Visual Differences In US and Chinese Television Commercials

Shuhua Zhou, University of Alabama
Peiqin Zhou, Nanjing University
Fei Xue, University of Southern Mississippi


Television commercials convey much of their power through visuals. Yet little has been done to research visual characteristics in television commercials in different cultural contexts. This study compared the visuals of U.S. and Chinese television commercials within the framework of high-context versus low-context cultures and individualistic versus collectivistic societies. The authors examined how visuals manifested themselves in two sets of variables designed especially for this study: storytelling and cinematography, as well as culture indicators. Results showed that traditional storytelling techniques such as story line and comparison and identification are better vehicles for cultural manifestations than cinematographic variables such as subjective camera, direct address, and pacing. Results on cultural indicators were mixed, however, indicating that values manifested in visuals might not be as simple as first believed.