COMS204-21S2 (C) Semester Two 2021

Advertising and Cultural Consumption

15 points

Start Date: Monday, 19 July 2021
End Date: Sunday, 14 November 2021
Withdrawal Dates
Last Day to withdraw from this course:
  • Without financial penalty (full fee refund): Sunday, 1 August 2021
  • Without academic penalty (including no fee refund): Friday, 1 October 2021


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 is a central component of our cultural environment. Technically speaking, it is a promotional activity used to persuasively communicate with targeted audiences. It differs from other promotional activity in that organisations pay for the media space or time used for their advertisements. As such, advertising finances the media industry across print, digital, and broadcast. Global advertising spend is predicted to top $653 billion in 2022.

We are exposed to about 500 ads every day, according to some estimates. What does this kind of exposure mean for us; for 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 examine those questions through a critical lens. We analyse advertisements using semiotic and discourse techniques. We explore debates, concepts and theories surrounding advertising’s effect on culture, consumption and identity. The course provides an overview of the advertising industry, looking at how it has developed over time, its organisation and in which ways it is changing. We focus on the rise of ethical, green branding and its links to anti-consumerism.

After the semester break, the course goes into practical mode. Our perspective switches from an external view to an internal one. We explore advertising agencies from the inside to discover how ads are created from market and audience research through to strategy and output.

Learning Outcomes

  • Demonstrate your understanding of critical perspectives on the advertising as it relates to culture and identity
  • Analyse the meanings embedded in visual and textual elements in advertisements
  • Deconstruct the system of advertising and explain how it has changed over time
  • Apply knowledge of advertising processes, techniques and strategies
  • Perform a fundamental copywriting task for advertising
    • University Graduate Attributes

      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.

      Globally aware

      Students will comprehend the influence of global conditions on their discipline and will be competent in engaging with global and multi-cultural contexts.


Any 15 points at 100 level from COMS, or
any 60 points at 100 level from the Schedule V of the BA.

Timetable 2021

Students must attend one activity from each section.

Lecture A
Activity Day Time Location Weeks
01 Tuesday 12:00 - 14:00 A5 Lecture Theatre
19 Jul - 29 Aug
13 Sep - 24 Oct
Tutorial A
Activity Day Time Location Weeks
01 Wednesday 09:00 - 10:00 Karl Popper 612
19 Jul - 29 Aug
13 Sep - 24 Oct
02 Wednesday 15:00 - 16:00 Rehua 427 Technology Workshop
19 Jul - 29 Aug
13 Sep - 24 Oct
03 Thursday 11:00 - 12:00 Jack Erskine 121
19 Jul - 29 Aug
13 Sep - 24 Oct
04 Friday 11:00 - 12:00 A7
19 Jul - 29 Aug
13 Sep - 24 Oct

Course Coordinator

Daniel Nielsen


Assessment Due Date Percentage  Description
Essay 17 Sep 2021 30% 2000 word
Group assignment 08 Oct 2021 20% Strategy proposal 75%; Collaboration & professionalism 25%
Assignment individual 22 Oct 2021 20% Radio ad script 50%; Rationale 50%
Exam 30% This two-hour exam is designed to assess your understanding of the course’s key ideas, concepts and content. This includes material across the whole course. The test comprises multi-choice, true-false, short-answer and matching questions. There will also be a short essay question.

Textbooks / Resources

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.

Indicative Fees

Domestic fee $785.00

International fee $3,500.00

* All fees are inclusive of NZ GST or any equivalent overseas tax, and do not include any programme level discount or additional course-related expenses.

For further information see Language, Social and Political Sciences .

All COMS204 Occurrences

  • COMS204-21S2 (C) Semester Two 2021
  • COMS204-21S2 (D) Semester Two 2021 (Distance)