Spring 2013 / 9:30-10:45am/ 194 Mercer, rm. 207

Prof. Laura Portwood-Stacer, PhD

Prof’s Email: / Twitter: @lportwoodstacer

Office: 239 Greene St, 3rd Floor

Office Hours: Tuesday/Thursday 3:30-4:30pm, Wednesday by appointment

Course Website: / Course Hashtag: #advsoc

Course Description

This course examines the role of advertising as an economic force and a form of cultural representation and the social implications of the role of consumerism in contemporary American society. The course surveys the history of advertising in the United States and investigates the changing strategies that have been used by advertisers from the 19th to the 21st centuries. It approaches advertisements as texts that indicate cultural attitudes and norms of their time and that can be understood through textual analysis. This course examines the broader context of consumerism in which advertising is a key factor. It thus provides a cultural approach to advertising and its history, as a means to understand both advertising as a central component in capitalist economies and its role as an indicator of cultural attitudes and ideologies.

Required Texts

Leiss, William, et al. 2005. Social communication in advertising. 3rd Edition. New York: Taylor & Francis.

All other required readings will be provided as PDFs during the first week of the term.

Course Grade Calculation

Short Ad Analyses (3) 50 points each / 150 pts total 30% of final grade
Long Campaign Analysis Proposal: 25 points; Curation + essay: 125 points 30% of final grade
Midterm exam 100 points 20% of final grade
Final treatment/exam 50 points 10% of final grade
Attendance/Participation 50 points 10% of final grade

Final grades, based on total points earned, out of 500:

320-334 335-349 350-369 370-384 385-399 400-419 420-434 435-449 450-469 470-500
D D+ C- C C+ B- B B+ A- A

Assignment instructions will be posted to the course website.

Evaluation Criteria

A = Excellent

This work demonstrates comprehensive and solid understanding of course material and presents thoughtful interpretations, well-focused and original insights, and well-reasoned analysis. It is thought-provoking and creative, and pushes the reader beyond predictable conclusions. It includes skillful use of source materials and illuminating examples and illustrations. It is submitted in polished form and manifests sincere effort to be thorough and professional.

B = Good

This work demonstrates a complete and accurate understanding of course material, presenting a reasonable degree of insight and broad level of analysis. Work reflects competence. Source material, along with examples and illustrations, are used appropriately. “B” work is reasonable, clear, appropriate and complete, but may not demonstrate unique or original insight. It may also be lacking in polish, effort, or professional presentation.

C = Adequate/Fair

This work demonstrates a basic understanding of course material but remains incomplete, superficial or expresses some important errors or weaknesses. Source material may be used inadequately or somewhat inappropriately. The work may lack concrete, specific examples and illustrations and may be hard to follow or vague. It belies a clear lack of effort and polish.

D = Unsatisfactory

This work demonstrates a serious lack of understanding and fails to demonstrate the most rudimentary elements of the course assignment. Sources may be used inappropriately or not at all. The work may be inarticulate or extremely difficult to read.


Course Policies

Participation: All students are expected to actively participate in class sessions. This means coming to class prepared by having done all the readings, bringing assigned readings to class, paying attention during all lectures and screenings, asking thoughtful questions, and sharing personal insights when appropriate. Your participation grade is assessed above and beyond your attendance; just showing up to class will not earn you any participation points. Spending class time on your laptop or cell phone engaged in non-class activities will negatively affect your participation grade. Regular tardiness will affect your participation grade, as it presents an obstacle to starting class discussions on time and thereby detracts from the other students’ learning experience.

A note about virtual participation alternatives: if you are not the kind of person who is comfortable volunteering in class, you can also participate by actively engaging with your classmates’ blog posts on a regular basis and by tweeting using the course hashtag. If you plan to pursue this option, please make me aware of your Twitter username. Note that participating in online formats will not excuse you from being attentive during class discussions.


Publication of work: Some of the work for this class will be posted publicly on the course WordPress site. This has a dual purpose of cultivating conversation among and beyond the participants in the class, and of allowing you to practice presenting your ideas in a public forum (a professional and civic skill for which the Media, Communication, and Culture program is hopefully preparing you.) To protect your online privacy, you are welcome to create a pseudonymous WordPress account for use in the class – please let me know if you do so. You are free to delete your posts from the site once final grades have been submitted, if you wish. My professorial evaluations of your work will not be public – they will remain confidential between you and me.


Late work: Due dates are firm. Assignment grades will be automatically reduced by 10% for each day (or fraction of day) they are late. If you must submit work late, kindly notify me so that I know you are planning to turn it in. The final assignment cannot be turned in late, as I must report final grades immediately after the due date.

Backing up your work: Online platforms like WordPress can be unstable. Always save your work for yourself offline so that if the web version goes awry you still have something to submit as a back-up. This is especially important in this course since we will be experimenting with Pinterest and there may be great opportunity for error.

Absences: You are allowed 3 unexcused absences, no questions asked. After that, any absences will result in a 10% reduction in your attendance grade, per absence. If you have extenuating personal circumstances, please arrange a meeting with me so that together we can be sure your attendance will not adversely impact your performance in the course.

Students with disabilities: Students with physical or learning disabilities are required to register with the Moses Center for Students with Disabilities, 726 Broadway, 2nd Floor, (212-998-4980) and are required to present a letter from the Center to the instructor at the start of the semester in order to be considered for appropriate accommodation.

ACADEMIC INTEGRITY AND PLAGIARISM: I take academic integrity extremely seriously. When you turn in work that is not your own, you communicate to me that you are not serious about this course and I will adjust your grade to reflect that. If I suspect that you have submitted dishonest work, you will receive a zero for the assignment. You may also fail the course and the case may be forwarded to department and university administrators. If you have any doubts as to whether work you plan to submit violates the standards of academic integrity, please ask me in advance. It is better to have an honest question cleared up before the fact than to risk failure and disciplinary action.

All students must be familiar with the NYU Steinhardt School definition of plagiarism and the policy on academic integrity. The NYU Steinhardt Statement on Academic Integrity is available at:

The Steinhardt School defines plagiarism as follows:

Plagiarism, one of the gravest forms of academic dishonesty in university life, whether

intended or not, is academic fraud. In a community of scholars, whose members are

teaching, learning and discovering knowledge, plagiarism cannot be tolerated.

Plagiarism is failure to properly assign authorship to a paper, a document, an oral

presentation, a musical score and/or other materials, which are not your original work.

You plagiarize when, without proper attribution, you do any of the following:

Copy verbatim from a book, an article or other media;

Download documents from the Internet;

Purchase documents;

Report from other’s oral work;

Paraphrase or restate someone else’s facts, analysis and/or conclusions;

Copy directly from a classmate or allow a classmate to copy from you.