Advertising as a Cultural Industry

Authored by: John Sinclair

The Routledge Companion to the Cultural Industries

Print publication date:  June  2015
Online publication date:  May  2015

Print ISBN: 9780415706209
eBook ISBN: 9781315725437
Adobe ISBN: 9781317533986


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Occupying the common territory between economy and culture, advertising is a core cultural industry, unapologetically and par excellence. While we may think of advertising first and foremost as the creative product of advertising agencies – the images, slogans and jingles in TV commercials and on billboards, for example – that is only the most visible and public form of what the business schools call “integrated marketing communications”, a broader set of cultural practices intent upon harnessing our ways of life to commercial purposes. From an economic perspective, advertising serves to connect advertisers, the producers of consumer goods and services, with their potential markets, and in fact, to bring those markets into being. Furthermore, it is those advertisers who are the source of the revenue that is the life-blood of the media business, by way of them paying advertising agencies to buy media time and space, as well as to devise their advertising campaigns for them. Thus, advertising is best thought of not as a single cultural industry, but as an integrated though shifting set of relations between advertisers, media and agencies: a “manufacturing/marketing/media complex” (Sinclair 2012).

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