Value Measurement Systems, Professional Narratives and the (Un)Making of Market Regimes in Twentieth-Century American Advertising

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    During the 1920s, consumer psychologists and market researchers began to develop measurement systems that allowed their clients to express in ‘hard’ figures, and thus to put a financial value on, the impact that particular advertisements had on consumers. At the same time, advertising designers created a professional identity which brought them closer to the world of non-commercial art. Aspiring to a congenial ideal of artistic freedom of expression, graphic designers and copywriters resented having their work evaluated merely in terms of one-dimensional categories such as how well an advert attracted attention, how often it was remembered by a specific target group, and how often consumers quoted an advert when asking for a product in a shop. In order for an efficient market for advertising services to emerge, however, precisely such simple measures were deemed necessary by advertising agency owners, their clients and by media organizations which printed, aired or screened commercial messages. Drawing on the notion of the socio-technical ‘agencements’, and on theories of the performativity of measurement regimes in the making of markets, economic sociologists have developed a good understanding of how the act of measuring itself can affect the behaviour of those whose social actions are being measured. Much less well developed is an economic-sociological account of how such measurement regimes are being resisted and how and why they decline. This paper uses the rise and fall of a particularly influential advertising measurement method, the Starch Advertisement Readership Service, to study the processes leading to its successful contestation by advertising artists.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication date2015
    Number of pages29
    Publication statusPublished - 2015
    EventAmerican Sociological Association Annual Meeting. ASA 2015 - University of Chicago, Chicago, United States
    Duration: 22 Aug 201525 Aug 2015
    Conference number: 110


    ConferenceAmerican Sociological Association Annual Meeting. ASA 2015
    LocationUniversity of Chicago
    Country/TerritoryUnited States
    Internet address

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