Ad Agency Structure

Ad Agency Structure is about the structures of business and the development of ads within an advertising agency. Many ad agencies divide the labor of creating an advertisement into four main parts: account planning, creative development, media coordination, and account management (Campbell, Martin, & Fabos, 2017, p. 360). There are also two main types of advertising agencies, such as mega-agencies and boutique agencies. Another main part of an advertisement agency is the space broker, “who purchases space in newspapers and sells it to merchants” (Campbell, Martin, & Fabos, 2017, p. 354).

The account planner has the task of creating an effective advertising strategy. The strategy usually consists of the combined views of the client, the creative team, and the consumers (Campbell, Martin, & Fabos, 2017, p. 360). Another responsibility of the account planner is to coordinate market research which helps the company analyze and understand the behaviors and attitudes of the consumers towards the product they are trying to sell. The account planner also uses the Values and Lifestyles (VALS) strategy “which measures the psychological factors and divides consumers into types” (Campbell, Martin, & Fabos, 2017, p. 360). VALS researchers advise advertisers to vary their sales.

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The creative development team uses a storyboard, which is a blueprint for the potential ad

The creative development team outlines the rough sketches for print and online advertisements and then works on the logos, words, slogans, designs, and graphics for the ad (Campbell, Martin, & Fabos, 2017, p. 361). The creative development team usually consists of writers and artists. For different forms of media, there are different needs of preparation: radio prepares a working script while for television, the team uses a storyboard. For digital media, the team develops websites or interactive tools. “The business structure for digital media is heavily influenced by the technological structure of the media” (Mijung, Jun, & Chan-Olmsted, 2010, p. 11). The creative side of the team struggles with the research side of the team, since the creative part might not agree with what research says.

Advertising agencies also focus on media coordination which is about the planning and placing of advertisements. Media departments are staffed by media planners and media buyers. Media buyers are people who choose and purchase the types of media that are best suited to carry a client’s ads, reach the targeted audience, and measure the effectiveness of those ad placements” (Campbell, Martin, & Fabos, 2017, p. 361). Advertisers also attach incentives to their contracts with certain agencies that allows them to raise the fee if sales are met and lower the fee if the sale goal is missed (Campbell, Martin, & Fabos, 2017, p. 361). The media coordination team chooses the target audience for the advertisement. Account management ties into the media coordination in the sense that they are responsible for the interaction between client and the agency. They are responsible for making sure that the agency meets the requirements of the client and follows the functions of the advertising agency.

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Omnicon is one of the four global mega-agencies in the world

There are two types of advertising agencies that operate in the United States: mega-agencies and boutique agencies. Mega-agencies are large ad firms that formed by having several agencies merge together and maintain regional offices worldwide, while boutique agencies are small agencies that focus their talents and effort on only a certain number of clients (Campbell, Martin, & Fabos, 2017, p. 358). Mega-agencies provide a full range of services all over the world, such as advertising and public relations to having their own house radios and television production studios. In 2015, “Omnicom had more than 74,000 employees operating in more than 100 countries around the world” (Campbell, Martin, & Fabos, 2017, p. 358). Mega-agencies attend to multiple types of businesses around the world. Mega-agencies are considered a threat to smaller boutique agencies which have been decreasing over the years. Boutique agencies consists of creative individuals who broke away from the bigger agencies. Boutique agencies offer more personal service since they are smaller and have less clients. The boutique agencies have prospered by innovative campaigns and increasing profits from television accounts (Campbell, Martin, & Fabos, 2017, p. 359). Boutique agencies operate as subsidiaries within multinational corporate structures.


Campbell, R. Martin, C.R., & Fabos, B (2017). Media & Culture: Mass Communications in a Digital Age 11th Edition. Boston and New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s.

Mijung, Kim, M., Jun, H., & Chan-Olmsted, S. M. (2010). PERCEIVED EFFECTIVENESS AND BUSINESS STRUCTURE AMONG ADVERTISING AGENCIES: A CASE STUDY OF MOBILE ADVERTISING IN SOUTH KOREA. (cover story.) Journal of Media Business Studies, 7(2), 1-20.

Image Attribution: Image 1 CC BY-SA 2.0; Image 2 Public Domain

Written by Michael Smith, 2018

Agenda Setting

Agenda Setting Theory is a media effects theory that explains how media affects the emphasis viewers place on certain topics happening in society. The ‘catch-phrase’ associated with this theory is that the media does not tell us what to think, it tells us what to think about. Bernard Cohen actually stated this is 1963 referring to the press – “The press may not be successful much of the time in telling people what to think, but it is stunningly successful in telling its readers what to think about.” This comes from the ideology that the media can place topics in front of us, like in the news or on social media, which will show us that these topics are important, but media cannot tell us how to feel about these topics or what opinions to form regarding these topics. In a study done by Maxwell McCombs and Donald Shaw in 1972, they studied this. They focused on the 1968 presidential campaign and what viewers were concerned about in comparison to what the mass media was focusing on. After randomly selecting registered voters in the Chapel Hill region in North Carolina, they asked respondents questions about key issues and their importance (McCombs & Shaw, 1972). They found an almost perfect correlation between what their respondents said were important issues and what the media was reporting on, which proved that media priorities become public priorities. This is incredibly important because mass media may be the only connection that voters have to politics and it is important to have educated voters and citizens. If the media can report on the most important aspects of politics, at least people are getting exposure to these topics. Studies relating to this theory are even now expanding into disciplines like history, advertising, and medical studies, showing its relevance to other aspects of life, not just news and politics.

