Fall 2019 - CMNS 223W D100

Advertising as Social Communication (3)

Class Number: 3386

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Sep 3 – Dec 2, 2019: Thu, 2:30–4:20 p.m.

  • Exam Times + Location:

    Dec 7, 2019
    Sat, 11:45–11:59 p.m.

  • Prerequisites:

    CMNS 110 and 130.



An interdisciplinary examination of the significance of advertising as a social message system in our consumer society. The course proposes an analytical method for appreciating the changing styles and functions of advertising in the 20th century. Students with credit for CMNS 223 may not take this course for further credit. Writing.



This course is an introduction to the study of advertising as social communication from a critical-analytical perspective.  It should deepen students’ understanding of mass-mediated communication by focusing on advertisements as highly condensed and rich cultural “texts”. While ads do not reflect the culture as a whole, they do respond to, and represent, cultural values and trends.  Students will learn to analyze the process of representation, and identify the social functions of advertising including the economic, political, ideological, and cultural implications of the meanings circulated by advertising.  As we study advertising across media, we will consider its place in the reproduction of the ideological frameworks of a rapidly changing consumer culture.  

The course will approach advertising from two perspectives: the critical analysis of advertising texts, and a recognition of the cultural and economic role of advertising in western societies.  Topics will include:  semiotic analysis, the cultural frameworks of consumer culture, gender, issues of ideology and hegemony, concepts of the self and modes of audience address, queer marketing, cultural appropriation, authenticity, and cool.  

A series of three papers will allow students to practice close, textual analysis, and to develop a set of critical tools for textual analysis with attention to broader cultural contexts.  The final exam will be a time-limited exam taken over Canvas in which students will be required to write on four advertisements.



  • Module 1 Paper: Semiotics 10%
  • Module 2 Paper: Social Representation 15%
  • Module 3 Paper: Contemporary Issues 25%
  • Creative Project 15%
  • Tutorial Participation 15%
  • Final Exam (Take-Home) 20%
  • Assignments handed in late may be penalized.


The school expects that the grades awarded in this course will bear some reasonable relation to established university-wide practices with respect to both levels and distribution of grades.  In addition, the School will follow Policy S10.01 with respect to Academic Integrity, and Policies S10.02, S10.03 and S10.04 as regards Student Discipline.  [Note: as of May 1, 2009 the previous T10 series of policies covering Intellectual Honesty (T10.02), and Academic Discipline (T10.03) have been replaced with the new S10 series of policies.]

This is a writing-intensive course.

*Students who began their degrees in Fall 2006 onwards must successfully complete at least two (W) courses, at least one of which must be upper division, within the student’s discipline.  It is strongly recommended that students take one (W) course as early as possible, preferably in their first 30 units.  Students are required to complete their first (W) course within their first 60 units. Each (W) course must be at least 3 units, and achieve at least a C- grade.



Readings will be available on Canvas.

Registrar Notes:

SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html