Mapping Consumers is an interactive, searchable map of all the people whose names and addresses appear in testimonial advertisements and prize competitions in two black South African newspapers, Bantu World and Umlindi we Nyanga, between 1932 and 1937.
Why study testimonial advertisements in South Africa? These advertisements offer a window into the history of black South African consumer culture and marketing. The history of black consumer culture -- what people bought, what meanings people attached to consumer goods, and how these meanings changed over time -- has not received much attention from historians. Much of the scholarship on advertising has focused on how white-owned companies marketed products to consumers in ways that reinforced racial, economic, and gender hierarchies in South Africa. Testimonial advertisements are an opportunity to see who consumers themselves were, and how they talked about themselves and they products they bought -- always filtered, of course, through the lens of advertisers and newspaper publishers.
What does this map do? Each point on the map represents one consumer who appeared in a testmonial advertisement. When you click on a point, you can see the following information about the consumer: their name, the date of their advertisement, the name of the product they promoted, their address (exactly as it appeared in the original), their gender (if indicated by a prefix or their first name), and the first line of the advertisement, in whatever language it originally appeared. When the map is zoomed out, multiple points are clustered. If you hover over the cluster, a blue line will show the boundaries of the points represented by the cluster. When you zoom in, you can see the individual points. The "Zoom to Full Extent" button on the top navigation bar brings you back to the original zoom level.
How do I use this map? There are three main ways you can use this map. First, you can toggle between the layers for Umlindi we Nyanga and Bantu World, zoom in and out, and view the distribution of advertisements across space. Second, you can search and view information about individual consumers using the sidebar or the "Search" bar at the top of the page. Third, you can download the full data on which the map is based under the Metadata tab on the About page.
What can we learn about history from this map? This map suggests several things about print culture and consumer culture in 1930s South Africa. The geographical distribution of the points on the map, particularly the map of Umlindi we Nyanga, shows how many of the testimonial writers lived outside of the city, in the rural Eastern Cape. The history of consumer culture in Africa has focused on cities and urban life. This map suggests that historians should ask new questions about rural consumers and rurally-located ways of imaginging modern life in the early twentieth century. Another thing that the data in this map show is the high proporion of women who are featured in testimonial advertisements. 55 percent of testimonials in Bantu World are from women, and 73 percent in Umlindi we Nyanga. While the politics, sports, and culture sections of these newspapers are predominantly about men, advertisements are more often about and for women. This raises intersting questions about advertisign and newspaper readerships, and about the nature of testimonial advertisements -- is the genre of testimonial advertisements particularly suited in some way to the beauty, health, and tea products that are marketed to women?
This project was built by Katie Carline, a Fellow in the Cultural Heritage Informatics Initiative at Michigan State University. Mapping Consumers is an interactive, searchable map of all the people whose names and addresses appear in testimonial advertisements and prize competitions for two black South African newspapers between 1932 and 1937.
What is a testimonial advertisement? For the purposes of this project, I define a testimonial as an advertisement that gives the name and location of a person who is a consumer or endorser of the product. A testimonial advertisement suggests that the consumer is a real person. Sometimes testimonial advertisements were combined with prize competitions; an advertiser would ask people to write in with answers to an essay question or "Word Building Competition," as pictured below in the Ambrosia advertisement. The winners of these competitions would then have their names and addresses published in the newspaper.
Map Legend goes here...