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Stereotypes of the French; Why are social typecasts so successful in advertising? Clare Shepherd

Submitted to Hereford College of Arts In partial fulfilment of the requirements of a degree of BA (hons) Contemporary Applied Arts

Validated by the University of Wales February 2013 Full word count: 8,551 Edited word count: 7,755


Contents List of Illustrations

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Chapter 1

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Chapter 2

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Chapter 3

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Chapter 4

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Chapter 5

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Chapter 6

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List of Illustrations Fig. 1 – Pẻpe Le Pew. Now Smell This (blog). 18/06/12. pepe-le-pew. Available at last accessed (18/02/13) Fig. 2 – Moulin Rouge Cabaret Dancers. Le Luxe Mannequin (blog). 28/12/12 Available at last accessed (18/02/13) Fig. 3 – “French car, British Designer” Billboard poster Renault 2005. Available at last accessed (18/02/13) Fig. 4 – “The Eiffel Tower” Still from advert. Renault 2005. Available at last accessed (18/02/13) Fig. 5 – “Blackpool Tower” Still from advert. Renault 2005. Available at last accessed (18/02/13) Fig. 6 – Ben and Sophie, Car Pages. 15/10/05 Available at last accessed (18/02/13) Fig. 7 – Dior Advert. Footluxe, 13/08/11. Available at last accessed (18/02/13) Fig. 8 – Dior Advert. The Signature Thing (blog) 29/10/10. Available at last accessed (18/02/13) Fig. 9 – Dior, editorial advert I Heart Natural Beauty (blog) 26/04/10 Available at last accessed (18/02/13)


Stereotypes of the French; Why are social typecasts so successful in advertising? Introduction Through this dissertation I will be exploring the stereotypes of the French, looking into how they have been used through visual culture. My discussion focuses on how advertisers have used of social typecasts and stereotyped characters, as I aim to discover why stereotypes are used so commonly and are so successful as a way of selling products to consumers. I will begin by looking into where our stereotyped image of the French has come from, considering the reasons why we categorize groups of people. I will be referencing the theory of semiotics - the theory of signs, symbols and how they come to have meaning - as a way of understanding and explaining how the images we see in visual culture represent ideas of Frenchness. The second part of my essay looks at the use of stereotypes in advertising. I will be looking into advertising theory, considering the methods used by advertisers to sell products. I intention is to discover why simplified symbols of the French are so successful in selling to consumers and look into the reasons why they have been used over and over again within advertising and marketing. I will take two examples of advertisements where French stereotypes have been used, and evaluate the methods used to sell the products.

Chapter 1 Culture, how have our ideas of French culture formed? Culture is the identity and characteristics of a particular group of people. The dictionary defines culture as: “the totality of socially transmitted behaviour patterns, arts, beliefs, institutions, and all other products of human work and thought.” (, 2013) We can therefore consider everything we see, do and experience during our lives to be part of our culture. Academic and critic Raymond Williams describes culture as “one of the two or three most complicated words in the English language” (Williams, 1988:87). In the essay The Analysis of Culture, Williams deems that “There are three general categories in the definition of culture” (Storey, 2009:32), the first, he states, is “ideal” whereby culture is a state of human perfection, made up of absolute ideas and universal values. Secondly there is the “documentary” made up of the documented and recorded analysis of traditions. The third definition is “social” where culture is based on the 3

description of a particular way of life, considering (but not limited to) art, learning, institutions and ordinary behaviours. Considering some examples of how the French have been represented in visual culture through these three descriptions, gives an idea of where the stereotyped image of French culture has developed from. In modern society, the collective ideas of French culture have developed predominantly from the images shown in the media. These images are what influence the ideas other western cultures have of the French and lead to the “ideal” culture, as described by Williams above. The images of France and French characters used in media such as film, TV and books amalgamate to create a stereotyped and idealised image of France and French culture. Pẻpe Le Pew (fig. 1) is a character from the Warner Brother’s cartoon series’ Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies. “A suave French Skunk oozes amour and is ready to run after every female of his kind that cross his path” (Schmeider 1988:203). Le Pew is created to be the clichéd French romantic, conceived by director Chuck Jones in 1945. Not only does Le Pew capture the French typecast of a romantic, but he also has the stereotyped French characteristics of being arrogant – he believes that he is irresistible to women, and having poor hygiene – due to the obvious fact that he is a skunk who smells. In this case, the use of stereotyped characteristics are for humour and entertainment and for creator Jones, the character was made to be an alter-ego of himself, “I tried to get some of his personality inside me so I could draw on it in my relations with women” (Schmeider, 1988:203). Although Le Pew is just a character with exaggerated personality traits, the portrayal of him can become associated with the idealised and stereotyped idea of the French.

