Masaryk University Faculty of Arts Department of English and American Studies

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Masaryk University

Faculty of Arts
Department of English
and American Studies

English Language and Literature

Bc. Petra Běhounková

Major shifts in shaping Coca-Cola print advertisements
Master’s Diploma Thesis

Supervisor: prof. PhDr. Ludmila Urbanová, CSc.


I declare that I have worked on this thesis independently,
using only the primary and secondary sources listed in the bibliography.


Author’s signature


I would like to thank my supervisor prof. PhDr. Ludmila Urbanová, CSc. who supported me throughout the writing process and provided me with valuable sources. I am especially grateful for her pieces of advice which helped me to improve my work.

Table of Contents

1 Introduction 1

2 Corpus Description 7

3 Coca-Cola Advertising History 9

4 Classification and Characteristics of Advertising 13

4.1 Classification of Advertising 13

4.1.1 Target Audience 14

4.1.2 Geographic area 19

4.1.3 Medium 25

4.1.4 Purpose 32

4.2 Objectives of Advertising 36

4.2.1 Attention 37

4.2.2 Interest 38

4.2.3 Desire 40

4.2.4 Action 42

4.3 Advertising as communication process 44

4.3.1 Participants 44

4.3.2 Message 47

4.3.3 Medium 50

4.3.4 Context 51

5 Standard Components of Advertisements 52

5.1 Headline 53

5.2 Subheads 59

5.3 Body copy 60

5.4 Signature line 62

5.5 Standing details 65

6 Visuals in Coca-Cola Advertisements 65

6.1 Visuals as attention catching device 66

6.2 Visuals as form of communication 72

6.2.1 Advertisements with verbal elements only 75

6.2.2 Advertisements with both visual and verbal elements 76

6.2.3 Advertisements with prominent visual elements 82

7 Language in Coca-Cola Advertisements 88

7.1 Coca-Cola as a thirst quencher 90

7.2 Coca-Cola as a remedy 92

7.3 Coca-Cola as refreshment 95

7.3.1 Building positive brand image 96

7.3.2 Deixis 97

7.3.3 Imperatives 99

7.3.4 Elements of spoken language 100

7.4 Coca-Cola as a social drink 102

7.4.1 Coca-Cola as a token of friendliness 103

7.4.2 Coca-Cola as a token of hospitality 104

7.5 Coca-Cola as a lifestyle 105

8 Conclusion 110

9 Bibliography 118

Summary 1

Resumé 3

Glossary of terms 4

  1. Introduction

We live in a consumer society. We buy goods and services not only because we need them but because we seek pleasure and satisfaction which we expect to find in material things. These material things also reflect who we are. According to Belk and Pollay (1985), we “link a sense of self to what we have or what we do” and thus, “since self concept is abstract, having and doing provide tangible evidences of who we are” (section Having, Doing, and Being, para. 2). Besides consumerism and materialism, another characteristic feature of our period is commodification which Fairclough (1992) defined as “the process whereby social domains and institutions, whose concern is not producing commodities in the narrower economic sense of goods for sale, come nevertheless to be organized and conceptualized in terms of commodity production, distribution and consumption” (p. 207). Therefore, even knowledge and experience are treated as commodities and offered to consumers.

We as consumers spend our life desiring things which promise us the pleasure and satisfaction we seek. In case we acquire the object of our desire, there are always many more things to substitute it. Thus, we are never really satisfied. In case we cannot acquire it, we envy those who can. Having things promises us enjoyment, admiration, status, self-realization and much more. And that is what we want. We want to be happy in our stereotyped lives, we want to be admired by the people around us and we want to be modern. Our materialistic world guarantees us that we easily can be – we only need to buy. Nevertheless, the satisfaction from the purchase usually does not last. Frequently, we find our expectations to be higher than the product can actually fulfil, the product gets quickly outdated or we get simply bored with it. In each case we are soon longing again for something new. And what is new is exciting! Producers know that and they offer us wide range of things. Thus, they react to the values that are held in the society. On the other hand, they also want us to buy as much as we can so that they would profit from our purchase. Thus, they promote and reinforce those values as well. They need to motivate us to buy their product and to do that they need to communicate with us, to persuade us, why it is their product which we have to have. That form of communication is known as advertising. Advertising is primarily a business. In order to be successful, it has to be noticed – it has to engage us (i.e. consumers) in the communication. Therefore, it is in public places like billboards on houses or posters in underground but it is also in our homes on television, on radio or in newspapers and magazines. It is in our mail. It is all over the Internet. It is simply everywhere where we look or go. It is undisputedly part of our everyday life. Pollay (1985) commented on the omnipresence of advertising and its effects on culture:

