• Kirsten Michaela Bencker
"'I'm no longer engaging with white people on the topic of race. Not all white people, just the vast majority who refuse to accept the legitimacy of structural racism and its symptoms" (Eddo-Lodge, 2018, ix). This quote by Reni Eddo-Lodge is part of the book Why I’m no Longer Talking to White People About Race, whose sale numbers surged worldwide in response to the police killing of George Floyd. It reveals the necessity to understand the nature of White supremacy deeply embedded in society in order to overcome the latter. Coming from the field of market and consumption, this thesis examines the hidden power relations of race in investigatingits representation in advertising. The aim hereby is to move the debate around race forward and disclose the social constructs that lie beneath its notion.In order to achieve the above, two campaignsby the brand Procter & Gamble (P&G) which critically broach the issue of race are analyzed using a combination of Stuart Hall's (1997) concept of representation and semiotic-as well as critical discourse analysis. The qualitative analysis of multiple semiotic modes employed in both commercials unveils that P&G's campaigns are aiming to dismantle the notion surrounding White supremacy by representing Whiteness from the perspective of Black people. While an intersectional approach to this thesis shows that some features advocate a stereotypical depiction of social actors, the results maintain that P&G shares features of cultural branding in showing culturally sensitive topicsand thereby calling consumers to challenge their taken for granted norms and start a conversation around racial bias. Apart from examining the producingside, this thesis takes into account the campaigns' receivingpart in order to disclose not only how racial identities are represented but also how consumers react to these representations. This is analyzed by conducting a netnographic study of consumers on YouTube within the frame of Hall's (1973) encoding/decoding model. This unobtrusive method reveals in-depth insights into consumers' attitudes and shows that P&G's commercials generate controversy among viewers. While many viewers positively receive the commercials' representation of race, confirming the authenticity of these representations, others criticize the latter as being inaccurate or anti-White. This might be linked to the hidden notion of White supremacy that is still embedded in some consumers' ideologies. The overall findings lead to conclude that, in order to eradicate systemic racism, much still remains to be done. However, P&G is taking first steps in disrupting the latter by engaging consumers to start a difficult, yet necessary conversation around racial bias.
Publication date2 Jan 2021
Number of pages101
ID: 397830743