Spring 2020 - CMNS 323W D100

Cultural Dimensions in Advertising (4)

Class Number: 1024

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    We 2:30 PM – 5:20 PM
    EDB 7618, Burnaby

  • 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.


Advertising as the discreet 15-30 second commercial on television or YouTube, or the one-page magazine spread is still with us but marketing, branding and promotion have broadened, becoming even more pervasive in our culture and in our daily lives. So even with attention to advertising texts, this course also looks beyond individual ads to media and cultural convergence and the quest for ‘synergies’ that have increasingly transformed all forms of culture into tools of marketing and promotion. What are the social, cultural, and political implications of these larger developments? How does advertising, consumer culture and ‘promotional culture’ structure the society in which we live and how do they connect with the values, structures, belief systems, and ideas about what constitutes personal and social satisfaction and ‘the good life’ in our culture?

Our primary objective is to critically explore contemporary advertising as it connects to larger questions of society and culture. Our 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 explore the relationship between advertising, branding, promotional culture, and a social, economic, and cultural environment dominated by commodification. We examine some of the dominant characteristics of contemporary advertising and promotional culture.

The course is organized around three modules each with a series of weekly themes that will be explored in lectures, readings and tutorials. While there will be overlap between the lectures, readings and tutorials, there will also be important material that is only covered in one or the other. Students are expected to do the readings, attend lectures and tutorials, which you will draw upon in your research projects.

Given that the course is writing-intensive, time may be devoted to exercises and discussions designed to improve the writing skills of students.


  • Term Paper (50%)
  • Essay Proposal & Annotated Bibliography (Week 5) 10%
  • First Iteration: Essay Draft (Week 10) 15%
  • Final Essay (Due during Exam Period) 25%
  • Creative Project (40%)
  • Project Proposal (Week 4) 5%
  • Project Strategy and Rationale (Week 11) 10%
  • Video (Last Class) 25%
  • Tutorial (10%)
  • Attendance (Weekly) 5%
  • Discussion (Weekly) 5%


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.

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 1 May 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 overall CGPA, and approval as a communication student is required for entry into most communication upper division courses.



PDF 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