Nationality and Negotiation of Advertising Meanings

Stephanie O’Donohoe, The University of Edinburgh
[ to cite ]:
Stephanie O’Donohoe (1999) ,"Nationality and Negotiation of Advertising Meanings", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 26, eds. Eric J. Arnould and Linda M. Scott, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 684-689.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 26, 1999      Pages 684-689

NATIONALITY AND NEGOTIATION OF ADVERTISING MEANINGS

Stephanie O’Donohoe, The University of Edinburgh

[The author is grateful to the Nuffield Foundation for funding the main part of the fieldwork, and to The University of Edinburgh's Faculty of Social Sciences for funding the pilot study.]

INTRODUCTION

Reflecting on the literature concerning country-of-origin effects on consumer perceptions of products and services, several scholars have bemoaned the limited way in which the concept has been interpreted and applied. It has been pointed out, for example, that country-of-origin effects apply to phenomena other than goods and services, and that multiple places of origin may be associated with these phenomena (Papadopoulos 1993). Askegaard and Ger (1997) call for broader and richer conceptualizations, arguing that questions of meaning, context and stereotypes are fundamental yet neglected aspects of place of origin effects. Drawing on reader-response theory (Stern 1989), these authors also emphasize the role of the consumer as a reader or co-creator of marketing meanings.

This paper takes as its starting point these developments in the country-of-origin literature. Reporting on an interpretive study of young adults’ everyday advertising experiences, it explores meanings of the perceived place of origin of advertisements among a group of young Scots. As these meanings seemed to be intertwined with their sense of national identity, the paper first provides some context for discussion of the study by introducing the reader to Scotland and the issue of national identity.

NATIONAL IDENTITY AND THE SCOTTISH CONTEXT

As Gabriel and Lang (1995) observe, modernity conspires against fixed identities, making the construction of self-identity an interminable, reflexive and symbolic project. Our identities are not simply the product of our personal relationships, lifestyle decisions and consumer choices; they are constituted by the ways in which we write these into our own "coherent, yet continually revised, biographical narratives" (Giddens 1991:5). The construction of such narratives becomes particularly problematic in postmodern society, which highlights the fluid and fragmented nature of identity (Bauman 1996; Elliott and Wattansuwan 1998; Firat and Dholakia 1998). Similar challenges and problems exist on social as well as personal levels:

A group’s identity, like personal identity, is problematic; it must be fought over and forged out of shared experiences and traditions; it must discard attributions imposed upon the group by others; it must discover and celebrate its own continuity with the past; it must choose who its friends and enemies are, where its boundaries lie, what its symbols are and so on (Gabriel and Lang 1995:85)

Such concerns resonate with those addressed in the literature on national identity. The nation-stateBa fusion of the political (the state), the social (society) and the cultural (the nation)Bis largely a creation of modernity and the Enlightenment (Hague 1996). As McCrone (1992:9) observes,

Modernity had aligned the national economy, polity and culture so that citizenship and an allegiance to the sovereign state provided a clear and unambiguous identity. Postmodernity, on the other hand, pointed to the limited nature of state sovereignty in an interdependent world, and highlighted the often contradictory and competing identities on offer.

Contemporary nation-states and national identities are under pressure from a variety of sources, ranging from the reassertion of ethnic identities to the rapid pace of globalization (Dowds and Young 1996; Firat and Dholakia 1998). Many commentators have recognized the complex interplay between the global and the local, however. Hall (1992) makes a persuasive case for globalization having "a pluralizing effect on identities, producing a variety of possibilities and new positions of identity". Similarly, Firat and Dholakia (1998:106-7) argue that globalization does not mean that one style or form dominates others:

Rather, it is the diffusion of all different forms and styles across the world...the postmodern consumer experience is not one of committing to a single way of being or a single form of existence...

Nonetheless, Gabriel and Lang (1995:93) remind us that cohesion "cannot simply be wished away from identity, simply because it has become problematic". Nations are formed by "the constant renewal and retelling of our tale by each generation of our descendants" (Smith 1986:208); they are "imagined communities" offering a sense of belonging in time and space, deep comradeship and communion, even with those whom we do not know (Anderson 1983). If we consider Scotland as "a landscape of the mind, a place of the imagination" it may be cluttered with cliches of tartan, kilts and heather, but it also offers "a powerful set of images, based on romance, sadness, defeat, hardship, conflict and struggle" (McCrone 1992: 17-18).

