Summer 2019 - CMNS 323W J200

Cultural Dimensions in Advertising (4)

Class Number: 6043

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Th 5:30 PM – 9:20 PM
    HCC 2270, Vancouver

  • Exam Times + Location:

    Aug 15, 2019
    7:00 PM – 10:00 PM
    HCC 1800, Vancouver

  • Prerequisites:

    45 units including one of CMNS 223W or 253W.



A cultural-historical examination of contemporary advertising practices as well as a critical exploration of their impact upon different aspects of the consumer society, such as children's culture, pharmaceutical marketing, globalization, political communication and new media. Writing.


As a main driving engine of profit in global capitalism, consumerism permeates wide swaths culture and the spaces of everyday life. From Dallas Smythe’s “free lunch” argument, to Ronald Reagan’s deregulation of children’s television enabling program long commercials for toys such as My Little Pony, from the targeted ads of digital platforms, to sponsored live streamers, events, and the Red Bull handouts you might get in the halls of SFU named after their own cooperate sponsors, this class encourages students to become sensitive to the conditions that help to normalize the place of advertisements in their own lives and to explore how advertisements play a role in the shaping of shared cultural experiences. Indeed as neoliberal logics increasingly inform state policies, cooperate sponsorship has spread promotional culture from social infrastructures to individual behaviors that help to inform consumer citizenship. With strategies ranging from promotions to boycotts notions of consumer power are used to push values not only in local and domestic markets, but increasingly at the international level in our increasingly connected world. This social communication opens a host of questions ranging from the hiding of social justice concerns to notions of what constitutes personal and social satisfaction and ‘the good life’ in our culture.

The primary objective of this course is to critically explore contemporary advertising as it connects to larger questions of society and culture. 
The focus will NOT be on advertising effects on individuals or groups, nor the ‘nuts and bolts’ of the advertising industry.  This course will not teach you how to create advertising campaigns, or how to design marketing strategies.  Instead, we will draw upon different critical theories and qualitative research methods as a means of reflecting upon the broader social and cultural dimensions of advertising, and consumer or promotional culture.

We will explore the relationship between advertising, branding, promotional culture, and a social, economic, and cultural environment dominated by commodification.  We will examine some of the dominant characteristics of contemporary advertising and promotional culture.


  • (Subject to change with notice.)
  • Participation 10%
  • Four Mini-Writing Assignments (4 X5%) 20%
  • Group Video Project 35%
  • • Create Groups (class 3)
  • • Project Proposal (class 11) 15%
  • • Video (class 12) 20%
  • Final Paper (due during exam period) 35%


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.]


A minimum 2.25 CMNS CGPA and 2.00 CGPA, and approval as a communication student is required for entry into most communication upper division courses.



Readings will be available on Canvas. 

Registrar Notes:

SFU’s Academic Integrity web site 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.