Promotional Culture (805P4)

30 credits, Level 7 (Masters)

Spring teaching

This module is not about advertising per se or the marketing 'tools' usually suggested by the term promotion but an exploration of 1) how advertising has crossed over into domains beyond the commercial with an alleged collapse of boundaries, and 2) how branding seems increasingly to take over aspects of the lifeworld. According to Andrew Wernick, from whom the term promotional culture is borrowed, advertising 'has come to shape not only culture's symbolic and ideological contents, but also its ethos, texture and constitution' (1991: viii).

The module is about understanding contemporary promotional culture via a grasp of historical developments. These include the development of the capitalist market, the rise of a sign-culture and women as key consumers.

The module opens up theoretical ideas and debate via a series of case studies which may include 'the department store', 'spin', 'celebrity politics', PR journalism, 'the spectacular university', 'the branded self'. The questions it is concerned with include: does it matter that commercial advertising has been overtaken by branding and promotion extending into politics, public services, the arts and charity organisations? Does this mark a problematic undermining of a 'public sphere'? Or can the 'inauthenticity' of promotional culture be democratically enabling in so far its practices lay open the malleability of social life? Do the developments of other modernities (eg. South/East Asia) suggest we should think about the rise of the market, branding and promotion in different ways than is suggested in a Western literature?


100%: Seminar


100%: Coursework (Essay)

Contact hours and workload

This module is approximately 300 hours of work. This breaks down into about 22 hours of contact time and about 278 hours of independent study. The University may make minor variations to the contact hours for operational reasons, including timetabling requirements.

We regularly review our modules to incorporate student feedback, staff expertise, as well as the latest research and teaching methodology. We’re planning to run these modules in the academic year 2024/25. However, there may be changes to these modules in response to feedback, staff availability, student demand or updates to our curriculum. We’ll make sure to let you know of any material changes to modules at the earliest opportunity.