On a more prosaic level, Scotland’s five million inhabitants live in a "stateless nation", since it is part of the larger administrative nation-state of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (Hague 1996). The Scottsh and English Crowns were joined in 1603 when James VI of Scotland succeeded Elizabeth I of England, and the Parliaments joined together in 1707 under the Treaty of Union. This makes Britain an invented nation, superimposed onto much older loyalties and alignments (Colley 1992). Indeed, since it was founded without the firm alignment of state, civil society and nation, "the boundaries of British nationality, identity and citizenship are only very imprecisely drawn and understood" (Cohen 1995:7). Given the dominance of England, however, Crick (1992) suggests that the other nations within the United Kingdom possess to a greater or lesser extent "a helpfully integrative anti-Englishness; or at least a pleasing consciousness of being different from the English". This may be understood at least in part as a "fight against the bestowal of identity by the core on the periphery" (Zagratzki 1996:11).

Despite the Union, there remained in Scotland an "ancient, rankling hostility to the English founded upon centuries of past conflict" (Nairn 1974:88). For their part, the English have always regarded the Scots "with an element of fear and not a little incomprehension" (Cohen 1995:9). Considering contemporary relations between the two, Hague (1996) uses Bauman’s (1990) idea of the stranger as "neither friend nor enemy, but possibly both", to suggest that Scotland has been "England’s friend and enemy". An examination of the economic, political and cultural differences contributing to this ambivalent relationship is beyond the scope of this paper. It is important to note, however, that even after 1707, Scotland remained an autonomous civil society, retaining control over its church, legal and educational systems. Indeed,

...there was no doubt at the beginning of the nineteenth centuryBjust as there is no doubt todayBthat "Scotland" was a distinct entity of some kind, felt to be such both by the people living in it and by all travellers who ventured into it from outside. It had (as it still has) a different "social ethic"...(Nairn 1974:88-9)

In recent years, Scotland could be said to have experienced an "all-round national renaissance" and a new cultural self-awareness, expressed through film, theatre, writing, music, and art (Zagratzki 1996). In keeping with this national confidence, Scots voted in 1997 for a Scottish Parliament with tax-varying powers, which will come into effect by the year 2000. The people of Wales and Northern Ireland have also voted for their own national assemblies, and this, not to mention the drive towards greater European integration (Cohen 1995; Marquand 1995) has led to considerable debate about the future of British national identity.

THE PRESENT STUDY

The discussion presented below is drawn from a broader qualitative study of young adults’ everyday experiences of advertising. Seeking to provide a "thick description" (Geertz 1973), the research was conducted in the British cultural studies tradition of audience ethnography (Moores 1993). A combination of small group discussions (usually with four participants) and individual interviews was used in this study. Small groups were used to obtain peer interaction while still allowing individual comments and interpretations to be explored in some depth. Personal interviews were used to facilitate more detailed exploration of individual experiences, interpretations and idiosyncrasies (Robson and Foster 1989). In order to address a range of experiences, age, gender and broad occupational status quotas were used; participants were students, working or unemployed, and among the older workers, a distinction was made between graduates and non-graduates. A pilot study involved four small group discussions and two individual interviews, and the main research, involving fourteen groups and fourteen individual interviews,took place in Edinburgh in 1991. In total, 82 young adults participated, and tape-recorded discussion generally lasted between one and a half to two hours.

The study encouraged participants to describe their experiences of advertising in their own words, in their own way, and with their own examples: rather than imposing a specific set of ads on them, they were asked to talk about any ads which they liked, disliked or remembered for any reason, and from any time or medium. Subsequent discussion emerged from, and was grounded in, their own experiences and descriptions of ads. A sorting task based on Kelly’s repertory grid technique was also used to facilitate discussion and obtain insights into participants’ organization of cultural knowledge (Fransella and Bannister 1977; Spradley 1979). The ads mentioned in discussion served as the elements, and were presented in groups of three. Participants were asked to identify "the odd one out" on whatever criteria came to mind. At the end of each session, the young adults looked through some magazines and talked about any ads which attracted their attention.

