John L.McCreery (jlm@TANUKI.TWICS.CO.JP)
Wed, 15 Dec 1993 10:56:31 JST

First, allow me to introduce myself. My name is John McCreery. In
1973, I received my Ph.D. from Cornell for a dissertation called "The
Symbolism of Popular Taoist Magic." For the past 10 years I have
worked for Hakuhodo Inc., Japan's 2nd largest advertising agency, first
as an English-language copywriter and, since a little over a year ago, as
a "International Creative Director," which means that while I continue
to write English copy, an increasing proportion of the work I do is
selling Japanese creative work to non-Japanese companies that need to
advertise in Japan. Recent clients include Nippon Lever (the local
subsidiary of Unilever; fabric softeners and shampoos), Coca-Cola
Japan (Diet Coke, Coke Light), BMW Japan (automobiles) and Bud
Japan (Budweiser Beer). When friends ask what being an adman has
to do with being an anthropologist, I tend to reply, "It's like this. In
Taiwan I studied magicians. Now I've joined the guild." As I see it, the
adman, the anthropologist and the Taoist magicians I studied in
Taiwan are all in the business of selling "social constructions of reality,"
and comparing how we go about our several businesses is informative
as well as just plain fun.

Next spring I will be teaching a graduate seminar in the Cross-Cultural
Studies Program at Sophia University in Tokyo to which I have given
the title "The Making and Meaning of Advertising." What I 'm
planning to do is to examine advertising from an anthropological point
of view, i.e., as a _participant observer_. On the participant side, the
focus will be on how advertising is made. The course will be a
simulation of agency life. Students will be asked, first, to take the client
side and develop a product concept; the product in question can be
anything that might be found in convenience stores. At mid-term, they
will present their concepts as orientations (client briefings). Then
they'll switch to the agency side and develop media and creative
strategies for one of the products someone else has developed. On the
observer side, the focus will be on the social and cultural meaning of
advertising. The assumption will be that we have a second agenda, to
examine the process we're simulating in light of anthropological
theories. Here is where I need your help.

When I think of "anthropological theory," I think of the people I
remember having read in graduate school in the late 60s and 70s:, i.e.,
Clifford Geertz, Victor Turner, Mary Douglas, Claude Levi-Strauss,
James Fernandez, Marshall Sahlins. I am also aware, and have
actually read (with varying degrees of pleasure) most of the "post-
modern" types whose names get bandied about in ANTHRO-L. What
I'm looking for now are "must-read" pieces, published in the last 10
years or so, that ought to be added to my syllabus. Any and all
suggestions will be welcome.