There’s so much fodder just looking at stereotypes and unconscious bias in US advertising, that there’s not much time to take a look at ads in other countries, but this ad (thanks to Larry Kolb in Rgober Ebert’s Journal) is a fun peek into advertising appearances by Hollywood stars in Japan.
Having been asked at a park in Japan to pose with babies for pictures simply because I was white (in what seemed like the cultural equivalent of “can I touch your hair?”), I imagine that somewhere along the line these kind of images perpetuate stereotypes of Americans. It seems impossible with so much readily available media images, but it was not too long ago that US Americans still had a cowboy image. (For Chicago, we still get “Al Capone” and “Ted Bundy.”)
I remember a high school exchange trip to Paris in the early 80’s. We were speaking to a group of students, who believed that the US was the land of plenty, and that anyone and everyone could get and had a job. To prove a point, they asked all of the teenagers in our group if we worked. Indeed we all did. To them that seemed to infuse a little anger that we had things so much better off.
Knowing that wasn’t true, I couldn’t find a counter argument at the time. It was only later that I realized that all of the US students visiting had jobs…because only the high schoolers with jobs could afford to go on the three week exchange program.
The takeaway for intercultural communications? 1.) The US is not the only one who fabricates images of culture via popular media, and 2.) Popular/social media requires a more global thinking about decisions–there’s really no such thing as targeted marketing anymore, when any message can be seen anywhere, by anyone.
That’s a lesson that Conan O’Brien learned the hard way.