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This thesis explores the socially constructed process through which advertising agencies and practitioners encode advertisements. It draws from an interdisciplinary theoretical framework, and the study is positioned within the critical marketing studies literature. The literature review explores the relationship between advertising and the theory of ideology, the interaction between advertising and the cultural world and the role of advertising agencies as “cultural intermediaries” within consumer culture. An ethnographic study of an Irish advertising agency was conducted, during which primary data was collected in the form of internal agency meetings, agency documentation interviews with advertising practitioners and participant observations. The study incorporated a discourse analysis approach to talk and text generated during the inquiry which has become a popular way of exploring advertising and marketing phenomenon. The data analysis is presented in the form of an ethnographic narrative of preparations for key campaigns in the agency, and central “ interpretative repertoires “ that Irish advertising practitioners drew upon in interviews to describe their work. The data analysis illustrates how advertising practitioners draw symbolic resonance from culture and society to construct advertising meaning, and the findings reveal a striking power dynamic between the agency and the client, where ownership and control of the creative development process is widely contested between social actors. The findings suggest that rather than being seen as ideology producers, advertising agencies should be conceptualised as mediators between multiple meaning systems within consumer culture. The thesis concludes by outlining the main contributions of the research to theory and practice, and offers some suggestions for future studies of advertising production.
Kelly, A.: Mediators of Meaning: a Critically Reflexive Study of the Encoding of Irish Advertising, Doctoral Thesis. Dublin Institute of Technology, 2008.