Fig. 1, Pẻpe Le Pew (2012) 4

The allure of Paris and it’s association of an alternate more artistic life style is a predominant theme in the book Revolutionary Road. The 1961 book by Richard Yates, portrays France as being the solution for the characters problems. Frank and April Wheeler see France - Paris in particular - in an idealised way, viewing it as an escape from their mundane suburban lives. The couple are trapped by their monotonous life – “Look at us. We're just like everyone else. We've bought into the same, ridiculous delusion” (Yates, 1961:108). Despite the fact that the couple are living what is considered to be the American dream, they believe Paris is where they can find a more idyllic way of living. The ideas of prosperity and success associated with the American dream get projected onto France, giving the couple the illusion that their life will be different once they are in Paris, describing it as “The only place worth living… what’s stopping us” (Revolutionary Road, 2008). The dream is what keeps the Wheelers together; once their plan falls apart so does the rest of their lives. The couple never make it to Paris and so the city upholds the impression of being a perfect place that could have solved the problems in their marriage and their lives. In this case, France is idolised and shown as being a more exciting and more prosperous place to live than America. The 2001 film Moulin Rouge, concentrates on Paris’ association with cabaret life and the seedy night life of the late 19th century. The film is set in the famous Montmartre Quarter of Paris in 1899 and “tells the story of the prostitute and a man who falls in love with her.” (Moulin Rouge, 2001) The main character Christian, a writer, is drawn to Paris from England by the bohemian lifestyle and the prospect of finding love. The main female is the alluring courtesan Satine, who wins the heart of Christian. The film centres around Paris’s reputation of being the city of love, - “The French are glad to die for love” (Moulin Rouge, 2001). The bohemian lifestyle of 19th century Paris is portrayed in an exaggerated manner, playing on the stereotyped images we have of cabaret life being extravagant and promiscuous. The film uses typecast French characters – writers living in poverty, the alluring French woman and the racy cabaret workers (fig. 2) – giving the impression of a more excessive and seedy lifestyle and turning the characters into symbols representing ideas we have of the French.


Fig. 2, Moulin Rouge Cabaret Dancers (2012)

Our idealised view is made up of images created by others; images we see through the media. Yet it is through the “documentary” culture of France that we can find more evidence of how French culture has developed, by referring to recorded historical events. When studying the reputation of France, one of the most important periods of cultural change in the country was the late 18th and early 19th century. During this time Paris became the go to city for alternative artists and writers. It is from this period that France gained its global reputation of being at the epicentre of arts, fashion and all things current. Changes in social attitudes attracted a bohemian lifestyle to the older and cheaper left banks of the city. The bohemian lifestyle involved living a carefree life of sex, drugs and alcohol; rejecting the idea of wealth, and choosing to live for art and literature instead. “Young artists – literally 6

thousands of them – lived in attic studios or cellars of the old quarters of the city, most of them in a state of semi-poverty.” (Blunden 1980:34). In 1862 artists “Monet, Renoir, Sisely and Bazille met in the Paris studio of the French painter Gleyre” (Wilson, 1983:10). These artists, fuelled by the notion of changing the traditions of painting, took their inspirations from the new and current – jazz music, machines, films and circus. The art work was about challenging the normal perception of art and finding new ways to capture the changing world around them. This way of living and working attracted people from across Europe and the rest of the world, which give France and Paris a reputation for being a nucleus for the fresh, new and exciting - “By the middle of the nineteenth century Paris had become the undisputed centre of the art world” (Wilson, 1983:28). Despite huge economic and cultural changes in France and the rest of the world, this reputation has stayed with Paris, associating the country with the decorative arts even now over 100 years later. Studying the history and traditions of France gives us an insight into how French culture has formed in the past; however we are unable gain a true and honest feel of culture through just documented information. We cannot get “a sense of the ways in which the particular activities combined into a way of thinking and living” (Storey, 2009:36) meaning a true impression of everyday life cannot be formed based purely on information. Looking into the “social” culture of France refers to the current lifestyles and conducts of the French. The social definition of culture considers society as being distinguished by the way of life of that country or place - looking at arts, institutions and behaviours of a place. French culture can be viewed in this sense by comparing how the behaviours of the French differ from those of the British. Comparing habits of the French with those of the British gives examples of what forms the social culture of France. One noticeable difference is the way in which the French buy their bread. In France it is normal to buy fresh artisan bread every day from the local bakery, whereas in Britain it is more common to buy bread from large supermarkets. Another visible difference is the way the two countries approach property. In Britain it is the norm to buy properties, however in France – Paris in particular – it is more conventional to rent property. “In Paris, the figure (of citizens who buy) is less than one in three.” (, 2011) Small yet noticeable differences between how cultures live day to day combine, creating cultural differences between western countries. These differences are what separate cultures and therefore, we can consider that social culture consequently is made up of the differences between cultures. Taking into account all three definitions of culture, gives an understanding into where stereotyped images of the French developed from. The media has a huge effect on opinions; in particular by creating idealised images of places people may not have experienced first7

hand. Looking at the history of a place gives an image of how the culture has developed over time and the social aspect of culture considers the behaviours of the place drawing particular attention to the differences between cultures. All three ideas influence the ways that unknown cultures are perceived by creating images of a different culture, these images however may be exaggerated and stereotyped ideas of a place and way of life.

