Governance and Social Responsibility : Marketing Professor Assesses Implications of Cultural Diversity on TV
By Liz Warren-Pederson
The process through which viewers identify with elements of television shows – such as actors, characters, or settings – has significant implications for cultural diversity from a social justice perspective, according to a new paper by Hope Jensen Schau, Munsinger Chair in Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the Eller College.
Schau and coauthors Cristel Antonia Russell of American University and David Crockett of the University of South Carolina examined the underlying dynamics that drive a viewer who identifies with a TV show to “poach” the narrative when he makes a purchasing decision. “At its most simplistic, that might mean that a viewer who identifies with a character thinks that character would be likely to purchase the same brand of shampoo,” Schau said.
But, she pointed out, it’s not simple. The authors call the process through which viewers contrive similarities between themselves and TV characters – which could be physical similarities, behavioral attributes, or belief systems – homophilization. They identify several patterns at work.
“Aspiration and imitation are the ones that most people think of when they consider how viewers might identify with TV shows,” she said. “A viewer may project herself into the shows she loves, and may actively imitate some aspect, such as lifestyle, dress, or personality – think about die-hard Sex and the City fans, for example. Viewers with this type of relationship to a show may be very receptive to product placement.”