advertising

Business, Anthropology, and Magical Systems: The Case of Advertising

BRIAN MOERAN Magic is one of the oldest subjects of discussion and theorizing in anthropology. From time to time, anthropologists, as well as other scholars from other disciplines, have suggested that magic is not specific to “primitive” societies, but is alive and well in contemporary industrialised societies—witness advertising. Such discussions have been more general than specific. This paper applies Mauss’ theory of magic more precisely to particular examples of advertising—in particular, his distinction between magicians, magical rites, and magical representations. It also argues that advertising’s system of magic—encompassing related concepts of alchemy, animism, and enchantmen—is reflected in other business practices, which have developed their own parallel and interlocking systems of magic. Certain forms of capitalism, the—fashion, for example, or finance—may be analysed as a field of magical systems.  ...

Back to the Future of Ethnography: Internal User Research at a Consumer Internet Company

ANDREA MOED The Advertising Products research team at Yahoo! is building an internal research practice within an organization that is user-centered, but optimized for consumer product development. While our fellow researchers observe millions of consumers on our websites, we study our coworkers: their experiences with the tools of online advertising, and how those experiences shape the service that our advertiser customers receive. Adopting methods such as task-oriented interviewing and extended observation, we are reconnecting with a tradition of ethnographic inquiry in the workplace that is largely unknown at consumer Internet companies. This paper describes how we have re-learned and built company support for this approach. I describe our work with Yahoo!’s advertising sales and operations staff, highlighting the structural challenges of conducting and applying this research. I conclude by reflecting on how qualitative research can help a company bridge the gap between product design capacity and the ability to produce great services....

The “Race to Embrace the Senses” in Marketing: An Ethnographic Perspective

DAVID HOWES Pier 1 Imports is a store that specializes in home decor, including wood and wicker furniture, draperies, and scented candles. On the cover of its Fall 2000 catalogue there is a picture of a tabletop fountain made of slabs of brown and grey speckled marble. Down the right edge of the cover is a series of coloured boxes. Each box is imprinted with the name of a different sense. At the top is feel (golden yellow), then smell (lawn green), hear (purple) taste (lust red), and finally see (burnt orange). The slogan reads: “Get in touch with your senses™”. A full page advertisement for Westin Hotels & Resorts which appeared in 2007 features a bunch of lush green leaves spattered with dewdrops and the line: “White tea. The calming new scent of Westin.” There is a flap which releases the scent of white tea when opened. Just above the hotel logo is the slogan: “This is how it should feel.” The chain had recently introduced The Westin Heavenly Bed® with its “ten layers of pure comfort.” When Apple launched...