This course examines the relation of advertising to society, culture, history, and the economy. Using contemporary theories about visual communications, we learn to analyze the complex levels of meaning in both print advertisements and television commercials. About the Course The course covers a wide range of topics, including the origins of advertising, the creation of ads, the interpretation of ads, the depiction of race, class, gender, and sexuality in advertising, sex and selling, adverting and ethics, and the future of advertising. The lectures will discuss theoretical frameworks and apply them to specific advertisements. Course Syllabus Week 1: What is advertising and where did it come from? Week 2: Am I being manipulated by advertising? Week 3: What’s in an ad beyond that which meets the eye? Week 4: How do ads get made? Week 5: What do ads teach us about race, class, gender, and sexuality? Week 6: Does sex sell? Week 7: What is the future of advertising? Recommended Background No background is required; everyone is welcome! Suggested Readings Although the lectures are designed to be self-contained, we recommend that students refer to the free online textbook ADTextOnline.org. Other free resources will be suggested for each week’s module. Course Format Most videos will be lectures with instructor talking. Each lecture will be illustrated with PowerPoint slides, print advertisements, and TV commercials. The videos for each week will consist of segments that add up to about an hour. Each week will have one quiz that will appear as stand-alone homework. All resources beyond lectures will be available online to students at no charge. Most of these will be from ADTextOnline.org. Others will be visits to the sites of ad agencies in the US and abroad, open access websites that deal with course topics, and open-access journal articles.
- Week 1 - What is advertising and where did it come from?
Focus on 3 definitions of advertising, one of which emphasizes its antiquity, another its modernity and connections to capitalist society, and a third that traces its evolution from face-to-face salesmanship through print, radio, TV, and now the Internet. In ...
- Week 2 - Am I being manipulated by advertising?
Focus on the public’s fascination with the idea of subliminal advertising (beginning in the 1950s) and continuing somewhat into the present. Public distrust of advertising. Review of the evidence (pro and con) concerning subliminal advertising. Discussion o...
- Week 3 - What's in an ad beyond that which meets the eye?
This week considers how we understand the meaning of an ad. It considers the problem of author intentionality (largely available to us in the process of understanding ads) and argues that the audience for the ad is perhaps the most important author of its mea...
- Week 4 - How do ads get made?
Switching gears this week from looking from outside advertising at it, this week is devoted to the “insider” perspective on the making of ads. It looks at the various functional divisions of ad agencies (management, creative, research, and media) and the role...
- Week 5 - What do ads teach us about race, class, gender, and sexuality?
This week focuses on what ads teach about race, class, gender, and sexuality as a kind of secondary messages beyond the overt messages promoting products and services. For example, an orange juice commercial may promote the health benefits of orange juice but...
- Week 6 - Does sex sell?
Sexual imagery permeates modern advertising, but does it actually help see goods and services? The verdict on this is not a clear yes or no. But there is another very important question wrapped up in all this: what kind of sex does advertising sell? Some sc...
- Week 7 - What's the future of advertising?
The present moment in advertising history is one of great turmoil. The TV commercial is rapidly fading from its preeminence as the major advertising format. The once mass audiences for television programming and accompanying ads are already diminished by the...
Professor William M. O'Barr
Cultural Anthropology, Sociology and English