Contemporary Indian Television Commercials: An Exposition or Creation of Values?

Contemporary Indian Television Commercials: An Exposition or Creation of Values?

Aishwarya Narayan (Symbiosis School of Economics, Symbiosis International (Deemed University), India) and Sushma Nayak (Symbiosis School of Economics, Symbiosis International (Deemed University), India)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-5778-4.ch004

Abstract

The famous ‘cultivation' theory proposed by Professor George Gerbner suggests that people are influenced by jingles and catchlines, and a good deal of their conceptions of social reality depends on their exposure to television. The impact of incessant exposure to similar messages engenders cultivation, or the consolidation of a persistent conception, conventional roles and pooled standards, often involuntarily. The present study intends to explore cultivation theory by considering Indian commercials aired on television since 2001 till date and by critically examining and exploring marketing strategies employed by companies from the standpoint of gender-based portrayals and their consequent impact. The conclusion is that assigning particular traits to genders only restricts individuals from choosing who they want to be. It creates boxed expectations, and judges those who step outside them. Gender roles are nothing but an unrealistic expectation, which limits people from being their true selves, an aspect that needs realization by marketers.
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Introduction

A popular adage says: What we see precedes our act, what we hear precedes our words. This suggests how all that we see or hear impacts the way we act and respond. Furthermore, this is regularly exploited by advertisers to induce a group of people (viewers, pursuers or audience) to buy or act upon items, opinions or services. The aforementioned adage stands in conformity with the well-known ‘cultivation’ theory, which maintains that people are influenced by jingles and catchlines, and a good deal of their conceptions of social reality depends on their exposure to television (Gerbner, Gross, Morgan & Signorielli, 1986). The influence of television upon an individual’s life begins from the formative years through predispositions and predilections that otherwise could have been acquired from other primary sources. A majority of the programs aired on television are guided by commercial necessity and are intended to be viewed by almost everyone in a reasonably compelling fashion. The cyclical and recurring pattern of television's bulk-produced messages and imagery constitutes the mainstream of a widespread symbolic environment. The impact of such incessant exposure to similar messages engenders cultivation, or edification of a persistent conception, conventional roles and pooled standards, often involuntarily.

One of the most recognizable deductions from media and cultivation studies is that amplified television viewing results in stereotypical views, principally of gender (Scharrer & Blackburn, 2017; Sink & Mastro, 2016; Neto, 2016; Kay & Furnham, 2013; Lauzen, Dozier & Horan, 2008; Valls-Fernández & Martínez-Vicente, 2007; Kim & Lowry, 2005; Coltrane & Adams, 1997; Signorielli, McLeod & Healy, 1994; Craig, 1992; Furnham & Voli, 1989; Gerbner, Gross, Morgan, & Signorielli, 1986). Earlier studies have further inferred that television advertising which stereotypes women in particular, but men as well, can shape instinctive and indiscreet attitudes towards women and their abilities in society. Goffman (1974) sets forth the idea that individuals draw sense of the world using cognitive filters, or frames, and that infomercial depictions factually build widely held interpretations. The main question, however, is whether advertising really affects our lives to the extent of reinforcing stereotypes and whether it is a mirror or a mould for society (Grau & Zotos, 2016).

According to the cultivation theory, television neither merely ‘engenders’ nor ‘portrays’ imagery, views and dogmas. On the contrary, it is a fundamental attribute of a dynamic process. Institutional requirements and objectives have some bearing on the fabrication and dissemination of mass-produced messages that construct, accommodate, exploit and nourish the needs, ideals and attitudes of the general public. Symbols, signs, and frames are intentionally used by marketers to position their products and to communicate definite realities (Baran, Mok, Land & Kang, 1989). The public, in turn, obtains definite and distinct identities partially through exposure to the ongoing flow of messages.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Symbolic Interactionism: Understanding gender development among other things through communication. As a case in point, when young girls are told to “dress like a woman” or boys are told “men don’t cry,” they learn gender disparities through communication or active interaction.

Social Learning Theory: A theory which suggests that individuals gain from each other, by means of perception, impersonation, and demonstration.

Cultivation Theory: A theory which states that heavy viewers of TV are more vulnerable to media messages and are prone to believe that they are genuine and indisputable.

Cognitive Gender Learning: Children develop gender understanding at their own levels by looking for role models to emulate gender identities, as they grow older.

Gender Dynamics: Connections and communications between boys, girls, men and women; contingent upon how they are revealed, gender dynamics can strengthen or contest existing norms.

Gender Stereotypes: Assumptions whereby men and women are subjectively relegated attributes and roles decided and constrained by their gender orientation.

Gender Roles: The part or conduct learned by a person as suitable to their gender, dictated by the predominant social standards.

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