Wednesday, July 07, 2010

"One on One" vs "Better than Native"

These photos were taken about a month ago (they slipped my mind) near exit 12 of Jonggak Station, and they reveal that Pagoda seems to have a pretty clear ideas about its target audience.

The first ad, for 'one to one English conversation, direct English,' seems to have women in mind, and I can't help but think of it as an illustration for this article:

The attraction there is clearly for women to get close to, to have one on one communication with, and to have almost direct contact with the male foreign teacher. The program aimed at men, on the other hand, takes a slightly different approach:

The idea is to take the intensive program and, moving beyond healthy competition, to be better than the (male) native speaker, to beat him, to be stronger than him.

All in all, they're a rather succinct summary of popular attitudes towards foreign (native-speaking) teachers.


Anonymous said...

I have a hagwon ad from the 90s that shows a similar inferiority complex and the desire to learn English in order to conquer or surpass white Westerners. Native Speaker is portrayed by a blond Uncle Sam with a large nose.

Anonymous said...

Knowing you you've already read it(!), but just in case then you may be interested in the 2006 journal article Marketing the eikaiwa wonderland: ideology, akogare, and gender alterity in English conversation school advertising in Japan , which I talk about here. In short, I was amazed at how Japanese language institutes often advertised themselves to women by implying that they could possibly have relationships with the male Western teachers. Or, as author Keiron Baiely puts it, the ads rely on:

...the properties of the white male signifier being defined in relation to a historical gendered Occidentalist imaginary as an ”agent of women’s professional, romantic and sexual liberation”

And which couldn't have provided a greater contrast to Korean examples, so it's very interesting that Korea too may be going down a similar route now.

matt said...

Care to scan that ad and share it? I'd love to see it.

Thanks for the links - I'll be doing some remedial reading. And the Japanese advertising as you quoted it is indeed different from that seen in Korea. I wonder if there is a trend to be found in this, or if it's rare. Something worth looking deeper into, I imagine...

King Baeksu said...

Studying English at Pagoda will also give you pneumatic, Lara Croft breasts.

Gary Norris said...

I'd like to think you'd modify your claim that the ads represent popular attitudes about foreign teachers. I imagine many ideas a populace hold in common can be considered popular. And though you don't really suggest what those ideas are, I'll note that the longer I live here, the more i realize this general attitude is popular among a specific segment of the population and certainly not the majority.

So WHO are you referring to? Would be nice to know.

The ads seem to address two rather distinct corporate-sponsored anxieties Korean students of English have regarding foreigners and represent Pagoda's vision of Koreans not Koreans visions of White English Speaking Foreigners.

(I think we all probably feel the same way about Pagoda. Right?)

Rather than participate in the worthless assertions the ad makes about Korean men and women and there desires and fears about success, maybe you could put this into perspective with the history of similar concurrent marketing strategies in use all over the world.

This isn't Korean at all.

That said, I think what's most disturbing about the ad is the sexism not the way it treats white folks.

File this post under Stuff White People Like to Do: Pretend They are Oppressed Minorities (While Living Abroad).

Anthony said...

My opinion of Pagoda advertising is that the ad team in charge there has had their fingers on the pulse of the nation's youth for more than 2 years, and beautifully times their big campaigns to coincide with and build upon developing (not prevailing) attitudes among those in their younger demographic range.

That team is able to think critically, speculate accurately, and maintain a seemingly constant awareness of shifting trends and moods. I salute them for their perspicacity, and envy them their freedom to act.

I doubt the advertiser, or Pagoda management, care one whit for what those developing attitudes might be - just that they can capitalize on them. That is the function of advertisement after all: Attract - by any means necessary.

Incidentally, the Direct English ad is quite old and as such is not really directly comparable to the recent PiP ad in terms of being a reflection of their current strategy, or which gender they are targetting.

The Direct English ad appeared during a period where the most common student complaint was large class sizes and the resulting difficulty in speaking directly to the instructor. Students began analysing class sizes and determining the average number of minutes or seconds they would have speaking and interacting with the instructor versus their fellow students.

The PiP ad appeared this summer and the attitudes appearing now are a growing preference for Korean instructors - who, it is believed, care more, teach more professionally, and with proper training (like at the Pagoda nearest you) will be able to speak and teach 'Better than Native. '

No sex required.

JSK said...

@ Gary Norris

"This isn't Korean at all."

Of course it is. Korean company, Korean ad firm, Korean product. Is your point to suggest that it's somehow not Korean because the Korean advertisement industry has been negatively influenced by the outside world?

As, for example, where you suggest: "maybe you could put this into perspective with the history of similar concurrent marketing strategies in use all over the world."

I find the "Stuff White People Like to Do" remark off-putting. Isn't it a bit ironic when you're not only telling non-Koreans how to think but also telling us (and Koreans themselves) what "is" and "isn't" Korean?

Anonymous said...

I will keep an eye out for the ad when I reorganize my storage this summer, Matt. Username Gary Norris sounds like someone who also takes to task James Turnbull for daring to be a white Westerner giving opinions about Korean social and gender issues.

Burndog said...

@ Gary Norris - why do tou assume that everyone posting on here is white? I mean...with that as your starting point, it's no wonder you think that these ads are at the forefront of proper thinking.

Chris in South Korea said...

Contrast the 'female' ad with a previous sign of Direct English. It showed the male teacher, smiling in a suit quite close, while the female student appeared to be making eye contact, apparently comfortable with the closeness. A sign of the apocalypse, or a weird Photoshop job?

Let's not forget the purpose of hagwon - to make money for their owner, while appearing like a place to get educated. That the teacher is under the control of both school and student is essentially indisputable - especially at a one-on-one school where students can change teachers at the drop of a hat.

Advertisements fuel, and are fueled by perceptions - thus, would Korean men enjoy feeling like they're in control over their male teacher? Or would it be better showing the male student as a small, hunched-over, intimidated student that is lorded over by a domineering teacher?

The perception of who holds the power - in each of the ads - is NOT the teacher; an attitude that is reinforced by student and school time and time again.

Anonymous said...

Matt, I'm going to link to this post in this week's "Korean Gender Reader", up either today or tomorrow. Do you mind if I also use your photographs there while I'm at it?

matt said...

Feel free to.

Anonymous said...

Can someone clarify if the Pagoda PIP program (aka "Better than Native") is taught by Korean teachers?

In other words, is the tug of war between a winner Korean teacher vs. a Native who isn't as good? Or is the tug of war with a Korean student who (threw the program, perhaps taught by a native) became "better than Native"?

hundered said...

Pagodas recent advertisement is claiming that their PIP program is better than other native English programs because they utilize Gyopo teachers.

With the recent influx of Korean decedents or Gyopos returning back to their homeland, many of the top language hagwons (Pagoda, CDI, and YBM ect) started to notice that some of these teachers can be better instructors due to their fluencies in both languages.

This is a necessity when students are studying for tests such as TOEFL or the SAT’s because every sections of the test can be clarified on the spot in their own native tongue whereas, other foreign teachers may just skip pass the sections due to language barriers.

As an ex-recruiter for foreign teachers, I’m sorry to say that we used to hire Caucasians merely for marketing purposes and for their skin colors. Mothers in Korea have this idea that only Caucasian teachers can properly teach English but as an owner of a hagwon, I know it all depends on the persons skills and better if they are fluent in Korean.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that I won’t hire a Caucasian because I will always cater to what my consumers demand.

hardyandtiny said...

that's a white chick, right?