Following Glaser and Strauss (1967), an attempt was made to develop grounded theory, emerging from and illustrated by the data collected. Emergent categories and their properties were developed by comparing them with instances from further fieldwork and other cases, by searching for negative instances, and by discussing interpretations with colleagues from various social science backgrounds. The study’s participants are referred to below as "informants" rather than "respondents", in keeping with the attempt to ground the study in their language and culture, rather than those of the researcher (Spradley 1979).

FINDINGS

The young adults provided rich and detailed accounts of a wide range of ads and their meanings. Throughout the discussions and sorting exercises, it became evident that informants categorized ads in many different ways, and it was in this context that the perceived origins of ads emerged as a theme. The main distinctions made were between "Scottish" and "English" ads, and between "British" ads and those from Europe, America, and elsewhere. The cues guiding their categorizations, and the meanings associated with the different categories, are discussed below.

Scottish ads

"Scottish" ads were discussed as a distinct category, although as Papadopoulos (1993) would predict, attributing a place of origin to ads was not always straightforward. Informants generally considered an ad for a Scottish product to be a Scottish ad, although several people suggested that an ad for Irn-Bru, a soft drink brand which has seeped into the fabric of Scottish culture, "had probably been made in England". Indeed, Irn-Bru’s advertising at the time was created by the London-based agency Lowe-Howard-Spink. The murky issue of origin is also highlighted by some discussions about an ad for Persil detergent, which informants knew was the product of a multinational company. Despite the product’s origins, this ad was described as a "genuine Scottish advert" because it featured a popular Scottish actor and portrayed the characters and rural setting in an amusing but authentic light.

When informants talked about Scottish advertising, they often associated it with low-budget ads, many of which were "local" or "regional". The terms "local" and "regional" were often used interchangeably, but some informants referred to national ads which had been dubbed into local or regional accents as "regional". One informant suggested that

It’s quite nice to see local, you know, regional adverts on telly like that. Cos you know a lot of Persil ones are all sort of London-based... [male graduateworkers 21-24]

Whatever their merits in this respect, however, these ads were universally condemned as "cheap", "tacky", "horrible" and "nasty". Local television commercials were described as "blip adverts", sometimes lasting only five seconds, using "elevator music" and "wonky pictures", and often broadcast at three in the morning. Local cinema ads (particularly those for restaurants) were similarly ridiculed; these were typically described as extremely low-budget, with "bad, crackling prints" used for years on end, and having "little or no thought put into them". Only slightly higher up the evolutionary ladder was a long-standing television campaign for a furniture warehouse which featured a Scottish sports presenter. Informants dissected these ads with distaste, unimpressed by the choice of celebrity or the production techniques involved:

I think he must have been cheap to get...they thought "Och, he’s cheap, he’s Scottish, everyone will love him" [unemployed female 21-24]

...they have him standing there and he’s obviously meant to be standing in the shop, but it’s obvious that he’s standing in a studio nowhere near the shop, with a photo of the shop behind [unemployed male 18-20]

Such ads were often characterized as "embarrassing", to the extent that the hope was commonly expressed that they were not shown outside Scotland. At the same time, however, informants were quite defensive about these ads, recognizing that their severe budget constraints made them soft targets:

I guess I like the more, not glamorous, the ones that have a bit more thought in them. That’s what I mean about the Scottish ones. But I guess they don’t really have the money. I mean all they have perhaps is a picture of you know, what they’re selling. And they have like 30 seconds to say "this is what the sale is" or whatever and that’s them [female student 18-20]

Usually the regional ones are on a low budget, whereas these big conglomerates like Pepsi, Coke, can afford to spend a lot of money [male workers 21-24]

Regardless of budgetary issues, the young adults were very sensitive to how Scotland and Scottishness were portrayed in ads. They understood why certain brands relied heavily on Scottish imagery:

If you were doing porridge, then you’d probably try and play up the Scottish thing. I mean, if you had a product you would probably look towards the root of the product or what it’s associated with [unemployed female 21-24]

Occasionally, an ad could "play up the Scottish thing" in a way which was appreciated for its irony or gentle humor. Nonetheless, informants were quick to condemn "stereotypical" ads which based their imagery around haggis-eating, whisky-swilling, ginger-haired characters wearing kilts with "padlocked sporrans" and "false Scottish accents". Indeed, regional ads in particular were lambasted for their "fake", "funny" or "really strong" Scottish accents, with informants (who were after all urban dwellers) pointing out that they themselves did not walk around prefacing each sentence with "Och aye the noo". Various ads were accused of "trying to be too Scottish" or appealing too blatantly to a sense of national pride. Ads mentioned in this context included one for Scottish Blend tea which had kettles whistling the tune of "Auld Langsyne", and a campaign for the Daily Record newspaper which claimed that "real Scots read the Record". As one informant commened,

