Good Guys : A Cultural Semiotic Study of the Print Advertising of the Oil Industry (1900-2000)

University dissertation from Linköping : Linköping University Electronic Press

Abstract: Oil is central to our lives and is the source of many of the conveniences that we take for granted. It can bring wealth and prosperity to individuals and to nations, but is also a source of political conflict and the consequences of its impact on the environment are only now beginning to be fully recognised.The oil companies have been leaders in the development of marketing and branding and this thesis traces the history of the oil industry and analyses the different forms of print advertisements that its major companies have produced over a period of some hundred years, from the industry’s infancy until 2012. It takes a cultural semiotic perspective to investigate and reveal the ways in which the companies have adapted their advertising messages to the prevailing socio-political conditions to reflect current attitudes and to guide both public opinion and national policy. The analyses demonstrate how the companies have responded to different crises and to increasing globalisation and how they have engineered a shift from product to presence and from oil to energy to communicate a more environment-friendly image.A close reading of the advertisements produced by the companies shows how they have cast themselves in the mythical role of the indefatigable hero whose mission is the common good. Moreover, it uncovers the different heroic personalities that they have acquired and adopted over time to differentiate their products and services.

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