Chapter 2 Why do we stereotype? In order to understand why stereotypes are so commonly used within advertising, I need to consider the reasons why stereotyping exist in the first place. Why is it that human beings place different social groups into categories, giving them specific and generalised personality traits? A stereotype is defined as “a widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing” (, 2013). Generalisations are created whereby basic characteristics and attributes are given to people or groups of people based on our assumptions. Stereotyping can be thought of as a negative action, writer Walter Lippmann stated in his 1922 book Public Opinion, “there is nothing so obdurate to education or criticism as the stereotype” (Lippmann, 1922:99), however the creation of stereotypes is a vital way for humans to understand the world around them. Placing others into categories is part of the brain’s natural cognitive process which allows us to simplify and process the social world. “The prevalent point of view in psychology is that (stereotypical) thought is a by-product of the way information is organised and processed”. (Hirschfield, 1996:8) The brain categorizes the social world by placing people and objects into groups based on similarities - through this process, groups of people become generalised, which can lead to unintended stereotyping and discrimination. By categorizing people – and associating particular personality traits to them – humans are able to read social situations and act in them more quickly. “Stereotypes guide judgment and action to the extent that a person acts toward another as if the other possesses the traits included in the stereotype” (Greenwald & Banaji, 1995:14). The process of categorization tells humans more about new people, allowing them respond rapidly to unknown situations by relating them to similar circumstances – either ones experienced or witnessed in some other way.


Having stereotyped ideas of different cultures allows humans to feel more comfortable about somewhere that is foreign and unknown. However, when shown stereotyped images of the French through the media, those “who do not have contact with the French cannot judge whether the message they receive is true”. (, 2008:3-4) Therefore people with no experience of French culture can only base their ideas of France on the images they see through the media – the idealised culture as discussed in the previous chapter – and they have an unrealistic and naïve idea of an entire nation. This is how the exaggerated images of France and the typecast French characters shown through visual culture have come to be the images many people believe genuinely represent France and French culture. Social Identity Theory was formulated by Henri Tajfel and John Turner in 1979, it is the theory that our identity is formulated by how we position ourselves within groups i.e. our identity is based on “a person’s knowledge that he or she belongs to a social category or group” (Hogg and Abrams, 1988). This is why people place themselves within social groups; to identify similarities with others with the aims of understanding who they are as individuals. People belonging to particular groups would therefore increase what makes them feel part of that group – either by looking a particular way or behaving in a particular manner. Cultures develop a national identity by recognising collective similarities between group members and overstating these, boosting the sense of cultural identity. The theory considers the idea that group members discriminate in favour of the group to which they belong, creating negative associations towards outsiders and other groups (Tajifel and Turner, 1986). Bearing this theory in mind explains how the stereotyped views of French culture have come about. People part of the French culture want to increase their group status by focusing the similarities of those within the group and increasing the overall positive qualities of the culture. People who are members of other groups – other cultures – will discriminate, exaggerating the differences between the two groups and focusing on the negatives of the outside group. Together both the in and out group exaggerate qualities forming distinct group identities. With increased globalisation across cultures, it becomes harder to identify with individual cultures – specific traits associated with cultures become harder to recognize. It becomes increasingly difficult to recognise shared identities between group members and therefore an imagined community is constructed (Woodward, 2011). Benedict Anderson explains that “our understanding of national identity must include the idea we have of it” (Woodward, 2011: 18). Through globalisation there is less understanding of specific national identities and instead cultures have an idea of what national identity is – described by 9

Anderson as the imagined community. Social groups are no longer identified by what they are but by what they think they are. “The difference between national identities therefore lies in the different ways in which they are imagined” (Woodward, 2011: 18). Social groups – even whole nations - consequently become a social construction, imagined by the people who see themselves as part of that group. Taking these three ideas into consideration, it becomes clear that stereotypes are both a social and internal construction, used to help humans understand their own us identity and the identity of others. However, “The construction of identity is both symbolic and social” (Woodward, 2011: 10), identities are also formed through the use of symbols: the objects a person uses and what meaning those objects have. “Identity is marked out through symbols… there is an association between the identity of the person and the things a person uses” (Woodward, 2011: 9). Objects and symbols create an identity and so understanding what these objects mean helps to understand the identity of cultures. This is where the use of semiotics becomes a vital tool, as it explains how meaning is derived from seemingly meaningless objects and symbols.

Chapter 3 Semiotics In order to understand the use of stereotypically French images within advertising, I need to understand why it is the particular images we see represent the French. Semiotics is the theory of signs and “allows us to examine the cultural specificity of representations and their meanings” (Turner, 2003:13). The theory explains how the objects and symbols we see in the world around us come to have specific meaning. Semiotics originated from the Swiss linguistic analyst Ferdinand de Saussure, who wanted to understand how language worked. Through his research Saussure showed that language was a system of signs and signals, through which association created meaning. Saussure’s theory was comprised of three main terms: the signifier, the signified and the sign. The signifier is something that stands for something else, the signified is what it stands for and the sign is a combination of the two – an object and what it means to us (Howells, 2008). An example would be the Eiffel Tower, the Eiffel Tower is in Paris therefore can be a signifier for France, and so the Eiffel Tower becomes a sign or symbol for France French writer and critic Roland Barthes extended on Saussure’s theory and furthered the analysis of semiotics; Barthes put the theory into context by looking at semiotics within 10

