Declaration, Not Persuasion

by Chikashi

The billboard advertisement by the Flemish far-right political party has been up for a couple of months, right smack in the middle of an Antwerp neighbourhood that is almost entirely populated by immigrants and ethnic minorities.  The party’s standard rhetoric includes the usual anti-immigration line as well as their wish for Flanders to become independent from the rest of Belgium.

Given the location of this particular advert, I wondered for some weeks who the target audience is.  After all, I thought, an advert is meant to persuade the audience to buy, or buy into, the advertiser’s product, service or idea, and this particular advert was placed in a peculiar neighbourhood to try to do that.

I then recalled that adverts can be used to make a declaration.  A declaration is ultimately meant to persuade but is not intended to persuade directly or immediately.  Rather, the immediate objective can be to remind the audience of the advertiser’s existence and one or more of its core concepts (in this case the separatist position illustrated by the removal of Belgian flag to reveal the Flemish flag).  A declaration can also be intended to warn or even to threaten.  In other words, they can be an act of affirmation rather than solicitation.

In certain other neighbourhoods, the same advert can be a tool to persuade people and to reinforce the brand.  In this neighbourhood, it is a declaration.  Measuring its ROI must be quite tricky.

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