Cross-cultural content analysis of advertising from the United States and India

Niaz Ahmed

Abstract

This cross-cultural content analysis compared the verbal and visual content of print advertising from India and the United States to examine the characteristics, differences and similarities in advertising strategies and expressions. A stratified random sample of advertisements for consumer products was selected from nationally circulated news magazines and business magazines of each country between January 1993 and December 1994 (Time and Business Week from the United States; India Today and Business India from India). The findings of this study provide useful insights into the nature of advertising in India and the United States in the 1990s. The results show what elements and aspects of advertising are different or similar between the two cultures. The findings indicated that the U.S. advertisements used direct rhetorical styles (expressive and directive speech acts) more often than the Indian ads, and the Indian ads utilized indirect rhetorical style (poetic speech acts) more frequently than the U.S. advertisements. The U.S. advertisements also utilized explicit and implicit comparative approaches more often than the Indian ads, and the Indian ads made greater use of unsubstantiated claims. In the use of "iconic stance" the U.S. ads were more likely to use an individualistic stance, and the Indian ads tended to favor a collective stance for human characters. In the use of indexical feature transfer approach, the ads from the two countries were similar. In terms of information cues, Indian advertisements used "availability" information more often and the U.S. ads used company-sponsored research information cues more frequently. The two countries were similar in the mean number of information cues. In terms of "iconic image of women" a greater percentage of the Indian ads contained stereotypical images of women and a greater percentage of the U.S. ads used physical exploitation of women and portrayed women as sex objects.