visual and popular culture. He increased the semiotics theory to be about more than just language, extending it to all forms of visual culture, including photography, cinema and advertising. (Howells, 2008) Barthes believed “any material can arbitrarily be endowed with meaning” (Bathes; 2009: 262) considering everything to be a signifier for something else. He developed the theory further stating that the sign created by the signifier and signified could become a signifier for something else - indicating that signs lead to yet more signs and meanings. In order to give meaning to the things they see humans must relate what they see to their experiences, this is through either personal experience or through the images experienced in some other way i.e. through the media. “Through symbols, people give meaning, form and continuity to their experiences”. (Bryant and Oliver, 2009:95) For this reason, the meanings given to signs differ between cultures and even between individuals. The idea of semiotics relies on personal knowledge to connect the signifier to the signified, therefore symbols mean something different to everyone and as a result the sign becomes a reflection of the viewer. This idea relates to Freud’s theory of the child at the Oedipal stage and the theory of the unconscious, which can help us to understand how humans relate to images shown through the media. Subconsciously humans relate to the things they see in the visual world by projecting ideas of themself onto images. “We attribute qualities to ourselves and transfer associations, making it possible to see ourselves in the image presented.” (Woodward, 2011:15). Freud’s theory takes on the idea that it is possible to find ourselves through relating to the images and objects that surround us in a subconscious way. This idea means that humans have a unique and personal connection to everything they see within visual culture. The way in which people give objects a meaning personal them is vital to connecting consumers to inanimate objects. This is where the theory of semiotics becomes such an important tool within advertising; advertisers depend on consumers having a connection with the product in order to want to buy it. “The product, which initially has no “meaning”, must be given value by a person” (Williamson, 1994:31) Once an advertiser can connect the consumer to a product, the customer will feel that they not only want the product but that they need it.


Chapter 4 Advertising and Media effects The next part of my essay looks into how the media and advertising influence the way we see others. I’m looking into media effects and in particular the semiotics used within advertising to understand why adverts work so well at selling products to consumers. “Advertisements are one of the most important cultural factors moulding and reflecting our life today” (Williamson, 1994:11). Advertisements surround us in our everyday lives; their main aim is to sell products to consumers. In order to understand how adverts work, I need to understand why they work. Once products began being mass produced in factories, the role of advertising changed. Competitive branding became necessary as a way of creating difference between similar products produced by rival companies. “The role of advertising changed from delivering product news bulletins to building an image around a particular brand-name” (Klein, 2005:6). With so many similar products being made, advertisers had to create a brand for their products - giving products a unique and recognisable identity. Before a brand is created, products have no specific identity or connection with a customer; it is through advertising that products gain meaning. (Williamson, 1994) A brand is created by the ideas of the advertising and marketing and not through the uniqueness of the product. Perfume adverts in particular rely on advertising as a way of creating an identity for the perfume. There is no way to show smell and therefore the advert must show ideas and reflections of the product. The images in perfume adverts give the perfume meaning and therefore create an image for consumers to relate to – without even having to smell the perfume. Cognitive theory considers the way in which we take in and process information. The theory focuses on understanding the thought process - looking into the way that humans react to situations: what meanings they find in them, whether they have a lasting effect, if they affect them emotionally and how the information will be used in the future. (Bryant and Oliver, 2009) Social cognitive theory focuses on the effects that others – which includes images we see in the media - have on the human thought process. It is believed that “behaviour is shaped and controlled either by environmental influences or by internal dispositions” (Bryant and Oliver, 2009:94), meaning that our actions and beliefs, do not only come from within ourselves, but can also be linked to factors outside of us i.e. though images and opinions shown in the media. Considering this idea in relation to advertising, advertisers use social cognitive theory to attempt to influence - and even change – the way humans naturally think, so that they buy products that they do not necessarily need. 12

Advertisers use a range of methods based on our natural cognitive processes as a way of influencing our thought process and connecting viewers to a nonspecific product. Symbols are used in advertising to give objects meaning and give products significance to customers. The best way for a customer to relate to a product is to link them emotionally – “to succeed, brands must trigger an emotional response in the mind of the consumer”. (Williams, 2000:10) Writer TS Eliot states that: “The only way of expressing emotion in the form of art is by finding an “objective correlation”” (Williamson, 1994:30), so in order for adverts to appeal to human’s emotions; they must be a symbolic representation for those emotions. The result is that the product itself is in fact a bi-product of the emotions promised in the advert and by connecting to our emotions the product becomes even more desired. Adverts appeal to emotions by attaching feelings to tangible objects. They work by associating random products with desirable lifestyles; lifestyles they imply are available through buying the product. The lifestyles created in the adverts are symbols for the lifestyle humans desire to have. Adverts are symbols of desire, using clichés to link emotions to products. The actors used within adverts lose their identity and become reflections of what they are selling. Ideas of the product get projected onto the character and through connecting with the characters the viewer will connect with the product. By using stereotyped and instantly recognisable characters, advertisers play on the brains natural process of categorizing. A viewer is able to refer to similar experiences and therefore relate to the character and situation more quickly. “commercials can show “real” people and portray “a slice of life” that the target audience can relate to.” (Burtenshaw, Mahon, Barfoot. 2006:53) Advertisers need to appeal to as wide a market as possible and so by using well-known characters; they can connect with a greater number of customers. With more people connecting to ideas in the advert, more people will be interested in buying the product. The use of stereotypical imagery and characters is particularly important in adverts because of the short time a viewer has to form a connection to the product. Viewers are able to relate what they see to previous experiences they have, meaning a back story is not needed for who they see in the advert – they can use cultural stereotypes they know to make connections with the characters. In a short time, a viewer can connect with the images they see and in turn connect with the product. Stereotypes in advertising are also used as a way of creating an in-group for the viewer. Referring back to Social Identity Theory, we can consider that advertisers create an in-group to which viewers want to belong. Advertisers focus on positive representations of stereotypical ideas so that the viewer themselves wants to be part of that group. By 13

