I could tell you how many steps make up the streets rising like stairways, and of the degree of the arcades' curves, and what kind of zinc scales cover the roofs; but I already know this would be the same as telling you nothing. The city does not consist of this, but of relationships between the measurements of its space and the events of its past...A description of Zaira as it is today should contain all Zaira's past. -Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities

Monday, October 10, 2005

Anthropology and advertising?

I read an interesting article on trend forecasting today. I've always found this fascinating (and wonder how much anybody checks later to see if the forecasters were right). The only thing that bothered me about this one, and this is not new, is the claim that what they do is like cultural anthropology. This is not a diss on advertising, marketing, trend forecasting, or any of the other fields that claim to be like anthropology--these folks to interesting work.

I am just annoyed at the claim itself. Granted, we anthropologists are not always good at advertising ourselves...in that we offer a holistic approach, and theoretical insight based on our training. So anybody who observes people is now an anthropologist. Or is it just that Americans are so used to sound bites that they don't understand the nuanced differences in anything?

Sigh.

2 comments:

Tai said...

I suspect it's just an easy 'catch-all' title to save breath on detailing exactly what it is they are!

I think you're right about the sound bites!

Tiffany said...

I dissagree. If you were to ever work in an advertising agency you would learn that some of them have anthropology departments and they actually do anthropology. It's less to do with marketing than it has to do with cultural understanding and in sometimes they actually seek to improve situations (applied anth.). True it dips into consumer culture but i wouldn't totally dispute the claim that some advertisers actually do cultural anthropology