As I was walking down the street the other day I was greeted by several signs advertising everything from restaurants to dentistry, but all of the ads had something in common: There were an unusual amount of European looking faces smiling back at me trying to entice me to buy into whatever they were selling.
I’ve been surprised how common this is throughout Ecuador and Peru. The outside influence on advertising is incredible. Not only have I seen countless Coca Cola and Colgate logos painted on the most unexpected places (on the side of a mudbrick house on the way to the rainforest?), but the smiling faces on signs are usually of anything but Latin American origin. Why is this? Sure the faces are nice to look at, but the European features seems so obviously foreign it makes me wonder if they’re actually effective. Is this a new thing, or has modern advertising been a distinctly foreign thing since it was introduced to Latin America? I probably wouldn’t have noticed if it were just random occurrences here and there, but I’ve actually looked for an advertisement with a local face and I don’t think they exist.
This phenomenon isn’t limited to signs on the street, either. TV stations are flooded with European looking faces, even though the majority of the audiences in Latin America have distinctly mestizo features. The news stations, the previews and ads and even the local novelas are far from representative of the audience that watches them. Is that a product of our age? Is the world so saturated with the “media standard” of beauty that only certain looks make the cut, regardless of what the rest of the country looks like? Because the United States is such a melting pot of cultures and looks, I don’t think I’ve really noticed it before; but when the ads in Ecuador were so similar in style and look to those in the States, I took notice.
As for Coca Cola and Colgate, I guess I expected more local companies to be in the majority. I’ve even seen Goodyear tires in small towns. I didn’t expect there to be such a strong presence of North American companies in the Southern Hemisphere.
I may have been surprised about Northern influence in South America, but I expect this will only be more obvious as we move on to Mexico in the next few days.
More to come soon! We have a some busy days ahead.