projecting the group in a positive way, the viewer picks up on similarities between themselves and the people in the advert and reflects ideas of themselves onto the characters in the advert. The viewer would want become part of the in-group and therefore feel that through buying that product they can join the group. Relating to these images gives viewers a sense of identity and the feeling that they are part of something. Not only are advertisers selling a product, they are also selling the prospect of becoming part of an ingroup. By creating an in-group based on the products they buy, humans identify themselves through the products they buy and use. The objects a person purchase come to be a way of defining themselves. The products used and consumed become the identity of a person “Instead of being identified by what they produce, people are made to identify themselves with what they consume” (Williamson, 1994:13). When advertisers create a brand, they give humans a group identity to become part of, “In Western culture undeniably we use brands as one way to define and express our identities” (Williams, 2000:10) Adverts aim to sell products to consumers, a successful advert, however, does this through creating a lifestyle and identity to buy into.

Chapter 5 Advertising examples The next part of my study will look into two examples where French stereotypes have been used within advertising. “The television and cinema commercial is still regarded by advertisers as the most powerful and persuasive medium.” (Burtenshaw, Mahon, Barfoot. 2006:47). Through the medium of TV, advertisers are able to connect more with the viewer as the nature of the TV advert give companies the chance to build up more of a brand for the products. I will be looking at two TV adverts and considering the different techniques used to sell the products and the reasons why these adverts are so successful. The first is the Renault Clio advert France vs. Britain and the second is the Miss Dior Cherie perfume advert. The two adverts play on positive yet stereotypical typecasts of the French, using these as a way of marketing their products to consumers. As mentioned earlier advertising is more about creating a brand than describing a product. Working for well established companies – such as Dior and Renault - not only gives the directors more of a budget to work with, but means that the advert does not need to focus solely on explaining the product. As viewers already have an idea of both Renault and 14

Dior as brands, the two directors were able to focus more on the creative branding of the products being sold. The directors – both of whom have worked previously in film – take the opportunity to make what could be considered short films instead of traditional adverts, giving them the freedom to be more creative. “For the creative team, television advertising had massive creative possibilities and media opportunities”. (Burtenshaw, Mahon, Barfoot. 2006:47)

Case Study 1, Renault Clio Advert 2005 The advert for Renault Clio has two parts the first from 2005 (Fig. 3, 4 and 5) and a second from 2007. Both are directed by Jordan Scott and star French actress Annelise Hesme, and British actor Jeremy Sheffield. The campaign shows the pair driving around France and Britain in their Clio’s, arguing over which country is best, referencing cultural stereotypes associated with the British and the French - “adding a modern twist to the ageold battle of France vs. Britain”. (, 2005) The advert features references to food - comparing haute cuisine with sandwiches, writers – comparing Jean Paul Sarte to Shakespeare and landmarks - comparing the Eiffel Tower to Blackpool tower. The advert concludes by stating “French car, British designer”, (Renault, 2005) implying the car is made up of the best parts of the two countries and therefore has “twice the Va Va Voom” (Renault, 2005). The advert uses the positive cultural stereotypes of the two nations as a way of selling the different positives of the car.

Fig. 3 “French car, British designer” Billboard poster (2005)


Comparing the Eiffel Tower and Blackpool tower

Fig. 4“The Eiffel Tower” Renault advert (2005)

Fig. 5 “Blackpool Tower” Renault advert (2005)


5.1 The use of stereotypes The Renault advert plays on the idea of national stereotyping, using the BritishFrench rivalry in a witty way. The advert is a tongue in cheek look at typecast characteristics of the French and British, UK marketing director for the company Olivier Généreux states that customers should “enjoy the light-hearted teasing that we, as the UK arm of a French company, feel we understand more than most!" (, 2005) The advert uses these positive stereotypes of France and Britain to create a product that appears to the customer to be the best of both worlds; the advert is selling the best parts of two countries. By creating a product that celebrates the positives of France and Britain, the viewer no longer needs to decide between the two - by buying the Renault car, the consumer can have all the positives. Although a French company, Renault is a multinational manufacturer. In previous campaigns, adverts have focuses on selling the Frenchness of the car, the most famous using French footballer Thierry Henry trying to explain the “Va Va Voom” (Renault, 2002) of the Clio. The new adverts focus on selling the amalgamation of France and Britain and the positives these create in the car. The advert works well for a British market as it gives the impression that the traditionally French company needs British design to make it better. Through Social identity theory, a British consumer would see this car as a product that promotes the positive qualities of the British and therefore identify themselves with these characteristics. By strengthening a consumer’s sense of identity, they are likely to identify with the car and feel as though they not only want but need to buy the Renault Clio.

