Sivulka Seminar – Considering Society Through the History of Advertising
In this seminar, each student completes a historical investigation on advertising and society based on a theme that has been selected by the student and approved by the professor. The seminar will guide each student to write up a senior thesis using research, analysis and writing skills learned over the course of their work.
Professor Juliann Sivulka
Seminar on History 01 (School of International Liberal Studies, Advanced Seminar)
Location: Waseda Campus Bldg. #11
Investigating the history of advertising and its cultural implications
Did you know that convenience store Seven-Eleven was originally called "Tote'm" stores because consumers toted away their goods? Or how advertisements on rice cookers appeal to different sentiments in Japan, Taiwan and Korea?
In Professor Juliann Sivulka's "Seminar on History: Advertising and Society," the students get to pursue a theme of their choice and write up a senior thesis using research skills acquired through the course of the seminar. "It's really a study of history, how to do research. I call it historical investigation. It's very structured," says Prof. Sivulka.
The class is divided into two groups, the juniors and seniors. The juniors will meet weekly where Prof. Sivulka introduces them to topics on historical development of advertising, consumer culture and society from a global perspective, as well as the whole structure of investigative history, including methods and sources for research.
In the second semester, now the seniors meet with Prof. Sivulka as a single group in her office about once or twice a month to share how far they have gone in their respective researches and share any problems that they face. "I think it's important for them to have a sense of belonging to a group, and a sense of deadline," says Prof. Sivulka. "If they are left alone, they're lost. It's about accountability. They are accountable not only to me but to the entire group."
Prof. Sivulka is very specific about what she requires the students to prepare. The students start out with a general topic, and identify three research questions. Once they go through a month of preliminary research, they look for evidence that would answer their research questions in order to create a working outline. "This outline is the key, because this whole paper is an argument. It's not descriptive writing," says Prof. Sivulka. Based on the outline, the students set out to write up the draft of their thesis.
"At first, the students think 'Oh my, I can't write a 30-page paper,' but I tell them this is like writing three short papers, plus a 5~6 page introduction and a conclusion. And they start seeing that when they start creating an outline," she says.
As background for taking this seminar, students are expected to take Professor Sivulka's "History of American Advertising" course as well as other classes in history, marketing, and media studies.
The friendly demeanor of Prof. Sivulka makes it easy for students to approach her for advice
Nicky Sung makes her presentation on "Cosmetics and the Image of Women in Advertising"
Taking advantage of the diverse background of students
"I really enjoy this seminar because people have studied in various countries and the discussions are very interesting," says Mona Okinaka, a senior who has studied in London for a year. Her fellow senior Kanae Shimada concurs. "We Japanese are a minority," she chuckles. Their classmates include those from the Philippines, China and South Korea, and their mode of communication is English, as is this seminar. Shimada, who studied a year in the United States, says she has no trouble following the class. "I'm fine," she says confidently.
On this particular day, both the junior and senior students from Prof. Sivulka's seminar gathered as a single class, so that the senior students could report on the progress they have made as well as share their themes with the junior students who are still trying to decide what theme to choose for their senior theses. Two seniors made their presentations using PowerPoint tools as well as videos they have edited on their own.
Nicky Sung, who is working on "Cosmetics and the Image of Women in Advertising" for her senior thesis, showed a video collage of ads she compiled that depict women in different ways throughout history. She notes how women in the earlier days are dependent on the men and how the ads presume that the products are not bought by the women themselves but that they have their husbands buy the products for them.
Yi-Hsin Liao shared her thesis "Development of 7-Eleven," in which she showed the difference in the strategy used to sell the "oden" product in Japan and Taiwan, where one focused on family and the other on a romantic situation between couples. "I chose this topic because I wanted to choose something closest to me," she told her class.
"The students all have overseas experience in one way or another; that's why I encourage comparative studies, like this 7-Eleven case, as they can bring in their very rich background," says Prof. Sivulka. "I find it so engaging that students can get very passionate about their studies and are willing to do comparative studies, compared to U.S. students who tend to be more focused on their own region," she says.
Prof. Sivulka encourages students to widen their scope and pursue a topic "that one can be passionate about." It helps them get through the thesis, and it also serves as a powerful tool when they go job hunting during their senior year. "I encourage the students to look for a topic that makes them think about their
careers. Something that they can take to a job interview and explain in depth, and the passion for the topic."
True to her words, Candice Cheng, a senior, who is working on a thesis on skin-whitening products, is now looking for a job in the advertising industry. "This class is fantastic. At first I was quite worried because I didn't really know which direction I wanted to go. But this class fit me well, because after graduating, my goal is now to go into public relations, or I'll try to find an internship in an advertising company. I know it's quite hard, but I'll try," says Cheng.
Okinaka, who doesn't think she will go into the field of advertising after she graduates, nevertheless is grateful for what she learned in the seminar and at SILS. "The seminar, and also my experience of studying abroad, taught me the importance of trying to take the initiative in seeking for what you want to learn," she says.
Yi-Hsin Liao shares her thesis "Development of 7-Eleven"
Kanae Shimada, senior (left) and Mona Okinaka, senior (right) laugh about being a minority in this class
『Soap, Sex and Cigarettes: A Cultural History of American Advertising』by Juliann Sivulka.
This is prerequisite reading for taking this seminar and if a student hasn't taken Prof. Sivulka's "History of American advertising and American Consumer Culture" class prior to taking this seminar, this book is strongly recommended.
『Adland: A Global History of Advertising』by Mark Tungate.
Offers a global view of the development of advertising and key figures.
『Advertising to the American Woman』by Daniel Dellis Hill.
A historical picture of how firms targeted consumers during the past 100 years.
『Provocateur: Images of Women and Minorities in Advertising』by Anthony J. Cortese.
Examines how the images reflect the social norms and cultural ideologies of contemporary advertising.
And if you become tired of heavy reading, a good diversion would be to watch the U.S. TV drama series "Mad Men," a story about a U.S. advertising firm in the 1960s, where you will see how advertising and gender roles evolved as society changed. The series, which won many awards including 15 Emmys and four Golden Globes, is available in DVD as well as on some cable channels in Japan