The pervasive and persuasive nature of advertising makes most social scientists quite concerned, especially when they consider the diminishing socialization roles played by other social institutions in affluent societies, institutions like organized religion, education, law and the courts, extended families, traditional cultures and philosophies, etc. While advertising is in the ascendancy, these others seem to fade in importance as influences on the new generations of youth and hence the emergent Culture in many societies. Advertising may be one of the most potent factors eroding traditional cultural character and leading to a transnational consumer culture. (section Introduction, para. 3)

Thus, advertising is a potent force and as is discussed above it does not only reflect our culture and society but it also shapes it. As Foucault (as cited in Fairclough, 1985) pointed out, advertising discourse is as any other discourse constitutive – it contributes to “the production, transformation and reproduction of the object of social life” (p. 41). Therefore, advertising discourse is worth studying and analysing for the great influence it has on us. We need to understand it in order to understand our selves. If we find an advertisement appealing or disturbing says a lot about us and our values. Thus, as Bovée and Arens (1992) pointed out, besides being a business, advertising is also a social phenomenon (p. 2).

Advertising can be helpful. It can advice and inform. As Vysekalová et al. (2007) pointed out, it teaches us how to orient in the world of consumption; it presents new products and new was of using them (p. 101). Thus, advertising can serve well to us if we understand its manipulative nature and learn how to read it (Vysekalová et al., 2007, p. 8).

Advertising is also creative, innovative and inspirational. It is an area which develops along with modern technologies. It constantly invents new and new techniques how to approach customers, how to catch their attention and how to persuade them to buy. As Bovée and Arens (1992) said, “advertising is a unique combination of art and science – talented, creative people with specialized knowledge in the communicating art (writing and printing, drama and theatrical production, graphic design, photography, and so on) breathe life into the art of advertising” (p. 128-9). Naturally, advertisers want their advertisements to be seen, to be read and to be reacted to and so they do everything to accomplish that even by breaking the traditional expectations. Some people feel bothered by it or some say they do not pay any attention to it but advertising still works and that is why companies invest so much money into it.

The present thesis aims to analyse the development of advertising discourse, i.e. how advertisements have been used to communicate with consumers. Its goal is to indicate the major shifts in advertising techniques. The analysis is limited to the commercial consumer advertising and is performed on Coca-Cola print advertisements for Coca-Cola advertising with its long history and success offers a valuable insight into the development of advertising techniques in the last century. For the purposes of the analysis is compiled a corpus of 100 Coca-Cola advertisements (see Appendix 10: List of advertisements). How the corpus is compiled and what it contains is described in chapter 2.

Chapter 3 briefly describes the history Coca-Cola advertising. It presents The Coca-Cola Company and provides information about its values and vision.

Chapter 4 deals with the general classification and characteristics of advertising. It discusses various types of advertising and its objectives. Also, it describes advertising as a communication process.

Chapter 5 covers standard components of print advertisements, i.e. headlines, subheads, body copies, signature lines and standing details. As headlines, subheads and body copies are important for the analysis, particular attention is paid to them.

The theory covered by these chapters is demonstrated on the corpus of compiled Coca-Cola advertisements.

The last two chapters focus on the analysis itself. There are two main areas of interest and two proposed hypotheses. Chapter 6 is devoted to the role of visual elements (visuals) in advertisements. It discusses which functions visuals have and in what relationship they are to verbal elements employed. The compiled corpus is analysed as to the proportion of visual to verbal elements in the advertisements. The proposed hypothesis 1 tests the prevalence of visual elements in modern advertising at the expense of verbal elements. Further, it is analysed how the use of visuals in the advertisements influences the communication of the advertising message and the verbal means employed.

Chapter 7 is devoted to the analysis of verbal elements in the advertising copy. The proposed hypothesis 2 tests the major shifts in target audience in Coca-Cola advertising history. Further, it is analysed how the language means employed in advertisements have changed with these shifts.

To summarise, the purpose of this paper is to perform a qualitative analysis of the compiled advertisements, identify their salient features and describe how these influence the language means employed.

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