Bridging pop culture and advertising research
Jing Wang's Brand New China (2008) has made theoretical and methodological advances on various fronts. Based on two summers of fieldwork in a transnational advertising agency in Beijing, the book offers detailed case studies of advertising practices, vivid descriptions of consumers' sense-making processes in their everyday life, and some theoretical and methodological reflections for researchers in the field of cultural studies, marketing, and advertising research.
Since the 1980s, there have been persistent calls for ethnographic production and audience research. But these ethnographic turns are easier said than done. For production research, access is the most difficult part. For audience research, it is always difficult to find ways to enter into the lifeworlds of people outside our networks of friends. Focus group methods, home visits, and audience interviews are easy ways out. But ethnographies that are sound, rigorous and telling are difficult to achieve. Jing Wang has accomplished a research project that is ethnographic, innovative, and cross-disciplinary, building bridges between text-based advertising research, tool-kit type of professional research, and business-orientated marketing research. The book covers a lot of ground; here, I will just focus more on the observations that will be of interest to cultural studies scholars.
Eric Ma is a Professor at the School of Journalism and Communication at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. He has authored Culture, Politics and Television in Hong Kong (Routledge, 1999), Bar Factory: Urban Cultural Studies in South China (Jiangsu Renmin, 2006) and co-authored Learning to Belong to a Nation: Hong Kong in China and the World (Routledge, 2008). His publications have appeared in journals such as Cultural Studies, International Journal of Cultural Studies, Social Text, Positions, Gazette, Inter-Asia Cultural Studies, Visual Anthropology, etc.