Media discourse in English - advertising- genre
Unstable relationships in advertising: A changing text
The article is analysis of ten letters addressed to a customer. In these letters an international magazine attempts to convince the customer to renew his yearly subscription.
The discourse of advertising
The discourse of advertising is a socio-cultural reflection of the society in which occurs.
From the critical perspective the adverts are messages that exert some degree of power in our lives.
Because the adverts are so changing we can observe that there are unstable relations between the people who produce them and the receivers.
The nature of advertisements
Can all the adverts be considered a genre? Are they sharing a sufficient number of elements of structure to make them a homogeneous class?
The organisational properties of genres
Generic Structure Potential – series of obligatory elements, a series of optional elements, and the order in which they appear. Two texts belong to the same genre if they share the same GSP.
Adverts have too many changes – changes in the field of discourse, the mode of discourse and the tenor of discourse (relationships between participants).
The use of language associated with a particular social practice
For specifying the structural features of adverts we need a definition of a participants and relations between them.
The “Direct mailing marketing campaign”
That is a sub-genre of adverts.
That is very elaborate, based on a sociological survey of the features of the subscriber prototype.
This is a set of letters in which some company attempts to convince the customer to do something
(in case of this article – to renew a subscription for magazine).
The textual organisation of the campaign is equally elaborate, consisting of a series of letters.
These letters are clear example of “parasite discourse”. Discourse imitates business letters.
The reader respects the identity of magazine and interprets the letters as a possible business letter.
Each letter is different from the others. This way a special sense of interaction between the reader and magazine is created.
Through the use of conventions and linguistic elements belonging to the generic structure of business letters, the magazine (or other company) creates roles, identities, and power relations between itself and the customer.
The situation: Participants in the advert. Roles and voices
The advertising situation becomes more complex due to the presence of role borrowing, or parasite discourse. The letters take the aspects of business letters. Through these letters, identities are drawn.
The magazine is represented as the best magazine and the subscriber as a member of a special group of people with special power. The magazine uses this re-interpretation of the reader’s identity as a coercive strategy to convince the reader to renew his subscription. The tactics of magazine become more aggressive, and if reader do not answer or accept to renew the subscription he will appear as an ex-member of the exclusive group.
Three different entities
1.Animator – the sounding box in use, the talking machine, an individual active in the role of utterance production.
2.Author – someone who has selected the sentiments that are being expressed and the words in which they are encoded
3.Principal – someone whose position is established by the words that are spoken.
In case analysed in article:
1.A character, the Director of Circulation in Europe, who signs the letters, who would correspond to the Animator.
2.The organisation that produces the text, which could be a creative team different from the magazine itself. This would correspond to the author.
3.The magazine which is the organisation who commissions and pays for the campaign. This corresponds to the principal.
The animator is a representative of the magazine, uses two types of pronouns “I” and “we”. By using the two pronouns, these letters create two roles. The role of magazine and more personal role of adviser who insists on the customer’s subscription renewal, even in rather aggressive way.
1.recipient, or whom a message is for
2.addressee, that participant with the right to reply
In case analysed in article:
1.the recipient, as the social prototype of the marketing campaign, a target identity
2.addressee, Mr.C, i.e. the real person to whom letters are sent
This duality is used by the magazine to negotiate the reader’s identity.
Initially, the reader is one of the exclusive group of persons who are subscribed to the magazine (he receives the standard letters).
By the time this situation is changing and receiver is about loose his identity of being one of the elite. His situation is unstable. He receives other kind of letters, more aggressive.
The relationship between the reader and the magazine is unstable and this has a definite projection in the kind of language used in the letters. The reader is a dynamic identity which can be influenced.
The construction of a relationship: variation through texts.
The unstable relation between magazine and customer is reflected in a changing tenor of discourse.
The first step in the analysis of the texts is the study of the participants. The second step is the choices made at the level of mood, the types of clause, which are reflection of the speech function. The third step is analysis of modality, and the linguistic choices made with respect to it.
Text analysis and results
Letter 0. Presentation of initial identities.
The customer is still a subscriber.
The relationship is friendly, fairly personal and direct. This is reflected in high number of proposals, abundant use of modality, and the second person pronoun as the main subject.
Letter 1 and 2. The identity of the ideal subscriber.
The customer is still a subscriber, but he does not renew his subscription.
The relationship starts changing. The letters do not include a single proposal, but are a series of propositions. They do not include imperative forms. Modality is almost non-existent. The “you” almost disappears as a grammatical Subject. The text is less interactive and the main subjects are “I” and the magazine.
Letters 3 and 4. The customer’s identity starts wavering.
The customer is no longer a subscriber.
The relationship is somewhat tense. The clauses are combination of proposition and proposals.
Paragraphs are short, and subordinate clauses are presented as independent ones. The texts content more imperatives, more proposals, and more modal adjuncts, and strong judgements on the propositions. The main subject is “you”, but in negative way in which the identity of customer is questioned.
Letter 5. The customer’s identity collapses.
The customer does not renew his subscription.
The relationship is unstable and uncertain. The identity of customer is no longer clear. The text is full of doubt and has abundant use of modality. The main subjects are “you”. “I”, “we”, or “the magazine” are no longer present in the text. The clauses are declarative and interrogative, asking directly why the customer did not accept the proposition. The language is a clear power strategy.
Letter 6. Thanks for renewing the subscription.
The customer renews his subscription.
This letter shares linguistic features with Letter 0.The relationship is again friendly and stable.
The identity of customer is no longer questioned through modal adjuncts or interrogative clauses.
The proposal component is still there, to keep an interactive style. The main subject is “you” but now is in very friendly way.
Conclusion. Evaluation of the success of the campaign
We saw that analysing the participants in the advert is the best way to define this subgenre of advertising, direct mailing campaign. The participants are the magazine and customer. The customer has the power to end his subscription. The magazine, since it wants to avoid this, creates an attractive identity for customer throughout a series of personalized letters. The customer will be powerful and his power resides in his subscription to the magazine. These letters are characterised by a changing tenor of discourse, which is reflected in the linguistic choices made at the levels of mood, modality and the grammatical subjects.
This campaign is very successful, both from a linguistic and a marketing point of view.