The course deals with the sociological analysis of the advertising. It will provide the analytical tools necessary for studying the advertisements and analyzing how they can affect the public discourse. A special focus will be devoted to the analysis and the impact of the “culture jamming” techniques, regarded as communicative strategies able to subverte the meanings inscribed in an advertising campaign.
At the end of this course, the students will be able to: 1) have a deep knowledge of the main sociological theories used in the analysis of the advertising; 2) enhance their abilities of critical analysis of the advertising; 3) better understand the short- and long-term effects that the advertising can exercise on the public opinion in relation to several aspects of everyday life and many dimensions of individual and collective identities; 4) exercise and implement their communicative and interpretative skills through an interactive teaching.
teacher profile | teaching materials


The course deals with the in-depth study of the main theoretical models used for the sociological analysis of the advertising. The first part of the course aims to provide students the analytical tools necessary for analyzing the advertisements and the relationship with their target (with a special focus on the possible kinds of miscommunication that can occur at different levels). The second part of the course aims to point out the social values that an advertisement can help to convey and/or to establish in the public discourse of a certain nation or geographic area - with a specific focus on those values that from an ethical point of view may be considered more problematic for a society, as they are potentially discriminatory and detrimental of human dignity (such as racism, sexism, pollution and the systematic destruction of natural resources and the environment, the violation of human rights, speciesism, etc.). The third part of the course will analyse the deep and various transformations taking place in this field due to the influence of social media. In addition, a further specific focus will be on culture jamming and other forms of cultural resistance (such as anti-brand movements, boycotts, etc.).

Core Documentation

One to be chosen among the following programmes:

a) Tota A.L, De Feo A., Luchetti L. (2023), Inquinamento visuale. Manifesto contro il razzismo e il sessismo delle immagini, Milano, Mondadori.
b) Moreover, the following readings:

1. Barthes, Roland (1964). Rhetoric of the Image. Image‐Music‐Text (Translation 1977). S. Heath ed., London: Fontana, pp. 32‐51.
2. Merskin, Debra (2004). Reviving Lolita? A Media Literacy Examination of Sexual Portrayals of Girls in Fashion Advertising, in “American Behavioral Scientist”. Vol. 48, pp. 119‐128.
3. Kress, Gunther and van Leeuwen, Theo (1996). Modality: Designing Models of Reality. Reading Images: The Grammar of Visual Design. London: Routledge, pp. 154‐174.
4. Danesi, Marcel (2013). Semiotizing a product into a brand, in “Social Semiotics”, 23:4, pp. 464-476.
5. Lekakis, J. Eleftheria (2017). Culture jamming and Brandalism for the environment: The logic of appropriation, in “Popular Communication”, 15:4, pp. 311-327.

a) Tota A.L, De Feo A., Luchetti L. (2023), Inquinamento visuale. Manifesto contro il razzismo e il sessismo delle immagini, Milano, Mondadori.
b) Moreover, the following readings:

1. Barthes, Roland (1964, ed. it. 1985), Retorica dell’immagine, in L’ovvio e l’ottuso. Saggi critici III, Torino, Einaudi, pp. 22-61.
2. Capecchi, Saveria (2011). Il corpo erotizzato delle donne negli spot pubblicitari, in POLIS, XXV, 3, pp. 393-417.
3. Danesi, Marcel (2009), Brands. Il mondo delle marche (only chapter 3 “L’immagine di marca”), Roma, Carocci, pp. 49-86.
4. Kopytoff, Igor (2005). La biografia culturale degli oggetti: la mercificazione come processo, in E. Mora (a cura di), Gli attrezzi per vivere. Forme della produzione culturale tra industria e vita quotidiana, Vita e Pensiero, Milano, pp. 77-111.
5. Packard, Vance (1957, ediz. it. 2015), I persuasori occulti (only chapters 2, 3, 4 e 5), Torino, Einaudi, pp. 12-53.

Please, note: Students who have included Gender and Media in their curriculum should study, instead of “Inquinamento visuale. Manifesto contro il razzismo e il sessismo delle immagini”, the book: Barthes R. (1957, ed. it. 2016), “Miti d’oggi”, Torino, Einaudi.

Type of delivery of the course

The course is based on traditional lectures. In addition, it is possible to participate during the course in a workshop (not compulsory) on the analysis of advertising texts, with the presentation of the results in a PowerPoint realised in groups by the students.

Type of evaluation

The exam will be written and it will last two hours. The students will be asked to reply extensively to three questions. The (non-compulsory) workshop will be assigned a mark, which will be added to the exam mark obtained.