It annoys me, actually, the newspapers are forever saying "printed in Scotland", that sort of stuff. I think that’s a bit patronizing [male students 18-20]

Some ads were more successful in appealing to informants’ sense of themselves as Scots. Lamenting the poor standard of many Scottish ads, a young male student commented that "the only good one’s Irn-Bru, you think that’s brilliant and you feel proud to be Scottish". Interestingly, this ad was a parody of "young, trendy" styles of advertising associated with Coke and Pepsi. In other cases, particular elements of ads resonated with a Scottish sensibility. For example, ads for Famous Grouse whisky "kind of strike a chord, with the grouse being a Scottish bird". Similarly, ads for McEwan’s lager featured music from local Edinburgh or Glasgow bands; this was seen to "raise the pride" in Scotland, and to provide "something you can relate to". Informants also spoke favorably about ads which featured familiar parts of Scotland:

It’s good to see an advert showing your own country as well. The Tennent’s one. As soon as he walked down Princes Street, the statue, the castle behind it, and Bianco’s at the west endB I ken [know] where he is! [male workers 18-20]

Scottish vs English ads

When informants discussed Scottish ads, thoughts of their English neighbors were rarely far away. Various comments indicated a degree of self-consciousness, and a concern with how Scottish ads would be perceived in England. For example, a young male student said that he "would hate English people to see Scottish adsBit might give them the wrong impression". On the other hand, an ad for a Scottish utilities company was admired partly because

It pushes Scotland, you know what I mean? I think they’re maybe shown in Britain so English people will be able to picture it more... [male workers 18-20]

I’m proud to be a Scot...if I see that Loch Ness one, if I see an English person or someone from somewhere else looking at that, they might think it’s pretty... [unemployed males 18-20]

Consistent with Hague’s (1996) notion of Scotland as "England’s friend and enemy", various comments indicated a sense of rivalry. For example, a male student noted that an ad featuring a famous footballer "didn’t go down too well in Scotland cos he’s English". When Scottish ads were discussed in relation to English ones, Scotland was often thought to suffer by comparison:

You see an English advert and then you see a Scottish one and you think the advert’s so bad compared to the English one. And you feel like Scotland’s second best cos they make crap adverts [male students 18-20]

Although they thought that Scottish ads were generally inferior to English ones, informants often accounted for this on financial grounds. Thus, two female graduate workers discussed a Scottish ad which had not impressed them. One suggested that the advertisers "...couldn’t afford anybody nice", and the other chipped in with "couldn’t afford an English person!". Similarly,

You would maybe look at it and say well, you can tell it’s Scottish because not as much money has been spent on it as the English would spend on it. [unemployed males 21-24]

In another group, it was recognized that some English ads were also low-budget, but this was seen to be relative, as "there’s more affluene down there". Running through many comments was a general sense of Scotland and Scottishness being excluded or marginalized. This was expressed at a very general level by one informant, who suggested that television in general had been "Englishified":

...there’s talk of Britain, it’s never Scotland and England, it’s England and Britain. That’s what I hate. Even Northern Ireland and Scotland’s all Britain, and England’s a place on its own [unemployed females 18-20]

Several informants complained that English magazines or television programs contained ads for products which were not even available in Scotland. Others commented that Scottish accents were under-represented in advertising, and just as they resented "strong" Scottish accents in regional ads, they were suspicious of some voiceovers which appeared to be Scottish:

You’ll probably find that it’s mostly English people doing a Scottish accent. It really annoys me. [female workers 21-24]

They don’t even say it right, they’re all English [unemployed males 18-20]

On some occasions, however, Scottish ads allowed informants to feel better about themselves in relation to their English neighbors. Referring to "this Scottish-English thing", one informant talked about enjoying ads which "get the old dig into our friends down south" and "take the mickey out of the English". He particularly liked a Scottish beer ad which showed a "droll Scottish guy" driving around Glasgow, showing his youthful haunts to his English friend. The two men visited the Scot’s hometown and the location of his first date, and then they went to the pub where he had been given his first drink:

