Advertising in Italian women's magazines 1915-1980 : gender and evolving ideologies of the middle-class Italian woman
Advertising is one of the oldest methods of communicating messages and ideas. Its role in twentieth century consumer culture in Italy has evolved from one of limitations of media and message to one that uses all types of media and pervades every aspect of daily life. Advertising in women's magazines is a cornerstone of this development. As such, this analysis of advertising in Italian middle-class women's magazines reveals its role in shaping the changing attitudes of Italian women who, throughout the twentieth century, have been core consumers for themselves and for their families. The analysis of specific consumer categories over the 1915 to 1980 time frame, elicits a consideration of fundamental socio-economic contextual factors, which are of interest in terms of how they affect the interpretations that women attach to advertisements throughout this significant period. This interconnected semiotic and contextual analysis is conducted in depth on a selection of product and brand-specific advertisements in these magazines, previous studies of which tended to be from particular ideological orientations without detailed analysis of the advertisements themselves. Alternatively, those few studies with a greater semiotic focus tended to limit consideration of contextual factors to a restricted time frame. This thesis attempts to bridge this gap by means of a detailed analysis of the language and images utilised in a number of advertisements over a crucial, extended historical period. In so doing, the analysis considers both the degree of divergence and of convergence in the advertising discourses within these magazines, from the dominant visions and ideologies of Italian womanhood of a particular period. In analysing the extent of such divergence or convergence, a number of factors are necessarily incorporated into the framework when examining the role played by advertising in Italian middle-class women's magazines. These are based upon the fact that the advertisements became increasingly important as vehicles for transmitting social and cultural messages that even went beyond the intended consumer-oriented messages of the advertisers. In examining these messages, this thesis stimulates a rethinking of sociocultural and ideological issues in a period of transition for Italian women and society.