English-language advertising effectiveness with illiterate or non-English-speaking consumers in the Western and Eastern Cape townships of South Africa

Doctoral Thesis


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Consumers globally demand more diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace, including in the media content they consume. Language is one of the most important diversity, equity and inclusion factors, cutting across race, gender, sexual orientation and disability. In the South African context, research has ignored the role of language in behavioural intention. Language has been a point of tension and conflict in South Africa for the country's entire colonial history. The apartheid system was particularly involved in shaping where people live (spatial planning), and the modern language ecosystem in South Africa because it was a system of separate development on the grounds of race. In South Africa, language, race and location highly correlate and intersect. Post 1994, everyone has had the right to use the language and participate in the cultural life of their choice and no one who exercises these rights may do so in a manner inconsistent with any provision of the Bill of Rights. These rights extend to capitalism, the buying and selling of goods, and the creation and consumption of advertising content. Within multiple business industries and brands, there is now a major focus on diversity, equity and inclusion, hiring, career progression, retention and producing, and telling diverse and inclusive creative stories. For the content of stories (advertisements) to be diverse and inclusive, the creators (client and agencies) need to become more deliberate, intentional and proactive about unstereotyping users or consumers. They are expected to do this by making sure the content reflects the general population, increasing screen time for all: who they cast, gender representation, director diversity, vernacular, voice, skin tones, race, sexual orientations, people with disabilities, location shoot diversity, and age groups, to mention a few. The primary purpose of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of English-language advertising to non-English speakers in Western and Eastern Cape townships. The study focuses on television advertising, a form of marketing communication. The television medium in South Africa and the rest of Africa still has the greatest reach and media budget compared to marketing via digital platforms, radio, print, out-of-home, and emailing media. The study identified a number of theoretical frameworks and combined them to develop an integrated theoretical framework. The framework helped the researcher understand the complex nature of television advertising. The study proposed that the language used in an advertisement serves as an attribute and medium of experiences to influence customers' affective responses or intentions to act. A pragmatic philosophical stance was adopted, allowing the collection, analysis and interpretation of qualitative and quantitative data in a single study in three parts. The first sub-study collected and analysed quantitative data, the second involved four focus-group interviews, and the last study involved semi-structured interviews with experts. The development of an integrated theoretical framework is a major contribution of the study. As the first application of the Theory of Planned Behaviour to understand the effects of English-language television advertising on customers living in Western and Eastern Cape townships, the study contributes value to the marketing discipline. It also contributes significantly by combining quantitative advertising testing with traditional qualitative communication-testing methods. Practical implications of the study include a review of the use of the English language as a medium of communication to non-English-speaking consumers or those who speak English as a second or third language.