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Understanding Ordinary Women: Advertising, Consumer Research and Mass Consumption in Britain, 1948-67

Nixon, S (2009) Understanding Ordinary Women: Advertising, Consumer Research and Mass Consumption in Britain, 1948-67. UNSPECIFIED. Centre for Research in Economic Sociology and Innovation (CRESI) Working Paper 2009-03, University of Essex, Colchester, UK.

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Abstract

This paper reflects on the ways market research in Britain helped produce understandings of and information about the ?mass housewife? in the 1950s and 60s. The paper does this through a case study of the market research used and generated by the London subsidiary office of J. Walter Thompson advertising and how it sought to understand the ordinary housewife and her consumption habits. In exploring JWT London?s approach to the ?mass market? housewife, the paper draws on recent sociological arguments about advertising and market research that have conceptualized these commercial practices as technologies or socio-technical devices for ?making-up? the consumer; that is, devices for formatting and framing consumer dispositions. In particular I draw on the work of Michel Callon and Peter Miller and Nicholas Rose. In doing so, however, the paper also seeks to revise certain aspects of these sociological accounts. Firstly, the paper proposes a more differentiated sense of the various marketing and market research paradigms that were used by advertising agencies. Secondly, the paper seeks to bring a more international and specifically trans-Atlantic dimension to the understanding of post-war market research. One notable feature of post-war market research in Britain was the influence of commercial techniques first formulated in the United States, including applied psychological knowledge. Like many other aspects of advertising in the 1950s and 60s, market research moved in an eastward direction across the Atlantic. JWT London?s parent company was an important player in this world and through its offices on both sides of the Atlantic it helped to disseminate research methods and techniques first pioneered in the USA to Britain. These US-derived techniques formed a visible presence within post-war British market research and constituted a key point of reference for British-based practitioners. Of course, this influence was neither totalizing nor did it go unchallenged. Staff at JWT?s London office, like colleagues elsewhere in British advertising, selectively appropriated and reworked elements of US market research, frequently combining it with more indigenous traditions of social research. Nonetheless, even as they rejected elements of ?American? approaches to consumer they still had to reckon with their intellectual authority and commercial force in this period.

Item Type: Monograph (UNSPECIFIED)
Uncontrolled Keywords: market research; advertising; market devices; motivation research; mass consumption; postwar affluence
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HF Commerce
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Women
Divisions: Faculty of Social Sciences > Sociology, Department of
Depositing User: Jim Jamieson
Date Deposited: 15 Mar 2012 15:55
Last Modified: 17 Aug 2017 18:13
URI: http://repository.essex.ac.uk/id/eprint/2301

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