Masaryk university faculty of education

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Department of English Language and Literature

Reflections of American Nationalism in Coca-Cola Advertisements Diachronic Approach

Diploma Thesis

Brno 2013

Supervisor: Written by:
Mgr. Olga Dontcheva-Navrátilová, Ph.D. Bc. Markéta Kopicová


Prohlašuji, že jsem závěrečnou diplomovou práci vypracovala samostatně, s využitím pouze citovaných literárních pramenů, dalších informací a zdrojů v souladu s Disciplinárním řádem pro studenty Pedagogické fakulty Masarykovy univerzity a se zákonem č. 121/2000Sb., o právu autorském, o právech souvisejících s právem autorským a o změně některých zákonů (autorský zákon), ve znění pozdějších předpisů.

V Brně dne 20. dubna 2013 Markéta Kopicová

I would like to thank to my supervisor, Mgr. Olga Dontcheva-Navrátilová, Ph.D., for her time, kind guidance and valuable comments.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents 4

Preface 4

Introduction 4

A Brief History of an American Icon 9


1.Verbal Message/Advertising in the Broader Frame of Communication 11

1.1Advertising and the Communication Situation 11

1.1.1The Elements of the Communication Situation 12

1.2Advertising and the Functions of Language 14

1.2.1The Six Elements of the Act of Communication and Language Functions 14

1.2.2The Language Functions Dominant in Advertising 15

1.3Presuppositions, Expectations and Entailments 17

1.4Greimas' Actantial Model-Advertising Participants Roles 18

2.The Visual Message in the Broader Frame of Communication 20

2.1The Visual Message: Iconic Images, Indexical Images and Symbols 20

3.The Structure of an Advertisement/What People React to the Best 22

3.1Illustration, Headline, Body Copy 22

3.1.1Illustration 22

3.1.2Headline 23

3.1.3Body Copy 23


4.Reflections of American Nationalism in Coca-Cola Advertisements (1890s-1990s) Analyses 25

4. 1 American Nationalism 26

4.2 Materials and Methods 28

4.3 1890’s – The first Coca-Cola Girl 29

4.4 1900’s Advertisements 33

4.5 1910’s Advertisements 36

4.6 1920’s Advertisements 38

4.7 1930’s Advertisements 40

4.8 1940’s Advertisements 43

4.9 1950’s Advertisements 46

4.10 1960’s Advertisements 49

4.11 1970’s Advertisements 52

4.12 1980’s Advertisements 55

4.13 The last Decade of the 20th Century 57

4.14 Conclusion – Practical Part 59


5.Raising Students’ Awareness of Advertising Strategies 61

5.1 Advertising Strategies – Activities-based Project 62

5.2 Conclusion – Media Literacy 67

Résumé 68

Resumé 69

Bibliography: 70

Appendices 73

Appendix A-The Collection of Analysed Advertisements 73

Appendices B: Media Literacy 95


I do not regard advertising as entertainment or an art form, but as a medium of information. When I write an advertisement, I don’t want you to tell me that you find it ‘creative.’ I want you to find it so interesting that you buy the product. David Ogilvy
Advertising has a pervasive and omnipresent nature, whether we like it or not, it is hard to escape it. Have you ever wondered how many different advertising messages you are exposed to every day? When you wake up, make a cup of your favourite-brand coffee, open a newspaper or a glossy magazine and engrossed in reading some interesting article, you eat a probiotic yogurt which heralds to be beneficial to your health. Then you drive to work along too many billboards with catchy slogans, you turn on the computer and press a button to skip another advertisement or commercial, they keep coming and getting under your skin. It is afternoon and you go shopping, what do you put into your cart? Why do you prefer this brand over the other ones? Food, beverages, clothing, cars, electrical appliances and many other things with which we love surrounding ourselves. How do you vote during elections? What makes you decide which ballot to throw into a box?

Advertising is a central aspect of our culture and economy, wherever it is used, it has an impact, no matter if it positive or negative, it works. Immerse amounts of money are spend on advertising everyday and the number keeps rising. According to Nielsen Global Ad View Pulse, which measures ad spending for TV, newspapers, magazines, radio, outdoor, cinema and Internet display advertising round the world, in the first half of 2012, the total global ad spend reached  $266 billion USD. (Nielsen) Taking into account the total world population number of approximately 7 billion people-for the first half of 2012, 38 USD was spent on advertising to each man, woman, and child living on the planet.

Our lives are intertwined with advertising, to be successful or merely – to be seen you need to know how to present yourself, your product, campaign, company, etc. The more profound way you choose the better. Advertising companies employ the most smart, insightful and creative people in the world to trigger the masses’ movement. How much do we know about advertising? How much do the people who make them know about us? How are we going to respond? What does it say about us?


As advertisements are seen as powerful means of influencing minds of societies worldwide reflecting their beliefs, values, attitudes and manners, I find it interesting and challenging to explore one of the most popular world’s beverages, Coca-Cola, and its advertising strategies. After all, Coca-Cola would not have been so famous and in demand without well-elaborated advertising campaigns. Why have so many people fallen in love with this beverage, why did it become an inseparable part of their lives and their self-conceptions? Is it because of its taste or the great ability of ads-creators to evoke feelings of irresistible desire to buy this product which is destined to help them to reach their goals and heightened their self-esteems? Considering both of the options to be true, then what kind of strategies the Coca-Cola ad creators have been following over a span of more than 100 years that they enabled Coke to take the leading post among a great number of beverages? Moreover, advertisements might be described as mirrors of society, so, there is another question to be answered: what could be read from these transient reflections?

This diploma thesis entitled Reflections of American Nationalism in Coca-Cola Advertisements-Diachronic Approach examines how the language and strategies of advertising used by the Coca-Cola Company have been changing over time. The main focus of the thesis is laid on American nationalism expressed in Coco-Cola advertisements on the background of important historical events. The aim of the thesis is to compare and present the way how advertising used reflects the society’s picture, gives a product its symbolic value and promotes to sell it as a necessity.

The thesis consists of three parts. The first part is theoretical and describes structures and rules of a successful advertising. The communication situation is briefly discussed; then, the functions of language dominant in advertising are described, and the rules for visual and textual structures of advertisements are put under thorough examination.

The second part, building on the theoretical one, is practical and carries out an exploration of reflections of American nationalism in Coca-Cola advertisements themselves. Several Coca-Cola advertisements are closely analysed, firstly, the historical context of each advertisement is presented in order to draw a picture of the time the advertisements were published and to make the reader understand their structures and messages more deeply. Secondly, the communication situation, vocabulary and specific functions of language used as well as the visual and textual structure highlighting the message of a particular advertisement are analysed.

The third part poses a question concerning the awareness of young people, members of fast-living consumer society, of the previously discussed advertising strategies and their impacts. Are we still able to distinguish between right and wrong? To make the young people conscious of the elaborated techniques of advertising companies, there is a short activities-based project on the topic of media literacy attached.

The thesis reveals not only the need of the language of advertising to be constantly reacting to the changing and developing world, the importance of its ability to exploit the current events to address and influence people’s needs for membership and self-identification and thus promote the sell of the product itself, but it also puts a lot of emphasis on the awareness of these powerful strategies.

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