Such a re- interpretation, however, did not cause the rejection or suppression of the initial de- coding, because words like satanista are very salient, foremost on our mind (Giora, 2003), and remain activated even when they do not have anything to do with the other interpretation. Their relevance is in such situations attributed to the strat- egy of wordplay applied by the advertiser and to his belief and conviction that it will contribute to high appreciation of the strategy by the addressees, turning into positive attitude towards the advertiser and the advertised service. The topic of this controversial campaign, frequently recurring in conversations, provided empiric- al support and substantiation for such hopes.

Indeed, in ads it often happens that both meanings (or more) of a pun are valid, none has to be discarded following the initial priming, both have a role in the con- struction of meanings. In a study contrasting advertisements with slogans allowing for two possible and valid interpretations with those where only one is clearly rele- vant van Mulken, van Enschot-van Dijk and Hoeken (2005) have shown that the former enjoy higher appreciation from the recipients than the latter. It testifies to the fact that such advertisements are not only quite frequent, but that the strategy employed in them also meets the advertisers’ hopes endowed in it.


Finally, it has to be emphasised that in the context of the language of advertis- ing, where not the propositions made but the associations evoked seem to be of ut- most importance, puns and wordplay are usefully instrumental. It has been point- ed out by many researchers (Cook, 1992; Dyer, 1988; Forceville, 1998; Leech, 1966;

Vestergaard & Schrøder, 1985) that commercials relatively rarely employ indicative sentences having full characteristics of propositions. Instead, questions and com- mands are often used, in addition to language forms which are elliptical and non- sentential in form. There are many reasons behind such formal characteristics, in- cluding factors such as the necessity of abbreviating caused by the medium, the need to circumvent the legal restrictions, the requirement of novelty and attract- iveness or avoidance of responsibility for deceptive practices, to mention just the most important ones. The advantages offered by wordplay answer most of such needs, providing solutions in the form of economical, witty and meaning-packed constructions. The application of gender stereotyping in advertisements Another theme quite popular among many researchers is the attribution of gender roles in advertisements and exploitation of stereotyping as a persuasive strategy.

A large number of studies address this issue, concentrating typically on a selected advertising medium. Most of them are also biased towards macro-textual analysis, employing units of description extending beyond the sentence level, often includ- ing extra-linguistic elements as major variables. Indeed, it is difficult to find studies of this type concentrating solely on purely linguistic manifestations of stereotyping in commercials. This is justified by the fact that advertisements typically involve in- formation transmission via multiple channels, and gender stereotyping is a multi- dimensional cultural issue, encompassing an intricate network of phenomena, of which language is only one.

There are two major works which can be treated as important cornerstones of the research on gender stereotyping in advertisements, in the sense that almost all subsequent studies either explicitly refer to them or employ the format of descrip- tion proposed in them. It is not to say that the theme was not investigated prior to these two publications; the earlier work was simply not so influential and promin- ent in its impact. The first of them is the study of McArthur and Resko (1975) which focused on the portrayal of male and female characters in American TV commer- cials. The authors proposed in it a coding scheme used later by many researchers, performing a content analysis of the sample which was marked for such items as credibility, role, argument, type of reward, type of product, narrator, accent and loca- tion. For example, in all the advertisements analysed the central figures were coded for credibility into three categories: as product users, experts on the products or other. Coding based on similar principles was applied within the remaining sev- en categories, and all that was correlated with the sex of the characters depicted in the advertisements. As we can see, there is little room in such coding procedure for considerations related to the linguistic expression of stereotyping. Instead, the study




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