The Potential for International and Transnational Public Service Advertising in Public Spaces in American and Chinese Global Cities: Conclusions From a 2010 Survey of Advertisements in Subways in Beijing, New York, Shanghai and Washington, D.C.
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Can we construct transnational or international public service advertising to counterbalance the proliferation of transnational commercial advertising? As an important first step in exploring the possibility of such an application of shared media public diplomacy among nations, this paper describes a complete survey of commercial and public service advertisements collected from the public spaces of subway systems in American and Chinese cities in 2010 – New York, Washington, DC, Shanghai and Beijing – to reveal the range of themes of commercial and public service ads in these spaces. The study reveals first that analogous commercial and public service ads are ubiquitous in the public spaces of both Chinese and American cities. Second, many of the themes that might appear in international or transnational public service ads are already being portrayed in ads created by local or national governments or NGOs, although these themes are portrayed in ads created by different sets of actors in China and in the US: government actors and a few international NGOs in Chinese cities, and governments, corporations and non-profit organizations in the case of American cities. Finally, the survey reveals that in all four cities there are many commercial advertisements that appeal to the identity of a transnational consumer, but that there are almost no public service ads that appeal to the identity of a transnational citizen: merely local or national ones who can solve such public problems as global warming, education, and health issues.
Published in Public Relations Review.