A comparison of Korean and American advertising appeals based on cultural differences




Koo, Ja-Ik, 1961-

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Advertising, as a form of a marketing communication, is closely tied to cultural norms, and is particularly reflective of culture. More specifically, advertising provides a more subtle and often more revealing way of manifesting the cultural values of the society in which it circulates as compared to other aspects of marketing functions (Unwin, 1974). The concept of culture is particularly important in advertising because cultural values such as social norms, customs, and sanctions tend to be reproduced in idealized form through advertising so that the audience will identify closely with the subject of the advertisement (Hong et al., 1987). This study extended an earlier work conducted by Barbara Mueller (1987) on traditional and modem appeals in magazine advertisements. Cultural values, norms, and characteristics are embedded in advertising appeals, which are used to differing degrees in various cultures. It is these advertising appeals which are the focus of this analysis. Because of better and faster communication, the world's population is becoming more homogeneous (Levitt, 1983), and western cultures are being incorporated into Eastern cultures. Korean advertising has adapted much of American advertising in message style, format, and appeals. However, clear differences may exist between Korean and American advertising appeals due to remaining cultural differences. While American ads may use more individual, hard sell, and product merit appeals, Korean ads may use emotional, status, and group consensus appeals. American ads try to persuade consumers by directly presenting information, facts and evidence related to product merits and purchase motivations, while Korean advertising appeals resort to image building, emotional elicitation, and status symbols. Therefore, a content analysis scheme was used to determine the existence or absence of such appeals in Korean and American advertisements so that an assessment could be made on the degree to which such advertisements exhibit cultural values, norms, and characteristics. The purpose of this thesis is to examine the role of culture in advertising content. Is culture reflected within advertisements, thus requiring advertisers, if they wish to be successful, to adapt or specialize their messages for foreign audiences? Or are commercial messages for specific product categories basically similar among various countries, thereby allowing advertisers to employ standardized advertisements in marketing to consumers worldwide? This sort of cross-cultural study is particularly important because cultural differences often function as boundaries in international advertising (Cole and Bruner, 1971). Specifically, the purpose of this study is to investigate whether different cultures affect advertising expressions in terms of traditional and modernized appeals