Media and film studies

Advertising and Social Change B

Module code: P3080
Level 5
15 credits in spring teaching
Teaching method: Lecture, Seminar
Assessment modes: Coursework

The module engages with the historical development of advertising and opens up a critical understanding of its contemporary place within media economies, culture and society. In the 21st century, advertising has been transformed by the rise of branding, the maturing of the internet and the emergence of new media forms like social media. Traditional advertising forms and the funding model for media which advertising has provided are under threat.

It asks questions about advertising in relation to (social) change, considering whether it is quite the conservative force it is sometimes believed to be reproducing 'dominant ideologies', trading in 'stereotypes', blocking or hiding change, and whether it is perhaps scapegoated when blamed for causing undesirable social changes, such as obesity. To think of advertising in another way, we explore how advertising as an institution and commercial tool is tied into the dynamics of capitalist modernity so that it also trades in the 'new': forever trying to capture the 'mood' of the moment or articulate the current 'state of play'. We consider how some scholars argue that advertising can be therapeutic, managing change and resolving the tensions of modern life rather than simply inciting anxieties for which capitalism has the remedy: go shopping.

We also explore the contradictions of advertising, as both commercial tool for capitalism helping to sustain consumer expansion and a cultural communicative artefact, offering pleasures and irritations, provoking memories, constructing multiple identities and like other cultural output contributing to how we feel, think, talk and culturally connect and disconnect from others.

Through lectures and seminars, group work and independent study, the module engages with these questions and issues through the study of historical and contemporary ad examples, scrutinising both commercial ads and those geared to social marketing, eg. charity ads. It equips you with the tools of analysis to engage with the 'work' of ad campaigns and the broader phenomenon of branding and promotion. But it also provides you with knowledge of the ad industry and the work that ad agencies do. Through engagement with a wide scholarship, you will be introduced to theorisations which give you ways to understand why and how advertising has changed and how it can be thought about in relation to broader developments in society.

Module learning outcomes

  • Demonstrate a critical understanding of the historical development of advertising and related industries in the context of economic, political, cultural and social changes, and changes in media technologies
  • Identify and evaluate key academic and business debates about the place and status of promotion and advertising in contemporary society.
  • Research a small case-study project on an issue related to advertising and change, applying appropriate concepts and contextualizing to the study. (ESS)
  • Demonstrate skills of presentation, synthesis of ideas, analysis and argumentation in oral and written communication.