Picturing the Public : Advertising Self-Regulation in Sweden and the UK
Sammanfattning: Across the globe, people are everyday audiences of advertising images, which have become integrated in our life worlds. Advertising images are entangled with interesting moral conflicts. This study analyses the decision-processes of advertising self-regulators, who are in the midst of such moral conflicts, with the purpose of showing how and why they decide if advertising images are acceptable or not.Two organizations based in different countries are included in the study; The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) in the United Kingdom and The Trade Ethical Council against Sexism in Advertising (ERK) in Sweden. The empirical material consists of interviews with 38 people, images and text documents, from the two mentioned self-regulatory bodies, and some (participant) observation. The study focuses on cases of potentially offensive advertisements. The material is primarily analysed using the theory of worlds of worth, developed by Luc Boltanski and Laurent Thévenot.The thesis argues that advertising self-regulation is about ascertaining, and making compromises between, conventions of morality. The study demonstrates the pattern of how the contextual circumstances influence the moral decisions that are made. It is shown that a decisive feature of the decisions is to conceptualize the general public in a justified way. This means that decision-makers picture the public as types of people who hold one or a combination of moral logics, and assume that they use these to interpret and evaluate advertising images. How these publics are defined depends on how the settings of the different advertising images are collectively interpreted by the decision-makers.The thesis argues more generally that to understand people’s values we must look at conflict situations in which current morals surface, such as the ways they appear in relation to advertising images.
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