Advertising is often used to illustrate popular and academic debates about cultural and economic life. This book reviews cultural and sociological approaches to advertising and, using historical evidence, demonstrates that a rethink of the analysis of advertising is long overdue. Liz McFall surveys dominant and problematic tendencies within the current discourse. This book offers a thorough review of the literature and also introduces fresh empirical evidence. Advertising: A Cultural Economy uses a historical study of advertising to regain a sense of how it has been patterned, not by the `epoch', but by the interaction of institutional, organisational and technological forces.

Persuasive Products

Persuasive products

Early advertising concentrated principally on the use value of products. As selling techniques became more sophisticated, and as the need for new markets became more pressing, advertisements began to stress the ‘psychological utility’ of their products. … Escalating emphasis on the symbolic properties or psychological utility of goods represents a qualitative change in the commodity form. (Goldman, 1992: 17–18)


The desire to capture the unique and distinctive features of contemporary advertising has a powerful hold on critical writing. This desire is part of a conviction that contemporary advertisements have a particular potency, a capacity to persuade and manipulate surpassing anything to be found in the past. It percolates through the work of a range of critical writers who, whatever their other differences, agree ...

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