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Advertising has become a central component of our contemporary cultural environment that finances all of the communication industries. However, the effects of advertising may lie far outside only the funding of media systems. This course explores the increasingly strained relationship between advertising, consumerism, identity, the environment and citizenship. We'll take a critical approach to the most ubiquitous form of media messaging that exists: the advertisement.
Advertising has become a central component of our contemporary cultural environment. Indeed, in the subsidized media system we have created, advertising finances all of the communication industries – principally newspapers, magazines, radio, television and increasingly the Internet. However, the effects of advertising may lie far outside only the funding of media systems. Globally, the advertising industry spends over $600 BILLION dollars per year on media messages. The result is that the average American, directly in the epicentre of this commercial messaging, is exposed to more than 5,000 brand exposures a day, with approximately 10 hours every day of media use.What does this kind of exposure mean for them and for the rest of the world that appears to be increasingly open to this level of commercial exposure? What are the effects that advertising messages have on us as consumers and as members of society? How does advertising represent ‘us’ and consequently, how does this representation make us feel about ourselves? What are the broader ideological implications of conceptualising ourselves as consumers rather than citizens?In this course, we will explore these questions and the many debates surrounding modern advertising. We will take a critical approach to the most ubiquitous form of media messaging that exists: the advertisement.This course explores key debates surrounding advertising and our present consumer culture. More specifically it aims to:• Provide an overview of the contemporary advertising industry, looking at how it is organized and how it is changing• Consider the role of advertising in organising the symbolic environment• Examine the visual and textual approaches advertisers use to influence our consumption• Explore the debates surrounding the impact of advertising on patterns of consumption• Examine issues arising from the growth of transnational advertising• Explore the debates surrounding the impact of advertising on children, the environment and other media systems• Present attempts to circumvent commercial power by those outside of mainstream culture.
By the end of this course you should be able to demonstrate the following knowledge and skills:Understand the development and structure of the contemporaryadvertising systemIdentify the range of techniques and strategies adopted by advertisersUnderstand the symbolic meanings embedded in visual and textual messagesExplain the impact of commercial messaging on the environmentKnow the difference between a product and a brandExplain the impact of commercial messaging on childrenDiscuss the relationship between advertising and other media industriesContemplate attempts to circumvent commercial power in societyUnderstand some of the meanings implicit in the politics of consumptionProduce arguments over advertising proliferation and the effects on local culturesApply critical analysis to advertising content
This course will provide students with an opportunity to develop the Graduate Attributes specified below:
Critically competent in a core academic discipline of their award
Students know and can critically evaluate and, where applicable, apply this knowledge to topics/issues within their majoring subject.
Employable, innovative and enterprising
Students will develop key skills and attributes sought by employers that can be used in a range of applications.
Students will comprehend the influence of global conditions on their discipline and will be competent in engaging with global and multi-cultural contexts.
15 points at the 100 level in COMS. Students without this prerequisite, but with at least a B average in 60 points of relevant courses, may enter the course with the approval of the Head of Department or the Undergraduate Coordinator for COMS.
Students must attend one activity from each section.
For further information see
Language, Social and Political Sciences Head of Department
All readings are available on the Learn page for this course. You should have completed the readings before coming to class and be prepared to discuss what you’ve read.There is no other official textbook for this course.
Domestic fee $761.00
International fee $3,188.00
* Fees include New Zealand GST and do not include any programme level discount or additional course related expenses.
For further information see
Language, Social and Political Sciences.