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Author ORCID Identifier



Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program


Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Gerald Friedman

Second Advisor

Michael Ash

Third Advisor

Judith Smith

Subject Categories

Economic History | Political Economy | Public Relations and Advertising


Advertising and the Creation of Exchange Value explores the economics of the industry and the commodification of communications that characterizes consumer goods advertising in the U.S. I consider three phases of communications that take on three distinct commodity forms. First is access to attention, the interception of the audience’s perception; Chapter One, “The Commodification of Audience Attention in the U.S., 1865-1920” traces the conversion of audience attention to commodity form as advertising space/time. Second is content; Chapter Two, “The Value Analytics of Advertising,” examines the nature of advertising content as a commodified form of speech, produced on demand for purchasers who wish to disseminate rather than receive it. Third, the sets of meanings and mental associations we carry around in our brains become brands, business assets whose value is measured in money. Chapter Three, “The Use Value of Advertising,” considers the role of advertising in the branding and sales strategies pursued by the firms that advertise. I also explore the use of advertising to influence policy-makers, influence capital markets, or serve as a tool of labor discipline. I conduct an interdisciplinary historical analysis of the interests driving the construction of these communicative commodities and the labor processes involved in producing and exchanging them. I analyze the value flows associated with their trade using tools derived from Schumpeterian market theory, Chamberlin’s theory of monopolistic competition, and Marxist value analysis. The concluding essay considers the relevance of my analysis to our pursuit of the democratic ideal of freedom of expression.