5.2 The use of stereotyped characters Characters in advert must be easy to relate to, as viewers have such a limited time to connect with them. The couple in the Renault advert (fig. 6) are stereotypical symbolic representations of their respective countries. The woman represents all things stereotypically French and the man represents the same but for Britain. By using typecast characters a viewer can make assumptions about how that person behaves, therefore no back story is needed. They do not, however, only represent the two nationalities, they are representatives for all other things mentioned in the advert – brains, beauty, film, television – and in turn become a symbol for what these mean to us. The advert mentions the desirable qualities that the viewer wants to have, from both stereotyped characters. It is no coincidence that the woman is the French character - French women are stereotyped as being glamorous and stylish, linking back to ideas of Paris being the fashion capital of the world. The man, on the other hand, is the British character showing the stereotypical traits of an English gentleman – 17

being well-read and sophisticated. The advert is where all these qualities come together making the product a place for all these personality traits to meet. By using the two different characters the advertisers can appeal to all viewers, whether they see themselves as an English gentleman or a glamorous French woman – and all that is in between. These desirable personality traits of the two characters connect with the audience and by connecting to the characters, viewer form a connection with the product. “It is often suggested that cars are extensions of their drivers’ personalities” (Williams, 2000:26) and so the advert to must show the car as being a representation for as many possible personalities so that it may appeal to as wide an audience as possible.

Fig. 6, Ben and Sophie (Sheffield and Hesme), the couple in the Renault advert (2005)

5.3 The semiotics of the advert – what meaning do we find in the images? By using semiotics to connect the images and ideas of the advert with meaning, viewers are able to fill in the blanks and therefore understand the advert. The main theme of the Renault advert is the couple and the way that the car brings them together. The advert connects to the feeling of being part of a couple with the physical product of the car, connecting emotions with a tangible object. “By targeting our basic (or base) instincts, ads are aiming for at least one of the seven deadly sins” (Saunders, 1996:65) In this case, by the way that the characters interact with each other, viewers assume that the two characters are or are about to become a couple. The advert appeals to the natural desire of humans to find


love and be part of a couple – selling what a viewer desires to have. This gives a consumer the impression that the car will also help them to find love.

5.4 What are we being sold? The advert is not only selling the car but the lifestyle of the couple associated with the car. The advert uses humour, which creates instantly relatable and likeable characters. “Humour is one of advertising’s most volatile tools. Good humour wins friends. It attracts the eye, engages the mind and restores the soul” (Saunders, 1997:6), in a way the viewer is being sold the prospect of becoming these easy-going confident people - we are sold the prospect of becoming one of the characters.

5.5 How successful is the advert? The advert is very successful in appealing to the British market. The advertisers have changed their typical way of marketing the car by focusing on the English influence on design. The advert appeals to both customers who want to be part of the French brand Renault and those who want English design and engineering –perhaps even converting fans of British brands to the French manufacturer. “The message from the new Clio commercial is simple - Clio combines the best that these two nations have to offer”. ( 2005) With this advert, the advertisers wanted to make it obvious that car is made up of the best of both countries and the advertising methods used makes this point obvious in a light-hearted and witty way.

Chapter 6 Case Study 2 Dior, Miss Dior Cherie Advert 2008 The advert for the Dior perfume, Miss Dior Cherie, (fig 7) is from 2008 and features the French model Maryna Lindchuck. The advert is directed by Sofia Coppola, an American director whose films include Marie-Antoinette and Lost in Translation. The ad follows Lindchuck around Paris for a day, with almost every shot referencing a different part of a stereotypical Parisian lifestyle. The advert has an undeniably French influence and shows several famous Paris landmarks throughout, these include the Place de la Concorde fountain, Pont Notre Dame and the Paris skyline showing, of course, the Eiffel Tower. 19

References are made to several stereotypical French activities, Lindchuck can be seen riding a bike, shopping for dresses at Dior and trying macaroons at the patisserie. Through this advert Coppola wanted to portray a girl discovering the charms of “Paris, which is a dream world� ( (translated), 2010), using the camera as a means to capture an exaggerated fantasy of the city.

Fig. 7, Dior advert, closing shot and editorial advert. (2011)


6.1 The use of stereotypes Stereotypes give the adverts context and set the scene. In the advert (fig 8), the clichéd and iconic symbols of France mean that we instantly know the advert is set in Paris. Coppola was born in America and although spent much of her childhood in Paris –even interning at Chanel when she was 15 – she has a romanticised view of the city. Paris is one of the director’s favourite cities “you can tell I love the city, right? It’s a filmmaker’s dream there; the colours are beautiful!” (, 2009) The advert was an opportunity for Coppola to capture her idealised and stereotyped view of the city. The inspiration comes from the pages of vogue and the surreal fashion photography of Tim Walker, the final outcome is a dreamlike vision of the city. I think the advert works because it is an embodiment of people’s idealised view of Paris; Coppola takes the stereotypes we have of France and turns them into something real. The perfume therefore can be seen as the materialisation of these ideas, giving consumers the chance to purchase their perfect idea of Paris by buying the perfume.

