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Grandpa as salesman

The Image of the Elderly in British and Korean Contemporary Advertising‏
Lecture by Dr. Hyunsun Yoon
Korean Cultural Centre, 24th June 2008

Report by Saharial, with photo by Matthew Jackson

This informative lecture by Dr. Hyunsun Yoon examined the way the elderly are represented in both British and Korean advertising.

A growing demographic, the elderly population is regarded with a great difference between the two cultures, something demonstrated well when comparing various advertising clips. Confucian values of family, filial duty and respect for the elderly provide the basis for the Korean perception, the elderly portrayed as helpful, doing gentle activities, imparting wisdom and embodying the feeling of ‘Han’. ‘Han’ is a concept of wistfulness, nostalgia and reminiscence, often related to the unique political situation in Korea.

This advert for Werthers in the UK, ran for 15 years until it was pulled in the early years of this decade as the public were obviously unable to relate to the imagery.

and, albeit tongue in cheek, adverts such as those for Safe Storage and John Smith’s Beer regard the elderly as useless and disposable.

Safe Storage

John Smith Bitter

Adverts shown for companies like KT (Korea Telecom) show communication between parents and children on a daily basis, a government sponsored advert shows the grandmother helping to raise the children whose parents must go to work and feel they ‘abandon’ their filial duty. The UK adverts for BT usually deal with families that are dysfunctional in some way, an odd concept if you think about it – for a communications device.

It was definitely a lecture that gave one a lot to think about in terms of how cultural differences still rule the nature of advertising and marketing, even if the financial and product aspects get closer together. Both cultures use ‘overflow’ from popular dramas and ‘worlds’ to create a familiar feel. In the UK we have Sibyl from ‘Fawlty Towers’ transposed to Tesco while Korea has Dae Jang Geum transposed to advertise instant noodles.

An interesting point made by one of the many attendees for the lecture was that the Korean portrayal of the elderly is far more passive than those of the UK – the UK elderly are vociferous complainers, stubborn and determined and that we like it that way. We, he went on to add, will always take the humorous route in advertising whereas Koreans will always select the sentimental and emotional angle.

Commercial breaks will never be the same again…

Hyunsun Catherine Yoon

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