What about the old cultural intermediaries? An historical review of advertising producers

McFall, Liz (2002). What about the old cultural intermediaries? An historical review of advertising producers. Cultural Studies, 16(4) pp. 532–552.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/09502380210139106

Abstract

Critical work on advertising is underscored by a teleological conception of its object. This often emerges in the form of an emphasis on advertising as an evolving, hybrid institutions that increasingly mixes the 'economic' with the 'cultural'. It is in this vein that advertising practitioners have been characterized as 'new cultural intermediaries' deploying distinctive aesthetic sensibilities. Similar patterns of knowledge and behaviour, however, can be traced amongst early producers of advertising suggesting a generation of 'old' cultural intermediaries. This unexpected phenomenon, it is argued, arises for two reasons. The first is that much critical work addressing the nature of contemporary advertising lacks historical context. The second is that culture and economy are normatively conceptualized as separate spheres. This separation underplays the multiple interconnections between the cultural and the economic in instances of material practice. Accordingly it is proposed that advertising be reformulated as a constituent practice that has historically relied upon the juxtaposition of 'cultural' and 'economic' knowledges.

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