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Abstract

Anyone who has paid attention to advertising for the past several decades is familiar with five iconic campaigns: Blackglama mink “What becomes a legend most?”; American Express “Do you know me?”; Absolut vodka “Bottle”; Fluid Milk Processor Board “Got Milk?”; and Apple computer “Think Different.” These smart, successful, and long-running campaigns share an important characteristic: they rely on the audience to have a certain level of cultural literacy in order to interpret them. However, an advertiser in today’s digital world can no longer take cultural literacy for granted. Yesterday’s common experiences in all facets of life are being replaced by individual experiences. For example, if two people enter identical search terms into Google, they will quite possibly receive different search results. They will be targeted with different advertisements. The order in which they navigate the links they choose to follow will differ. This study examines five, historic advertising campaigns dependent on established cultural literacy for their communicative value along with the rapid response format of the Internet search for information.

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