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Mass Communication 223

Advertising as Social Communication

Length of Course: 14 weeks

Classroom Hours per Week: 4

Number of Credits: 3

Prerequisites: Mass Communication 110 or 130 and 12 credits

Corequisite: English 100

Text: Social Communication in Advertising - (4th ed). Leiss et al. Further readings to be assigned in class

Course Description:

This course is an introduction to the analysis of advertising as social communication. The course will provide a historical perspective on the emergence of "consumerism" as an idea and cultural practice communicated through advertising. It will examine how mass mediated advertising and marketing practices produce stylized narrations by which the social world is reimagined as a world of consumption. The course starts with an overview of contemporary debates about consumerism and the changing psychological and cultural dynamics of consumption in the market society. It goes on to examine the history of advertising in the context of the development of consumer culture. The course then examines the design  of advertising messages and the communication strategies used to promote circulation of goods. The course concludes with a discussion of advertising's role in the construction of "globalized" culture and communication.

Course Outline:

Week Chapter Topic
Week 1   Introduction, Key concepts, Advertising as Social Communication
Week 2 L.K.J. Ch 1 Privileged Discourse Through and about Objects. Two senses in which this discourse is privileged. Other privileged discourses
Week 3 Ch 2 and 3 Critiques and Defences of Advertising. Neo-liberal critiques, Neo-liberal and Marxist critiques; Pluralist and industry defences
Week 4 Ch 4

History of Consumer Culture I: Transition from industrial to consumer society. Rise of mass mediated communication. Origins of advertising industry

Week 5 Ch 5

History of Consumer Culture II Development of agencies. Connection between agencies and media. Role of audience.

Week 6 Ch 6 and 7 Bonding of Media and Advertising. How interests of media and advertising converge in North American mass media. Historical typology. Construction of contemporary media/commercial audience.
Week 8 TBA Decoding Ads I: Ways of Seeing. Language and Images. Advertising and history of image making.
Week 9 TBA Decoding Ads II: Introduction to codes. Person, product, setting, text. Methods of interpretation
Week 10 Ch 8 Decoding Ads III: Semiotics
Week 11 Ch 9 Decoding Ads IV: Mythology, ideology. Content analysis Basic ad formats
Week 12 Ch 12 Privileged Discourse II: Advertising and Politics. Social advertising
Week 13 Ch 10, 11 and 13 Privileged Discourse III: Advertising and Globalization


Mid-term Exam 25%
Final Exam 25%
Ad Analysis Project/Essay 25%
In-Class Presentation 15%
Participation 10%


Jean Hebert, B.A. (British Columbia), M.A. (Simon Fraser)
Ian Chunn, B.A., M.A. (Toronto), B.Ed. (British Columbia)

Transferability: see