Fig. 8 Dior, screenshots from the advert (2010)


6.2 The use of stereotyped characters The people in adverts are what a viewer relates to, by identifying with character traits – either true or desired, viewers see characters in adverts as a reflection of themselves. Typecasts are used in adverts to represent specific characteristics and ideas. The people in the adverts are what represent the product, they lose their individuality and they simply become a personification of the product and the lifestyle they are selling. In the Dior advert, Lindchuck plays the part of a relaxed and carefree girl around Paris. The main theme of the advert is the characters freedom to do what she wants around the city, this is symbolised in several ways throughout the advert. Being able to walk, cycle and even run around Paris at her leisure gives Lindchuck the impression of being free from the mundane responsibilities of everyday life. The advert personifies the Dior girl – fashionable, stylish, free. The character is able to experience Paris with freedom, in the idealised way a viewer would hope to. In the advert Lindchuck plays a flirty and innocent Parisian, this symbolises a care free lifestyle that consumers would buy into.

6.3 The semiotics of the advert The Dior advert in particular relies on viewers finding meaning in the images, the advert does not have verbal narrative and so the viewer must use the semiotics of the advert to find meaning in what they see. The film is made up of a series of images that signify particular ideas to the consumer – ideas that the advertisers would want to reflect onto the product. Through semiotics we make associations with Paris, linking it with glamorized (and stereotyped) ideas we have of the city for example love, romance, fashion and style. The semiotics also help the viewer to understand the actions of Lindchuck – she is not aimlessly running round the streets of Paris, she is experiencing the most vibrant and exciting parts of the city. In this instance the use of stereotyped images means that - in the short time of the advert – a viewer can understand the story of the advert without needing a verbal narrative.

6.4 What are we being sold? The caption of the editorial advert (fig 9) is “The charm of Dior in a bottle”. This implies that a customer is not only buying a bottle of perfume but is buying into the brand – giving them the chance to become part of the fashion house. The perfume is a materialisation of the Dior brand and so reflects ideas of what that may mean to us. The advert echoes the image of the Dior band, creating a product that brings to life the style of 22

the fashion brand. Not only is the advert selling the product, but also selling a desirable life style. The advert is selling the stereotyped Parisian dream, similar to the idealised image the Wheeler’s have of Paris in Revolutionary Road; we are shown Paris as a romanticised dream world. The advert epitomizes the stereotyped image of Paris, bringing an exaggerated image of the city to life and giving the illusion it is something tangible through purchasing the perfume.

Fig. 9, Dior, editorial advert (2010)


6.5 How successful is the advert? The advert is beautifully filmed, capturing Paris in a really vibrant and exciting way. It feels more like a fashion shoot or short film rather than an advert for perfume and the influence of Coppola’s film work is clear. The perfume is described as “the spontaneous joie de vivre of today’s young women, representing a particular type of freedom and seduction” (, 2013), the advert defiantly captures this idea. With perfumes, branding becomes all the more important as advertisers must create an image for the fragrance without a customer being able to smell the perfume. Looking at the character and the way the city is filmed the sense of freedom and seduction within the advert is clear. Coppola defiantly delivers the message of the fragrance.

Conclusion Through this dissertation my aim was to understand why stereotypes were used so commonly within advertising, focusing particularly on stereotypes of the French. I wanted to explore the ways that advertisers use stereotypes, considering the reasons why they are used so frequently and why they are so successful at selling to consumers. Our stereotyped image of the French has come from many sources and developed over many hundreds of years. It is almost impossible to pinpoint exactly where stereotyped ideas originated. We can, however, begin to understand by looking at the ideal, documentary and social aspects of French culture. The ideal culture looks at the imagined image we have of a place which develops from exaggerated images we are shown through the media. The documented view comes from looking at the traditions and history of a place and the social culture considers the way of life and behaviours of a place. Through applying these definitions of culture to France, gives an idea of where stereotyped images of the French have developed from. Creating stereotypes is part of the brains natural cognitive process and we use them to help us to understand the social world. By stereotyping nations – such as the French – we are able to have an understanding of their way of life and how they behave. Stereotypes enhance our sense of identity, giving humans a group in which to belong. Once they become part of a group, group members exaggerate similarities within the group to enhance the ingroup status; differences between outsider groups get increased and exaggerated. This explains how national identities become exaggerated and consequently stereotyped.


Although part of our natural categorization process, in modern culture, stereotypes are used increasingly within the media. Through the media images of stereotyped characters and places are used to connect to audiences quickly. The use of stereotypes is a vital tool used within advertising because it means that advertisers can connect customers to products quickly. A viewer has such a limited time to see an advert, so using instantly recognisable characters means that a connection can be formed more easily. Frances association with fashion, style and the arts – which has remained since the early 19th century – is used in advertising to create products that reflect these qualities. Advertisers play on human’s natural desire to fit in and have what is current by associating products with French style. In the advert for Renault, the French stereotypes are used in conjunction with British stereotypes as a way of selling a product that combines the best qualities of the two countries. The advert for Dior uses over the top stereotypes which captures the idealised image of Paris. Through this advert, we are given the opportunity to buy into the dreamlike fantasy world. Advertisers must sell us the idea of a desirable life style and so sell us the positives associated with particular stereotypes. In these two adverts, advertisers have used the idealised view of France to sell the desired lifestyle to consumers. Through my research, I have learnt that humans will always need to create stereotypes as a way of understanding the complex social world around them. The process of categorisation not only helps us understand others but helps us to understand ourselves and our own identity. Advertisers need to create products people can identify with. By using instantly recognisable character traits, advertisers are able to form instant connections between the consumer and the product. The reputation of France being the fashion capital of the world associates the image of the French with ideas of style and good taste. Advertisers use French stereotypes because they give us something to want, something to desire for and the best way of doing that is selling us the lifestyle we aspire to have.



