Class shaming in post-recession U.S. advertising

Matthew P. McAllister, Anna Aupperle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Class is an issue rarely foregrounded in advertising criticism, although the emphasis on consumption and commodity-defined images of the good life frequently makes advertising a class-oriented discourse. The degree and manner that advertising contains overt symbols and discussions of class may be influenced by the particular era in which a campaign appears. This article argues that several "postrecession" U.S. campaigns including for Buick, Allstate, and DirecTV make class comparisons explicit, as seen in "class shaming" strategies such as a ridicule of service workers, presenting the wealthy as victimized by the working class, and "lower-classface" performances that contrast class-based lifestyles. In such ads, representations of the working class are equated with losers, incompetents, and non-brand users in the ads, while affluent users and opulent lifestyles are celebrated. Final reflections focus on the ideological implications of more obvious depictions of class in current and future advertising.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)140-156
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Communication Inquiry
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cultural Studies
  • Communication
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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