The application of sense-making theory to advertising : an exploratory case study

Watson, James Alexander (2003-12)

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: The purpose of the study was to investigate the controlled transfer of meaning that could be facilitated by the application of knowledge of sense-making theory. An object of communication, an advertisement, was consciously constructed on the basis of sense-making principles. An application of knowledge of sense making was then employed to assess the reception of the advertisement by a selected sample of respondents. The decision to select advertising as the choice of medium for the study stemmed from the increasing levels of criticism directed at this form of communication as a result of its frequent failure to deliver intended benefits for its sponsors. The intended benefits relate to the transfer of meaning that would prompt recipients of advertising messages to take an action that would be of value to the advertiser. More specific criticisms have centred on the failure of a growing number of advertising messages to deliver meaningful benefits as a result of their lack of relevance for the intended recipients of these communications. A call for a shift in mind-set away from traditional linear models currently employed to facilitate the design of advertising messages has prompted a growing recognition of the need to employ a more empathetic approach that would facilitate a positive interaction between an advertiser and a target audience. The emergence of what has been termed experiential marketing communications has advocated a view that advertising communications can promote stronger allegiances between organisations and their customers by the inclusion of meaningful sensory associations for recipients. This view, together with the insights revealed by those working in the field of sense making, suggested that the incorporation of sense-making theory could well accommodate the paradigm shift that has been called for in the design of advertising communications. The views and insights outlined above prompted the development of an advertisement that sought to incorporate sense-making theory into its construction. The requirement to allow for the transfer of intended meaning in the advertisement was facilitated by incorporating frames and cues, the design of which sought to assist in the resolution of equivocality and enable respondents to bridge cognitive gaps. The investigation took the form of an exploratory case study. The advertisement, constructed on the basis of sense-making theory, represented the control element of the study. In-depth interviews were conducted amongst grade 12 learners selected on the basis of their matching the target audience for which the advertisement had been designed. The semi-structured nature of the interviews followed a format that allowed for a comparison to be made between the intended input of meaning and the decoding of responses relating to the advertisement. Results indicated that there was a transfer of intended meanings incorporated into the advertisement as indicated in the decoded responses of respondents. These positive findings tend to indicate that a conscious application of sense-making theory to the construction of advertising messages could enhance their effectiveness.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Die doel van hierdie studie was om die beheerde oordrag van betekenis, gefassiliteer deur die bepassing van kennis van die “sense-making” teorie, te ondersoek. ‘n Voorwerp van kommunikasie, ‘n advertensie, is doelbewus geskep op grond van die beginsels van die “sense-making” teorie. ‘n Toepassing van kennis van dié teorie is aangewend om die impak van die advertensie op ‘n steekproef van reagente te assesseer. Weens die voortdurende mislukking van die advertensie medium om beplande voordele aan die borge te lewer, styg vlakke van kritiek gerig tot hierdie medium. Juis hierdie statistiek het die besluit om die advertensie medium as voorwerp van studie te gebruik, laat ontwikkel. Die beplande voordele vir die borge hou direk verband met die oordrag van die betekenis wat die ontvanger van die advertensie boodskap sal aanpar om op te tree, en sodoende tot voordeel van die adverteerder sal strek. Kritiek is spesifiek gerig op die mislukking van al hoe meer advertensies wat nie betekenisvolle voordele lewer nie as gevolg van die irrelevansie van die vorm van kommunikasie vir die ontvanger. Die herkenning van die groeiende behoefde het ‘n beroep gemaak om ‘n paradigma skuif te maak, weg van die huidige, tradisionele, linêre model wat die ontwerp van advertensie boodskappe fassiliteer. Hierdie behoefte is om ‘n meer empatiese benadering in te stel, wat ‘n positiewe interaksie tussen die adverteerder en teiken gehoor sal fassiliteer. Die ontstaan van die sogenaamde “experietial marketing communications” het voorgestel dat die advertensie medium sterker getrouheid tussen organisasies en hul klante kan adverteer. Hierdie oogpunt, saam met die insig van dié gene wat in die veld van “sense making” werk, stel voor dat die inkorporasie van die “sense-making” teorie, wel die paradigma skuif, beroep op die ontwerp van die advertensie, kan akkommodeer. Dit het die ontwikkeling van ‘n advertensie met die “sense-making” teorie in sy konstruksie geïnkorporeer, aangewaldeer. Die vereiste om die oordrag van die beplande betekenis van ‘n advertensie te bewerkstellig, is gefassiliteer deur sketse en aanwysings te inkorporeer. Hierdie sketse en aanwysings is ontwerp om die voorkoming/oplossing van dubbelsinnigheid te ondersteun en om reagente te help om kognitiewe gapings te oorbrug. Die ondersoek het die vorm van ‘n ontdekkings gevallestudie aangeneem. Die advertensie, gebaseer op die “sense-making” teorie, het die kontrole element van die studie verteenwoordig. Onderhoude is indiepte gevoer met graad 12 leerders wat gekeur is op grond van die feit dat hulle in die teikengroep van die ontwerpte advertensie val. Die semigestruktureerde aard van die onderhoude het toegelaat dat die voorafbeplande blootstelling aan die betekenis vergelyk word met die dekodering van die terugvoering in verband met die advertensie. Resultate het gewys dat daar wel ‘n oordrag van die beplande, geïnkorporeerde betekenis in die advertensie plaas gevind het, wat bewys is in as ‘n dekodeerde reaksie van die reagent. Hierdie positiewe bevindings neig om te bewys dat ‘n bewuste aanwending van die “sensemaking” teorie tot die konstruksie van die advertensie wese die effektiewiteit van boodskappe verbeter.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/16471
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