I chose the mass media in the U.K. study abroad because I am interested in studying communication and advertising, so as soon as we got to Belfast for the first leg of our journey I started paying attention to advertisements and different modern and historic modes of communication that have been important over time in Northern Ireland. As we travelled through the rest of Ireland, I noticed several themes in communication that differ from the sort of media and communication we use in the United States.
One of the first things I noticed upon arriving to Northern Ireland was the subtle difference between advertising in the United States and advertising in the United Kingdom. One of these differences was that narcissism, individualism, and perfectionism seem to be featured in ads more in the United States that in the United Kingdom. In Belfast, I noticed that ads tend to focus more on belonging or having fun with friends and family. Although some things were individualistic, a lot of advertisements featured more collectivist images.
Another advertising and marketing move that I noticed in Belfast was the existence of the Titanic museum. The creation of the Titanic museum itself can be classified as a marketing move because the ship is clearly no longer around, but because of the city’s history with the ship, they were able to take advantage of its tragic fate and make money off of this famous story simply by creating a museum displaying its history in relation to the shipyard in Belfast. Personally, the exhibits were not worth the price of admission, but that just goes to show that the museum was successful in drawing in tourists to the museum and the town itself. Pulling important pieces from history is definitely one way to get consumers to buy a product or service, especially when there are such important emotional ties like in the case of the Titanic.
After leaving Belfast, we spent three days on the Shamrocker tour, which takes us a roundabout way along the coast from Belfast to Dublin. The most important thing that I learned from this tour was about communication. This tour also took advantage of history a lot, but in a different way. This trip emphasized the use of Irish folktales to supplement the truth of different Irish histories or locations in Ireland. These folktales were the Irish’s way of making history interesting and more culturally important. Those who believed in the old gods in Ireland created tales about giants and witches forming the unique landscapes in Ireland, such as the Giant’s Causeway. It is said that the causeway’s unique hexagonal steps are created by the large footsteps of a giant running away. Some folktales are also more closely related to the Catholic Church, such as the stories about St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland. One story tells of how he was able to convert others to Catholicism by demonstrating the powers of God with his staff, and another story tells of how St. Patrick got rid of the evil in Ireland which is why there are no longer any snakes or serpents in Ireland. These folktales all serve as a form of communication to preserve old Irish culture and to draw attention and interest to pieces of history that might not have been so interesting to the average person otherwise.
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned so far on this trip has actually not been taught on a class trip or tour, but through our living quarters and conditions. First off, communication is key when working and living with about twenty other people. I’ve learned that a lot of good communication skills simply come from keeping an open mind and being able to see things from multiple viewpoints. These communication skills also have taught me how to work better with strangers to reach a common goal. I didn’t know anyone coming into this trip, but I learned quickly how to work with others in order to find directions and get places on time without issue.
Besides learning basic communication skills, I’ve also learned that not all media and advertising is universal. Being from a suburb of Chicago, I take things like technology for granted on a daily basis; however, after living in hostels among the sheep for a couple nights, I soon learned what a luxury things like Wi-Fi are. If people in a first world country such as Ireland are unable to get Internet in the countryside, I can only imagine how difficult advertising and marketing can be in second and third world countries. Without technology, it seems impossible to reach people in a cheap and efficient way, but international advertisers everyday are forced to come up with new solutions to appeal to the masses that may not have the same up to date technology that we find ourselves so used to. Since I am interested in international advertising, I found this realization important to keep in mind while I learn more about advertising and appealing to a specific audience.
The final tour in this leg of our trip took place at the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin. The self-guided tour at the storehouse walks you through the recipe and process for making the famous pint of Guinness we know as being so unique and famous to Ireland today. The storehouse also allows you to pour what is known to many of the locals as “the most expensive pint you’ll ever drink.” They say this because the price of admission is around twenty euro and you only get one drink on the tour. You really are just paying for the a concise history of the company and their product, which is an excellent way for Guinness to make more money and sell more merchandise while still promoting their product. It really is a genius setup.
Guinness also has an entire floor dedicated to their advertising techniques over time. I learned a lot about what good advertising looks like on this floor because Guinness is such a famous and successful company. Their original advertisements feature several exotic animals with a Guinness along with the slogan “My goodness, my Guinness.” This catchy slogan paired with colorful consistent animal characters was enough to be memorable for consumers early in Guinness’s history. Another piece of the marketing and advertising that lead to Guinness’s success was their branding. In 1963, Guinness purchased the famous Downhill harp, which later became a part of their branding and logo. By developing this recognizable brand image based off of an already famous part of Irish history, Guinness was immediately recognizable by consumers as a trustworthy product. Guinness displayed several successful ways of advertising their product that I hadn’t thought of before, which has helped me to learn and think outside the box a bit more. Overall, I learned a lot from our trip to Ireland and Northern Ireland about advertising and communications and how it can be both similar and different to that of the United States.