Date of Award

8-2002

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Communication

Major Professor

Dr. Ronald E. Taylor

Committee Members

Dr. Roxanne Hoveland, Dr. Eric Haley, Dr. Ann Fairhurst

Abstract

This study attempted to examine how the Internet has been presented in advertising in the United States and to explore how cultural values play a role in shaping the images of the Internet. Using a document analysis method based on principles of qualitative research, 504 advertisements for the Internet and Internet-related products appearing in Time magazine during 1995-2000 were examined. The analysis focused on identifying categories of message strategies and technological themes used in the ads and examining the changes in the use of the message strategies and technological themes.

Careful analysis revealed that the number of ads promoting the Internet and Internet-related products increased from 11 in 1995 to 165 in 2000. Five categories related to products types advertised were identified: e-commerce, products enabling the Internet, corporate image, communication, and information searching and management. A total of 46% of the ads promoted e-commerce-related products accounting for the highest frequency. Also, the percent of ads promoting e-commerce increased from 32.9 % in 1995 to 60.5 % in 2000.

Four categories of message strategies emerged: Individual benefits-oriented strategy, company or brand name-oriented strategy, product attributes-oriented strategy, and social benefits-oriented strategy. The Individual benefits-oriented strategy was most frequently used in the ads. The most notable changes in the use of message strategies were the dramatic decrease in the use of the product-attributes strategy from 72.7% in 1995 to 20.4 % of 2000 and, in contrast, the increase in the use of the individual benefits-oriented strategy from 9.1% in 1995 to 42% in 2000.

An examination of the technological themes produced eight categories: Efficiency, freedom, intelligence, revolution, control, social connection, magic, and economic potential. A total of 73.2% of the ads included the efficiency theme and 40. 3 % of the ads used the freedom theme. While the use of the efficiency theme was decreasing, the use of the intelligence theme continuously increased from 27.3 % in 1995 to 40% in 2000. In addition, sub-categories of the efficiency and freedom themes emerged. These included: time efficiency, effort efficiency, and money efficiency, along with freedom from time constraints, freedom from space constraints, and freedom from social surroundings.

Careful incorporation of these findings generated two broad patterns by which the Internet was promoted in advertising from 1995 to 2000. They were the commercialization and individualization of Internet technology. Internet technology was dominantly presented as a commercial medium through which business activities were done and as an individual medium that enhanced individual freedom and intelligence.

In conclusion, an analysis of the advertisements for the Internet and Internet-related products in Time magazine from 1995 to 2000 revealed that advertising picked up some dominant American cultural values such as efficiency, freedom, and intelligence and incorporated them into their advertising messages through the selections of specific message strategies and technological themes. As a result, advertising placed Internet technology as a commercial and individual medium in the United States.

In relation to previous studies, some points such as the optimistic presentation of new technology and the autonomy of technology were discussed. Some unintended consequences of these advertising practices were addressed and certain managerial implications were noted. Finally, the limitations of this study and directions for further studies were presented.

Files over 3MB may be slow to open. For best results, right-click and select "save as..."

Included in

Communication Commons

Share

COinS