The Good Life – Buy 1 Get 1 Free
Messages of Outdoor Advertising for Social Change in Urban India
Due to the pervasiveness of media in all aspects of life, a commonly discussed topic among media scholars, development planners and conscientious citizens is the possible harmful impact of media upon society e.g. sexism. At the same time media messages are considered to be a social sub-structure that represents an intrinsic variable in the process of social change. This is illustrated by numerous examples where media is believed to be useful as an educational tool. Different forms of media are continuously being used to influence attitudes and activities as well as to sway peoples’ purchasing behaviour. A common example of this includes attempts to improve public health besides the multitude of product and service sales. In addition, media is said to be important in democratic governance as it functions as a watchdog of governmental operations and seen everywhere in the form of entertainment. I therefore suggest that media holds the potential to encourage change towards equality, tolerance and social responsibility and hence see possibilities of positive effects of messages.
Consumerist advertising strategies are of special interest. Advertising is believed to have the ability to influence purchasing behaviour and encourage people to buy or use one specific brand or service. Some regard advertising communications as entirely profit driven and not intended as educational messages. However, the messages contained are biased communication that indicate a point of view, a proposed ideology or reflect a public discourse and can in this way be viewed as messages that might challenge existing social structures and prove to propagate social change.
Urban India as a relatively new neo-liberal market is especially interesting due to its blend and vastness of socio-economic classes, castes, religion and trans- and multicultural existences. The increasing consumerist trends among financially-able groups in urban India are accompanied by a milieu with increased advertising and mediated forms of communications.
The characteristics of the public sphere enriches the discussion. Here, the audience is controlled to a lesser extent and open to all socio-economic classes, castes, religious and educational backgrounds, and also varies in all levels of gender, age and ethnic affiliation. Public space hence functions as a space of transcultural communication, a space where cultures meet, and outdoor advertising as a medium that transgresses cultures within urban Indian cultures. I therefore will discuss existing examples of media communications between consumerism and social change in the realm of the multifaceted nature of outdoor advertising in urban India. Included are billboards and posters mainly collected by myself during the fall 2008 that will be presented and analysed in their message conveyed and images depicted.
Gender relations continuously seem to be the foundation of control and politics and as a result the construction of feminine identities is a way to enforce control over women’s lives. As such, characteristics of women and the expected attitude and behaviour have evolved into a “socio-symbolic site”, exemplified in the discourse of women representation in media and advertising. As a result, media messages that seemingly challenge the existing gender construction and femininity are at the centre of this investigation.