Cultural stereotypes in advertising

Published 9th November 2012
post thumbnail

I am sure many of you who live in the UK (and probably many who do not) have seen the ‘Dolmio’ adverts. Cheerful “Italian” puppets parading around the screen extolling the virtues of hearty lasagne made by “mamma” and implying that you at home can achieve the same pasta perfection by simply using a jar of the ‘Dolmio’ sauce. In the same way, I am sure that the opinion regarding the appropriateness of this advert, is divided.

On various forums throughout the web there are debates as to whether these adverts are racist. One of the resounding arguments for the adverts being racist, is that were it another country being portrayed in this way, say India or China, it would almost certainly be unacceptable to air the adverts on TV. Is that really the case though?

There is a long history of British advertising and there are numerous examples of different countries in these adverts. From curry to beer, advertisers pick out characteristics of the relevant culture and accentuate them. This gives the impression of familiarity and in the case of Dolmio for example, it suggests that the product is endorsed by the country from which it historically originates (whether it is actually made there or not)!

The desire to present a product as genuine – a true Indian curry, a proper Scottish porridge, an authentic Chinese Chow Mein and so on – is the driving force behind such adverts but the way in which they are carried out often has the opposite effect and can cause a company to come under fire. What is seemingly harmless could be considered offensive by some. Stereotypes are engrained in people’s minds. To many, the English appear a cold and reserved people, polite to the extreme, formal in every situation (even in the home). These stereotypes have developed throughout history and they exist for a reason. The image of an Italian farmer’s wife cooking up a feast for the family and exclaiming “mamma mia” at regular intervals plays on the knowledge that the Italians in general have a family-orientated culture and they know what good food is. That is not to say that there are Italians who cannot cook and who hate family dinners, just as it is very possible that there are some English people who do not love a good queue. Stereotypes are based on concepts of countries in general and most people know that they are not always an accurate representation of every person within a culture. Perhaps instead of a rustic scene of a rural farm in the Tuscan hills, ‘Dolmio’ should paint the modern picture of a two-bed flat in central Milan, but would that have the desired effect?

There are of course British adverts portraying areas all over the UK based on stereotypes. Farmers tending their land whilst speaking in a west country drawl, Northern builders sipping on a cuppa before heading “off ter pub” and so on. Does advertising work without stereotypes? Are they harmless fun or bordering on racism?

Let us know your thoughts! For more information on the countries and languages we work in, take a look at our languages page.

disney-institute-lingua-translations 178 × 75
amazon-lingua-translations 120 × 28
procter-gamble - Lingua Translations 114 × 92
london-partners-lingua-translations 154 × 101
Swansea City | Lingua Translations 154 x 146
Man City | Lingua Translations 154 × 154
FC_Barcelona_(crest) 154 × 156
Star_Wars_Logo.svg_-1 1280 × 773
FiFA | lingua Translations 154 × 86
The-Score 232x120
M & S 271 × 186
Walmart-Lingua Translations 232 × 65
Welsh Government & Lingua Translations 400 × 400
Costco & Lingua Translations 232 × 155


TUI-Group Testimonial 205 × 46 EN

Ian Chapman – Director of Holiday Experience –

“Lingua Translations provides instant multi-lingual options for TUI’s 24/7 Holidayline, so 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year TUI’s customers are connected to an interpreter instantaneously. This service is designed to help holidaymakers who find themselves in difficulty and require non-English language assistance.

The service offered by Lingua Translations provides us with instant translation for every destination we travel to, and has proved invaluable.”

Do you know how many different languages Ed Sheeran has sung in?

It’s no secret that Ed Sheeran wrote his latest album while traveling the world and soaking up different cultures and styles of music. But he went further than that. He also isn’t afraid to delve into the world of languages either. What’s most impressive is his commitment to getting the foreign lyrics and their pronunciation …

Read More

International French Fries Day

Today is one of the best day of the year: the international French Fries Day. But let’s find out something about most people’s favourite guilty pleasure. Apparently, French fries are not French at all. Their origin can be tracked back to Belgium, where potatoes were allegedly being fried in the late-1600s. The legend says that …

Read More
Get a quote today