This course has concessions available

Anthropology of Advertising – Online

Advertising is the very essence of democracy (Anton Chekhov). Advertising is legalized lying (H G Wells). Where do you stand in relation to these two apparently opposed views of advertising? Every day we are bombarded with advertisements telling us what to buy, how to behave, even what to think. How should we distinguish between those that are valuable and those that can mislead us?

This course will examine the origins and development of modern advertising conveyed through a variety of media as a means of promoting peoples behavioural change whether in terms of their response to straightforward information provision, persuasion towards a particular world view, or consumer choice in a bewildering marketplace. Against this background you will be presented with a range of anthropological themes, for example how notions of family, ethnicity, gender and demographics are harnessed by advertisers in pursuit of their ends. Find out how anthropologists work can help you interpret advertising in all its forms.

Available Classes:

Who is this course for

This course is for anyone who is interested in discovering what anthropology is about and ways of applying the work of anthropologists to uncover the methods of advertisers in our own and other cultures. There are no formal entry requirements to the course, only that you are open-minded and prepared to contribute to class discussion.

What does this course cover

The course will provide an introductory overview of anthropology's scope as an academic discipline so that all students start from a common baseline. We will then consider the origins of modern advertising from Freudian concepts, how it then evolved in the twentieth century - with increasing attention to the findings of cultural anthropologists - as a lever to influence political, economic and social behaviour, culminating in its present exploitation of social media and the internet in a globalized world.

Students will be asked to review and analyse a variety of advertisements and related material with particular emphasis on how they portray cultural themes and behaviour as the basis for advertising strategies. This will necessitate discussion of topics like family, ethnicity, ritual, health, gender, art and technology. In each case our learning objectives will essentially be (a) to consider what anthropologists and other thinkers have made of the topic in question; and then (b) to propose how their findings apply (or don't) to advertising. Underpinning all this is the recognition that each student brings their own unique experiences and knowledge, and that sharing these across the class as a whole enriches everyone's learning experience. Students may optionally research and present a relevant case study to the class at the end of the course.

By the end of the course, students should be able to:

' Explain the scope of Anthropology and where it fits among the social sciences and other disciplines
' Appreciate and critique the strategies and methodologies used by advertising practitioners and how they are informed by anthropology
' Analyse particular advertisements and evaluate them in terms of their effectiveness and ethical stance.

What will it be like

The course will be run online using Zoom for the live class sessions and either the Moodle page for the course or some other system for the distribution of the electronic resources for the session sitting alongside this. Although there will be some adjustments that need to be made for the online version of this course, we will aim to keep the experience as close as possible to that of a face to face course taught in the Centre.

Learning and teaching methods include tutor presentation, class discussion, small group activities with feedback to the whole class, watching documentary film, individual research. As indicated above, students may choose to work on their own project which they can present to the whole class at the end of the course.

What else do you need to buy or do

The course will be run on Zoom, please make sure you have installed it in advance of your first class on your computer or mobile device. You can sign up for free here:

You will need a microphone (it's fine to use whatever is built into your device) and camera, so we can see you via video. You may also want to use headphones during the session.

You can participate in class sessions through the use of a computer, laptop, tablet or other similar internet enabled device. Please note that if you only have access to a smartphone, you will be able to attend the class sessions and participate in them but you will find it more difficult to benefit from the full range of materials and activities involved in the course if this is your only means of connection.

Make sure you have a small space to work in during the session and that as far as possible that you can keep this space quite and clear of interruption so that you can concentrate on what is happening in the class.

By signing up to the course you are consenting to being on camera. The content of the lesson may occasionally be recorded by the tutor for internal education and training purposes but any such recordings will not be made available to anyone outside of the Mary Ward Centre organisation without us asking you again for further permission to do so.

You only need paper and pen. You should read the material provided by the tutor. This will help you to participate fully in class.

What this course could lead to

This course could lead to a range of other anthropology and social science courses offered by the Mary Ward Centre and other colleges.

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I've been to many Centres to study in London and the Mary Ward Centre is one of the nicest I've studied in.

MWC student


This course has concessions available for people who meet certain criteria

Got a Question about this Course?

Contact The Departmental Administrator.

Why choose Mary Ward?

Mary Ward Centre is the adult education centre with a difference. We provide a wide range of subjects for people at all levels and run courses during the day, evening and weekends to suit your timetable. You can learn face to face at one of our centres (Bloomsbury or Waterloo) or take an online course

Get inspired and enjoy excellent teaching in an environment where each individual’s learning experience is valued. That’s what makes Mary Ward Centre ‘the friendly place to learn.’