I was personally interested in Martin's personal contribution on Barclay's public advertising of their personal loans. Having just spent half the afternoon unable to find a way of establishing personal contact with the 'person' people in Barclays, I find their campaign particularly ironic. I went to see my 'personal banker', who said she couldn't help. I phoned the call centre and I was passed endlessly through the impersonal 'voicing-by-numbers' system until I came to an impersonal 'voice form' which promptly cut me off before I had a chance to 'voice in' my details.. . .
Despite this personal experience, I'd be very cautious about imputing possible effects to the putative semantic prosody in this Barclays slogan. Among a myriad of other factors possibly affecting the relation between the slogan and the possible results of the campaign:
1) As Susan notes, the co-texts in Martin's concordance are quite different from the slogan. In addition to the points Susan makes, there is the simple syntactic fact that the slogan is a single noun phrase, so that there is no agent acting or being acted on.
2) The slogan is a typical example of grammatical parallelism. Most stylisticians would agree that parallelism has the effect of foregrounding the semantic similarity or contrast between the two constituents drawn into parallel. i.e. 'the personal price' will be more closely linked in the audience's mind with 'the personal loan' than with any other more distant intertexts such as those in Martin's concordance, and arguably the focus of attention will be on the repeated lexical item 'personal'. On the other hand, a 'slogan' such as 'Take a personal loan. Pay a personal price' will tend to attract attention to the semantic opposition between 'take' and 'pay' which is more likely to be negative.
3) As Veronika suggests, there is a general recent tendency in banking advertising to focus on the 'personal'. This is particularly so with Barclays, with their personal bankers, personal loans, personal portfolios etc. Reinforcing the keyword 'personal' might be more significant than any potential negative prosody.
4) In advertising, brand creation, maintenance and reinforcement are far more important than the immediate effect of any particular ad. It is the series of campaigns over time (along with many other factors such as the quality of the product itself) which win or lose the brand war. Linguistically, we can see this as being achieved primarily through intertextuality. If this is so, then it might be the series of Barclays slogans over time which provide the principal intertextual source for the audience rather than citations from other media.
5) One thing on which advertising researchers tend to agree is that audiences 'read' ads differently from other 'texts'. Western audiences are now so 'ad-literate' (did I just coin that?) that they are highly unlikely to take ads at face value, and will expect to have to interpret them in unusual ways.
I am a great believer in corpus-aided linguistic analysis but I think advertising is one area where it has less to offer. I will, however, test my class of 'advertising language' UG students to see if they pick up a negative prosody in the Barclays slogan. So thanks again Martin for that very useful teaching material.
Strategy in Communication Group (SinC)
Department of English & Media Studies
Nottingham Trent University
From: Susan Hunston [mailto:S.E.Hunston@bham.ac.uk]
Sent: Fri 17/10/2003 17:17
To: Martin Wynne; CORPORA (E-mail)
Subject: RE: [Corpora-List] Corpus linguistics in everyday life
Thanks, Martin, for supplying material for my next class!! I wonder if the indeterminate status of this prosody is caused by the wider phraseology? In the corpus lines you quote, most of the examples of 'personal price' co-occur with PAY, other frequent usages include 'at a personal price' as in 'but at a personal price' and 'come at a personal price'. The few examples of 'the personal price' are explicitly negative ('the personal price was too high'). In other words, I suspect the prosody belongs to a set of longer phrases than just 'personal price', which is why the Barclay's ad strikes some people as sinister (they relate this intertextually to the typical usages) and others as normal. Incidentally, I have also been suspicious of this ad but for a different reason - in my experience, a 'personal' or 'special' price usually means 'more than other people have to pay'.
From: Martin Wynne [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: 17 October 2003 12:45
To: CORPORA (E-mail)
Subject: [Corpora-List] Corpus linguistics in everyday life
Barclays Bank need a corpus linguist. Has anyone else noticed and been
surprised by the current advertising slogan for Barclayloan in the UK: "The
personal loan with the personal price"?
For me, if someone pays a "personal price" for taking out a loan, it means
they lose their house, or they get their legs broken. So, of course, I
looked it up in a corpus to check my intuitions.
The Bank of English (450 million words) has 18 examples, all unremittingly
<dt> 09 May 2001 </dt> <p> The Queen will pay a heavy personal price for
assenting yesterday to Tony Blair's election
<p> It was Burleigh's sixth book in the genre, but the personal price was
almost too high. Now he has drawn a line. `I'
Now I feel sorry for him. He has paid a high personal price." <p>
Findlay, who stepped down as vice-chairman
wealthy man. After ruling out retirement, he paid a big personal price to
join PA. Under a shareholder agreement with
in the House of Commons, and for this he paid a heavy personal price. But,
as Eden said at the time of his own
on Cell Block H. But the actress also lets you see the personal price this
woman has paid. A fierce proponent of the
a tennis court and a multi-use sports surface. But at a personal price. It's
true that perhaps I didn't know where to
s movie career is on the up and up, but at a high personal price.
Garth Pearce spoke to the troubled star MONICA
YEARS AFTER THE FAIRY-TALE WEDDING, WHAT HAS BEEN THE PERSONAL PRICE OF
HER PUBLIC SUCCESS? BRENDA POLAN INVESTIGATES
of the West, with some hapless missionaries paying a personal price of
flagrant cultural in-sensitivity. It is a
Roth. <p> David Roth (Attorney # Despite the enormous personal price, I do
not for one moment regret the course of
what they decided, the decision would exact a high personal price. It
was Del who had opened the Texas plant five
in unfair price competition. It is also argued that personal price
discrimination could increase. An agent may be
native women's religious education could come at a high personal price, as
when Huron converts were martyred by the
to their families, they are now paying a very steep personal price. That
has to change. The initiatives that we are
Hayes admits the phenomenal success has come at a high personal price. The
past year was `so stressful" he has
or corrupt. Tony Fitzgerald, QC, paid an enormous personal price for
his efforts, including being criticised for
the ayes have it. <sect id=MONITOR> <hd> THE PERSONAL PRICE: THE
GOOD IT DID: THE MISSED OPPORTUNI </hd>
The pattern here seems to be that you usually pay a heavy personal price for
making a bad decision.
The British National Corpus has only two examples, but they are nice ones:
Instability, with its consequent social and personal price, haunts the
lives of the socially abnormal.
Every citizen in Britain in due course - in my judgement, it will be
sooner rather than later - will pay a real, direct and personal price for
what the Prime Minister negotiated at Maastricht.
It seems to me that unless Barclays intended to adopt an intimidatory
approach to potential customers, the marketing department has got it badly
wrong. Actually this isn't a case of corpora showing us the problem - their
intuitions about the phrase should have told them this. All the corpus work
is doing is to provide the evidence to back up the intuitions. It'd be
interesting to see how successful the campaign is.
Hopefully this will provide a nice example for showing how corpora can
provide interesting and useful evidence. (Note that you need a pretty big
corpus to get useful results for this example though.)
But perhaps instead of mailing this list I should be suing Barclays for
emotional distress caused by aggressive and menacing cash machines, or
offering corpus linguistics consultancy to Barclays' marketing division...
Head of the Oxford Text Archive
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