Investigating the lack of social context in car television advertising

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Citation:
Road and Transport Research, 2014, 23 (1), pp. 44 - 50
Issue Date:
2014-01-01
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The paper reports a hitherto-unreported innovative analysis of 97 television commercials for cars appearing in Australia in 2002-2003 to demonstrate a method that could be used to monitor the degree to which car advertising responds to the social environment. Car advertising has previously been analysed according to the qualities of the car and not the social environment in which the vehicle is depicted. Advertising is one of the shaping influences in the social environment that impact on perceptions of the driving context. Representations of speed and power in car advertising have been considered a negative influence on driving behaviour, though the absence of social context has not been examined. This paper provides a systematic analysis of the social environment in which car ads targeting young drivers is situated. The majority of ads studied depicted a single vehicle (64%) with a male driver (42%) and no passengers (64%). The driver is depicted in a demonstration of manoeuvring skills; no other skills involved in negotiating traffic are evident. A decade later, although there appear to be more advertisements with a woman driver, advertisements with a male driver with the open road to himself nevertheless seem to persist. The impression that car advertising continues to lack social context - such as pedestrians, passengers and other drivers - is concerning. The absence of everyday social factors in car advertising, including the dependencies and demands of normal life, traffic, social cooperation and responsibility, thus needs further investigation.
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