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Short List – Matthew
by Matthew Campanella| Udine, Italy
Saturday, 15 February 2014
tags: categories, consumer culture, culture, europe, making sense, semiotics
PLACES, COGNITION AND ADVERTS
If advertising were a singularly effective form of communication, opinions about products and services would be homogenous across the audiences that viewed the advert. This does not seem to be the case; likely because there are forces (in the form of opinions) working outside/against those very adverts. Advertising must constantly work to combat these outside forces in order to homogenize the opinions of the audiences it works on. The place where we can vividly see this at work is in tourism advertising. This is because it is in consideration of places that people, for better or worse, tend to have and hold a largely monotone opinion – a sort of synthesis of various opinions and stereotypes that one collects when exposed to information of that place.
Very often advertisers of place must combat this barrage of negative opinions. We can imagine that in light of the recent knot of political circumstances the country has been in, it would be very hard for any marketer of place to create an effective campaign for Afghanistan, despite the fact that (surely!) the country must have a certain degree of natural beauty and charm to it. Such a person would have to create an advertising campaign that in some respect could combat all the negative associations of that place; near ten years of war, a link to terrorism, a key component of the opium trade, internal strife, and very oppressive members of their society. This extreme example very clearly illustrates the problem in marketing place, but what about a potential solution?
Italy has not in the recent years held the countries that formed Yugoslavia in highest regards. It might be that the proximity allowed Italians to witness the worst of the eastern bloc without being in it, or it might be that the very same proximity brought many Yugoslavian immigrants to Italian shores. How this came about is not terribly relevant; what is to the point is that Italians still associate some of the countries with that rather bleak period of their history. It is sad to say, but to a certain extent the rather vivid memory of Tito and ethnic tension still lingers in the memory of many Italians. Such opinions disregard how very much those countries have changed since 1991. It is the responsibility of these countries and more specifically of the marketers of place responsible for the tourism therein, to attempt to change the opinions therein.
Carnival at Rijeka, Croatia, spectators included
Let us for a moment consider just a few opening shots of a video that, although not geared specifically towards Italians, is still used to promote Croatia to an Italian audience. The video is in fact a part of Croatia’s official Italian language tourism page. The video begins in a rather straightforward manner; a few opening shots of the sea by which many tourists will arrive; the very same sea, we are shown through the images of people in seemingly traditional dresses working on boats, that seems important to a Croatian identity. It is interesting to note the presence of a white and black stripped shirt; an object often associated with Venetian gondoliers. We are soon shown the eagle’s eye view of the city, and from their we know we have arrived. The next shot show a gate, presumably a city gate, opening to release a group of tourists. It is at this scene where the video becomes rather interesting, for it continues to follow this group of tourists around as they explore Croatia. This is a splitting from a normal stylistic point of tourism advertising. Normally in tourism adverts tourists are expunged completely; in that people consider tour groups to be a nuisance in real life, in most brochures and commercials they are either removed or kept to a minimum as not to detract attention from the monuments which are meant to be exhibited. In fact, much of the rest of this commercial has the figures of tourists expunged in a similar manner. As an occasional alternative, certain tourism commercial will prominently feature one tourist from whom the viewer can, for those few seconds, live a brief vicarious vacation meant to form an appetite for that place. This, however, is different; the next few shots are littered with dozens of tourists engaging in what are very obviously tourist activities. For the most part, they herd around in groups and take pictures of monuments. So if the conventional wisdom argues that the opposite should be done, why has Croatia chosen to do this?
The answer would appear to be to convince the viewer that Croatia is indeed a place where a multitude of tourists visit. Showing the city devoid of people would perhaps showcase the beauty of the city and its monuments in a certain light, but it would as well make it seem abandoned and thus somewhat eerie. This of course would not be a very good marketing point. Doing it instead in this manner showcases the liveliness – and at the same time showcases the safety – of tourism in Croatia. When a person cognizes a place it is difficult for them to do such in any form that resembles a totality. Places, complex as they are, do not sum up easily; thus a person is obliged to think through the catalogue of opinions she or he may have of a place. For this reason, it becomes rather beneficial for the marketers of place to constantly insert new and fresh opinions into a cultural understanding. This both widens the catalogue of impressions a person may have of a place while perhaps diluting away the negative understandings that have been unfortunately maintained throughout the years. What the advertisers of Croatia have done in the commercial done is beneficial; in a country that still tends to bear the burden of an unpleasant recently history, such a demonstration seems absolutely necessary. The effort is certainly laudable.
© Matthew Campanella