Books: Blunden M, Blunden G. 1980, Impressionists and Impressionism, Switzerland, Skira. Bryant, J and Oliver, M,B. Ed. 2009. Media Effects, Advances in Theory and research. Oxon. Routledge. Burtenshaw, K, Mahon, N and Barfoot, C. 2006. The Fundamentals of Creative Advertising. London, AVA Publishing Hirschfeld, L. A. (1996). Race in the making. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press. Hogg, MA, Abrams, D. (1988), Social Identifications: A Social Phycology of Intergroup Relations and Group Processes . London. Routledge Howells, R. (2008) Visual Culture. Cambridge, Polity Press. Klein, N. (2005) No Logo. London. Harper Perennial Lippmann, W. (1922), Public Opinion, New York: Harcourt-Brace Morrison, D. 2010. The Death of French Culture. Cambridge, Polity press. Nadeau, J and Barlow, J. 2010. Sixty Million Frenchmen Can’t Be Wrong, What makes the French so French. London, Portico Books. Saunders, D, 1996. Sex in advertising, London, B.T.Batsford Ltd Saunders, D, 1997. Humour in advertising, London, B.T.Batsford Ltd Schmeider, S. 1988, That’s all Folks! The art of Warner Bros. animation, USA, Henry Holt and Company, Inc Storey, J. ed. 2009, Cultural theory and popular culture a reader 4th ed, Harlow, Pearson Longman Tajfel, H. and Turner, J. C. (1986). The social identity theory of inter-group behavior. In S. Worchel and L. W. Austin (eds.), Psychology of Intergroup Relations. Chigago: Nelson-Hall Turner, G. (2003) British Cultural Studies an introduction. 3rd ed. London. MPG Books Ltd. Williams, G. 2000. Branded? Products and their personalities. London. V&A Publications Williams, R. 1988, Keywords, A vocabulary of culture and society, London, Fontana Press Williamson, J. (1994) Decoding Advertisements Ideology and Meaning in Advertisements. London. Marion Boyars Publishers ltd. Wilson, M. 1983. The impressionists. Singapore, Phaidon Press Limited


Woodward, K. (2011). Identity and Difference. London, Sage Publications Ltd Yates, R. (1961) Revolutionary Road. London, Vintage. Journals: Greenwald, A. G., & Banaji, M. R. (1995). Implicit social cognition: Attitudes, self-esteem, and stereotypes. Psychological Review, 102 (1), 4-27. Online Sources: Car Pages, 2013, “Thierry and “Animal” explain The Meaning of Va Va Voom” (online) voom_25_10_03.asp (Accessed 13/02/13) Car Pages, 2013, “Thierry gets The Red Card Move Over Nicole Here Come “Ben and Sophie”” (online) (Accessed 13/02/13) Independent, Patterson, T and Lichfield, J. 2011. “Why the Germans and French prefer to rent” (online article) 31/05/11. Available at (Accessed 17/02/13) John Lewis, 2013, Dior Miss Dior Eau de Parfum (online) Available at (accessed 14/02/13) Teen Vogue, 2009 “Though this explanation has often baffled journalists, it is generally believed that Coppola does, in fact, live in Paris, despite her superficial responses to questions about the city” (online) Available at (Accessed 13/02/13) The Free Dictionary, 2013. (online) Available at (accessed 18/02/13) The Free Dictionary, 2013 (online) Available at (accessed 18/02/13) The Terrier and Lobster, 2010. “Dior Cherie Commercial, Behind the Scenes with Maryna Lindchuck and Coppola. 04/05/2010. (translated) Available at (Accessed 14/02/13) University of North Florida, Ferber, L. 2008, Pardon our French: French Stereotypes in American Media (PDF) available at 3Dpardon%2520my%2520french%2520stereotypes%2520in%2520maerican%2520media% 26source%3Dweb%26cd%3D1%26sqi%3D2%26ved%3D0CDMQFjAA%26url%3Dhttp%253 D1006%2526context%253Dojii_volumes%26ei%3DTpkLUdm5HcbL0AXzuIHwCw%26usg% 3DAFQjCNGqOsUNlPZPbPhAhThv2QfN6V1aJw%26bvm%3Dbv.41867550%2Cd.d2k#sear ch=%22pardon%20my%20french%20stereotypes%20maerican%20media%22 (Accessed 01/02/13) 27

Films: Moulin Rouge, 2001, (DVD) Baz Lurhmann, America, 20th Century Fox. Revolutionary Road, 2008, (DVD) Sam Mendes, London, BBC films.

Adverts: Dior, 2008, Advertisement for Dior Miss Cherie. (online) available at last viewed 13/02/13 Renault, 2002, Advertisement for Renault Clio. (online) available at last viewed 13/02/13 Renault, 2007. Advertisement for Renault Clio. (online) available at last viewed 13/02/13 Renault, 2005, Advertisement for Renault Clio. (online) available at last viewed 13/02/13


Clare Shepherd dissertation  

Stereotypes of the French; Why are social typecasts so successful in advertising?

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