Tuesday, November 16, 2010

French Tourism & Sports Media

The Racing Driver and His Double

By Michael Dishi

This reading is a chapter from Jean Baudrillard’s Screened Out, which was translated by Chris Turner.

Baudrillard describes the concept of Formula One as a performance, and a spectacle that is as much about the passion of the viewers and television audience as it is about the actual race or driver. He compares Formula One to a pyramid, with the efforts of thousands creating its base, and the singularity of the car, driver, or race as its tip. Though the entire pyramid is geared toward a single moment in the race, this one moment targets a massive audience, via television and the media. Thus, the tip of the pyramid though small, booms in significance as passion turns it into a spectacle. That is why although the physical setting of the race is the circuit, the actual event takes place “on the world car market, in the driver’s popularity charts, in advertising and the star system.”

Once the driver reaches a certain speed, at 180 mph, he achieves an other-worldly sensation, one which Baudrillard compares to being in the eye of the storm. He is prevented from obtaining the real life references to his surrounding environment, his competition, or the reward for winning the race. Thus, the pleasure driving once provided, is disappearing. The car and the driver are geared towards winning the race; the passion involved is that of winning, not that of driving.

There is one other passion that drives the Formula One performance: the danger risk. The media emphasizes the potential danger of the race to appeal to the audience’s fascination with danger and death. Formula One symbolizes the concept of the duel, the life-risking endeavor, which has been gradually disappearing as now only the cars are at risk, and just the technology can be destroyed. Baudrillard thus emphasizes the abstract nature of the spectacle. The actual spectators at the race are necessary, though compared to the virtual audience they are insignificant in number. So to, the danger risk is only a shadow of what it once was, however its presence is enough to maintain the crowd’s passion.

This symbolic and abstract aspect of the race is responsible for Formula One’s impact and significance. The race is not literal; the industrial and technological feats are not what draws its audience. In the real world, the speed represented by Formula One is looked down upon and firmly restricted, because its excess cannot be justified by the symbolism it has in Formula One. Because Formula One is an abstract spectacle, taken out of its literal context and made into an illusion, Baudrillard suggests that it will not burn out just because it is rapidly approaching its limits. As technology advances, the drivers could be able to all reach the same maximum level of performance, however the technological potential is not what keeps Formula One alive.

Brand Europe: Moves Towards Pan-European Identity

This article, from Media in the Enlarged Europe, was written by Rudiger Theilmann and discuses well-known marketing concepts such as brands and branding, focusing on place-branding.

The concept of branding can be applied to “spheres” beyond tangible consumer goods, such as countries and destinations. A major question the article tries to answer is “whether application of branding strategies to places is well-grounded or is merely a vague trend based on false logic.” Theilmann aims to deal with three main points, starting with whether places can be branded in the way that tangible consumer products are branded. Next, he defines certain features of place-branding, illustrating that it is a concept in its own right and not simply an application of consumer-product-branding to places. Lastly, he investigates if European countries, or Europe as a whole, can be branded in these terms.

Theilmann argues that branding may be considered an audience experience. This involves the audience as a central figure in the branding process, meaning that the audience in influences by sources beyond standard marketing activities of a corporation. Place brands are also different from consumer brands in terms of their manageability, because with place brands the experience of the audience is shaped by uncontrolled variables. The three main sources of audience experience are: 1. mass media, 2. direct experience of the branding objects, and 3. the brand communication strategies of the place-marketers. Mass media has the ability to create their own reality controlled by journalists, targeting and addressing “news values, audience expectations, and the needs or interests of other related players.” Regarding place-branding, word of mouth, direct interaction with local people, and contact with family members/friends/colleagues are essential to the audience’s experience. It is also possible for destination-marketers can alter the opinions and views of local residents of a given place, thus effectively changing the experience the audience has with these people. Cultural and sporting events utilize many of the above forms of place-branding as the audience’s and world public’s perception of countries are targeted and altered.
Consumer products’ manageability allows them to be more easily controlled by marketers. They also are less newsworthy than the current events of countries, they achieve less media coverage. The market effects the perception of consumer-product-brands, while audiences effect the perception of place-branding. The Olympic games and other sporting events are geared toward projecting a reality for the audience to experience. Events are aimed to meet the interests of the audiences, mass media and word of mouth marketing are utilized, and positive associations also alter perceptions. It is thus difficult to achieve a simple and coherent brand image of a given place because the aspects of the perception of the audience, like local residents, are unmarketable. Attention drawn to a given place will bring people to be aware of the market and allow themselves to be marketed.

Places which are either similar to begin with, or have similar promotional campaigns, asks for the creation of a brand which encompasses all that is similar between the many different places. A new place could market themselves like European countries, or in the same way those countries do, and as a result they will be perceived as being a part of Europe. By appealing to the knowledge the audience already has of a certain place, and then aiming to promote themselves in a similar way, they ensure that they will be associated with the place or brand of their choice. “The similarity of European countries increases the challenge for place-branding to focus on specific brand features—to offer uniqueness within homogeneity. Within this context a pan-European brand might profitably focus upon the common features of European countries and, furthermore, consider the diversity within Europe not as disadvantageous but as an additional brand asset.”

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