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Can Advertising Save Race Relations?

Updated on November 15, 2017
ColleenDonald profile image

M.A. candidate with a specialty in cultural intelligence/integrated communication: Public relations, TV media, planning and research.

Possibly? Maybe?

As some of my friends and family know, I am seeking my Master’s in Integrated Global Communication at Kennesaw State University. My undeniable interest in race relations and cultural interest undoubtedly stem from my own multiracial genetic make-up. It’s inevitable that my research would be done on such a “taboo” topic. I pose the question and would like to introduce to you the beginnings of my research paper.

Can commercial advertising help to improve attitudes about race relations by implementing more diverse images of interracial people and families?

Commercial advertising and its disposition in race relations is arguably black and white. America houses a “melting pot” of ethnicity and nationalities from all over the world. According to Jones and Bullock (2013) and their collection of data from the 2000 and 2010 U.S. Census, “in 2010, 9.0 million people, or 2.9% of the total population, reported multiple races.” “This was up from 6.8 million people, or 2.4%, who reported multiple races in 2000” (pg. 9).

Do you think advertising can save negative views on race relations?

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There is an increase of people identifying themselves as multiple races, but we aren’t seeing an increase of this representation in our advertisements. We aren’t seeing ads that represent multicultural backgrounds. Other than the occasional interracial African-American and Caucasian-American families, the only families and people that we see in our advertisements are of a singular race or ethnicity. George Gerbner theorized cultivation theory: “mass production and rapid distribution of messages create new symbolic environments that reflect the structure and functions of the institutions that transmit them” (Gerbner, 1970, p. 69). America produces audiovisual media that transmits all over the world. Which means, American advertisements are also projected to people in different countries. Mass messages “form a common culture through which communities cultivate shared and public notions about facts, values, and contingencies of human existence” (Gerbner, 1969b, p.123). In short, with the use of cultivation theory, producing more (positive) mass diverse images (advertisements) can improve how people think about race, and race relations.

Sounds good, right?

I will let you know how my study and my research goes, but for now, what are your thoughts?



Gerbner, G. (1969b). Toward ‘cultural indicators’: The analysis of mass mediated public

message systems. In G. Gerbner, O. Holsti, K. Krippendorff, W. J. Paisley, &P.J. Stone

(Eds.), The analysis of communication content: Developments in scientific theories and computer techniques (pp. 123–132). New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons.

Gerbner, G. A. (1970). Cultural indicators: The case of violence in television drama.

The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 388, 69–81.

Jones, N. A., & Bullock, J. J. (2013). Understanding Who Reported Multiple Races in the U.S. Decennial Census: Results From Census 2000 and the 2010 Census. Family Relations, (1), 5.

Potter, W. J. (2014). A Critical Analysis of Cultivation Theory. Journal Of Communication, 64(6), 1015-1036. doi:10.1111/jcom.12128

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© 2017 Colleen Donald


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      14 months ago

      You are kidding right , media does nothing but increase through negativity the cracks , creases and cavities in race relations but you already know this , it's you that has the actual M.A.. Although you may have the point that you in media and media communications has a responsibility and that responsibility is to fix that which your profession has worked to destroy ; race relations in America Media , no matter how we look at racism - has not been a friend to positive progress.


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