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The Life of “The Consumer”: The Production and Consumption of Consumer Research in Advertising

Sun, August 13, 2:30 to 4:10pm, Palais des congrès de Montréal, Floor: Level 5, 512F


This paper explores the life of “the consumer” in the process of making an advertising campaign. The identity of “consumer” can be analyzed as the transaction medium through which agencies do relational work with their clients. This relational work is culturally bound, where agencies must perform relations, rather than situations, drawing on shared codes and narratives. To illustrate these cultural processes, the article draws on six months of ethnographic work conducted across two American advertising agencies, in which the curious connection between building consumer research and advertising campaigns is explored. By observing and participating in the construction and use of consumer research, the differences between what practitioners say should happen and what in fact happens on the shop floor is illuminated, illustrating the value of ethnographic work for understanding the ordinary practices of marketing and advertising.


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