And the English guy goes "Oh, has it changed much?". And he [the Scot] goes "Oh, they let anyone in nowadays". And the English guy is left staring at his drink [male graduate worker 21-24]

One ad in particular resonated with informants because of the way it contrasted England and Scotland, and indeed the two capital cities. This ad (also for beer) was described in great detail. It featured a young Scot travelling to work on the London underground system:

Well it started with him being on the Tube which was crowded, a lot of jostling. It looks as if it’s a bit unpleasant and he got out and he saw this poor soul, lost, looking for directions. Everybody is just going past and it sort of portrayed London as an unfriendly place I suppose. Everyone’s very busy. He got into a lift which was again very busy and he decided to junk it so he went out, dumped his briefcase or whatever, just at the Reception. The receptionist and the porter were just busy jabbering away ignoring him. And then he came back up to Scotland. Smiles and talking to people on the street corners and then he met friends in a pub. And they must’ve known by some sort of telepathy or something because they’d got him a pint already. Quite obvious messages. I’d like to see how that went down with an English audience! [male student 21-24]

This ad resonated with informants on various levels. They identified with the portrayal of London as overwhelming, impersonal and unfriendly; as an older female worker put it, "it’s a big place and you just want to get back to Edinburgh, to the wee pubs you know and everybody you know in it". Some informants projected themselves into the situation depicted, to the extent that they imagined what the main character was thinking. Some claimed to have telephoned friends working in London to tell them about the ad, and many knew people who were in similar situations:

I’ve got alot of friends who went down to work in London. A lot of them are still there. But a lot of them have either come back to Edinburgh or Glasgow or whatever, or want to come back, so it really appeals to me personally [male students 21-24]

"British" vs "foreign" advertising

In the course of the discussions, the young adults referred to a range of ads which were made outside Britain. At times they drew on their experience of vacations or travel abroad, but they also talked about television programs or articles in newspapers or magazines which featured ads from around the world. When discussing these ads, informants’ Scottishness appeared to be much less of an issue. Passing comparisons were made between ads from other countries and "adverts over here", without it being specified where exactly "here" might be. Sometimes, however, informants appeared to affiliate themselves with Britain rather than with Scotland, and on (rare) occasions, they positioned themselves as Europeans:

I suppose we’re quite lucky. Clive James did a program of all these adverts from all over the world and there was some really sort of pornographic bra adverts in France...[female graduate workers 21-24]

Did you see the programs which were comparing the different AIDS ads there had been over Europe? ...There’s no way we’d be allowed to see anything resembling a condom in an advert in Britain [male graduate workers 21-24]

The ones with the coming down of the Berlin Wall, I found that insulting. Both Coke and Pepsi did it and they had shots of the Berlin Wall coming down, Ceaucescu getting overturned, and all the sort of #89 revolutions. And then they had "Pepsi would like to congratulate Europe on getting its act together" sort of thing [male students 21-24]

Informants’ discussion of "American" ads suggested that this label covered some very different styles of advertising. One style had more to do with the imagery of ads for all-American products such as Coke and Pepsi. An unemployed informant described some ads as "Americanized...young, trendy". Many references were made to the young, glamorous American teenagers, and to the American rock and pop music used in such ads. In this context it is perhaps not surprising that several informants considered a glossy television campaign for Levi’s jeans to be American. While the American origins of the product may influence perception of the ads, one informant commented:

I know they’re not really American, but it’s just the heat and everyone has got these dresses that are really low cut and sort of lying back in the sun and watching whoever it is going past, this gorgeous girl or gorgeous guy in their gorgeous jeans. [female students 18-20]

More surprising was the belief among some informants that the ads for Volkswagen cars and Hamlet cigars were American. Here the products themselves did not have an American image, and the ads did not show "young, trendy" people. Perhaps the sheer production quality of these ads was equated with America. Informants sometimes assumed ads to be Scottish rather than English because of apparently lower budgets. If they considered America to be a more affluent country than Britain, they may have expected American ads to have higher budgets and standards of production. Indeed, one informant made a direct comparison between Scottish and American ads on this basis:

...over there, of course, everything’s a lot more glamorous and they’re spending a lot more money on them [female student 18-20]

Moe commonly, however, informants characterized "American" advertising as direct, aggressive, and intrusive, with ads "pounding at you all the time". There were many references to American ads "slagging off" competitors, and telling consumers to "dial with your Access card and buy!":

American adverts are quite hard sell. They really sort of quite pressurize you to buy, the guy keeps going on and on...It’s not like Europe. [male workers 21-24, mixed]

I like the sort of "buy this or your money back". All of them are like that. They’re funny but they’re not meant to be. But, like, from watching them here to watching them there, then you can see the funny side [female workers 18-20]

Indeed, the young adults often exuded an air of superiority and condescension in talking about American ads, aligning themselves with British restraint, subtlety and aversion to blatant commercialism. In one group, someone mentioned that the rules of American football had been changed to suit the requirements of television advertisers:

-In America the lobby was so strong that they managed to change the entire rules of the game that had been going for sixty years. Adverts every ten minutes, not every fifteen!

-I don’t think they would get away with that in Britain. We get exactly half as much advertising in Britain. We get seven minutes in an hour, in the States it’s fourteen [male students 21-24]

DISCUSSION

Clearly, the findings presented above relate to a particular group, situated in a particular time and place. Nonetheless, they raise some interesting issues for discussion and future research. Firstly, these findings offer some support for the broader perspective on country-of-origin advocated by Askegaard and Ger (1997). The young adults clearly considered ads to have a place of origin, and they were involved in creating images and meanings around those places of origin. This suggests that advertisers should pay careful attention to the range of cues which consumers may use to make inferences about an ad’s origins. Given that ads may be seen as an aspect of a brand’s personality (Biel 1990), the perceived origins of an ad may play a role in influence perceptions about the brand. This may be of particular interest to advertisers seeking to overcome negative perceptions associated with a brand’s origins, such as those discussed in the animosity model of foreign product purchase (Klein et al 1998).

The ease with which informants made sense of a whole range of cues within the ads, and the critical manner in which they evaluated these, lends some support to the notion of consumers as advertising literate. The young adults certainly showed themselves to be agile and active readers of advertising texts (Scott 1994). They were competent and confident consumers of advertising, and more. Friestad and Wright (1994) argue that consumers respond to persuasive communications based on their intuitive theories and "folk knowledge" about persuasion. In this study, the young adults’ discussion of various advertiser objectives, options and budget restrictions indicates the possession of well-developed "schemer schema" (Wright 1986) and the ability to adopt the role of surrogate strategists in their encounters with advertising.

Literacy does not refer to a neutral set of skills, however, but to how, why, and in what context those skills are pplied (Maybin 1993). This perspective is as relevant to advertising as it is to other domains of literacy (Ritson and Elliott 1995; O’Donohoe and Tynan 1998). Consumers are socially and culturally situated individuals seeking to make sense of their lives, identities and relationships, and ads provide symbolic resources to be used for those purposes. Indeed, Mick and Buhl (1992) suggest that consumers’ negotiation of advertising meanings is inevitably intertwined with their private, family, community and national life themes and projects. Similarly, McCracken (1987:122) suggests that in looking at ads, consumers seek "concepts of what it is to be a man or a woman, concepts of what it is to be middle-aged...[or] a member of a community or a country".

In this study, the young adults’ accounts of "Scottish" and "English" advertising support the claims by McCracken and Mick and Buhl that advertising has a role to play in the construction and maintenance of national identity. This is not to suggest that the young adults related to all or even most ads as Scots; that would deny the agility and flexibility of advertising readers able to "change frames and strategies even within the temporal space of a single reading" (Scott 1994:475). Indeed, informants adopted an almost infinite range of roles in relation to ads and advertising: sometimes their gender or occupational status was paramount in negotiating the meaning of ads, but on other occasions they related to ads as vegetarians, fans of particular celebrities, or film buffs for example. Furthermore, even in the context of nationality, different levels of affiliation emerged in this study; relating to some ads as Scots did not preclude informants from identifying themselves with "British" or "European" advertising on other occasions. This should not be surprising: given the pluralism and complexity of identities in the late twentieth century, it is unrealistic to seek a single carrier of national identity (McCrone 1992). Even if we accept that national identity is simply one fragment of the self, it does offer postmodern consumers one solution to their quest for the social link (Cova 1997). This study suggests that consumers can draw on the symbolic resources of advertising in the construction of "imagined communities".

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