The ideas of framing and priming play a role in this ideology. The media can prime our thoughts of an issue through constant repetition and prominence given to a specific topic. This keeps these ideas and issues in the minds of consumers, making them easily remembered. Framing, is how sources of media organize, define, and structure a story (Weiss, 2009). Media use these techniques to help consumers decide what to think about. News for example, viewers see the same headlines and topics on multiple platforms – tv, news apps, social media, papers, etc. But different sources can frame stories to show consumers what they want them to know. Consumers then have the discretion to accept or challenge those opinions placed in front of them and create their own meanings of the world.


There are some limitations with this theory though. One big one is if media sets the public agenda, where does the media agenda come from? But, the media agenda in theory is influenced by the public agenda through ratings, surveys, market research, etc. (Weiss, 2009). Another limitation is that viewers who do not find the media/news credible are less likely to have their agendas set by the media (Weiss, 2009). This also applies to viewers who disagree with the media agenda. So, there is room for further exploration on this theory, but many people find it to be credible and meaningful.

So, despite its few limitations, Agenda Setting Theory is a very important theory in regard to media effects. A huge contribution to the study of this theory is credited to Maxwell McCombs and Donald Shaw as well as Bernard Cohen. Moving forward, try to consider how media sets your personal agenda and how it affects what you think is important in the world today.


Works Cited

Karell, Daniel. “The Agenda-Setting Theory in Mass Communication | Alvernia Online.” Alvernia University Online, 20 Feb. 2018,

Mass media | agenda setting theory. (n.d.). Retrieved December 5, 2018, from

Maxwell E. McCombs, & Donald L. Shaw. (1972). The Agenda-Setting Function of Mass

Media. The Public Opinion Quarterly, (2), 176.

Weiss, D. (2009). Agenda-setting theory. In S. Littlejohn & K. Foss, Encyclopedia of Communication Theory. 2455 Teller Road, Thousand Oaks California  91320  United States: SAGE Publications, Inc.



Written by Caitlyn Creasy, 2018.

Association Principle

The association principle is a type of advertising technique that “associates a product with a positive cultural value or image” (Campbell, 2017). This persuasive technique is used even if the association has little to no connection to the actual product. The association principle attempts to convince consumers that there is an innate relationship between a brand or product and an attitude (Savan, 1995). This principle aims to make consumers connect the product being advertised to a desirable set of values or traits. Positive ideals such as wealth, love, security, uniqueness, and/or beauty may be associated with a product through commercials, advertisements, or other forms of visual aids.

Marketing a product in a way that connects it to something that the consumer can relate to, transforms the product image. Transforming the product’s image is the advertiser’s intention. When almost every product can be associated with a positive self-image, consumers are subtly persuaded into the advertiser’s concept of a “good citizen” (Savan, 1995). Advertisers are not necessarily selling their products, but instead selling the illusion that purchasing their products will make the consumer feel greater because of the association attached to the advertisement. The real “masterwork” of advertising is the way it uses the association principle technique to “seduce the human soul” (Savan, 1995).

Throughout history, American car advertisements have displayed automobiles in natural settings instead of urban or city-like settings (Campbell, 2017). This demonstrates the association principle where the car being advertised is shown in the natural world of rugged mountains or glistening fields with intention to advertise the car as an example of modern technology. Other examples of the association principle may include the display of American patriotism through visual symbols to associate products or businesses with national pride (Campbell, 2017). Advertising may also associate products with happy families, success, natural scenery, or freedom (Savan, 1995).

Chalisa 1The Marlboro brand has notably used the association principle to enhance the image of its brand. Transforming to a man’s cigarette in the 1960s, Marlboro often associated its product with strong, masculine images (Campbell, 2017). The product was usually dominated with images of nature, displaying a “lone cowboy roping calf, building a fence, or riding over a snow-covered landscape” (Campbell, 2017). Advertisements do more than just demand attention. Ads curate and push the social and cultural trends that infiltrate the consumer’s mind (Savan, 1995).

There have been many controversial uses of the association principle. One of the more popular ones has been the connection of products to stereotyped representations of women (Campbell, 2018). In many instances, women have Chalisa 2been portrayed as sex objects where the women in the ad are usually dressed in revealing clothing. Another controversial use of the association principle is to state that products are “real” and “natural”, especially when advertising cosmetic products (Campbell, 2017). Beauty products that are being advertised usually assures the target audience (women) that the product will make them look and feel more natural. Using these adjectives and associating them with the product, makes the product more appealing.


Campbell, R., Martin, C.R., & Fabos, B (2017). Media & Culture: Mass Communication in a Digital Age 11th Edition. Boston and New York: Bedford/ St. Martin’s.

Savan, L. (1995). The Sponsored Life ads, TV, and American culture. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

Image Attribution: Images used in this post is in the Public Domain

Written by Chalisa Singh, 2018.

Avatars (Video Games)

Video game avatars are created by users on various platforms to represent themselves when gaming, either serious or not serious. By definition, an avatar is a “personalized graphical illustration that represents a computer user, or a character or alter ego that represents that user. An avatar can be represented either in three-dimensional form (for example, in games or virtual worlds) or in two-dimensional form” (Janssen 2018). Most gaming systems, social platforms, blogs, forums, and many more outlets allow users to create avatars for their profiles to associate a face with a name.

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A video game avatar can come in many different forms, video game avatars are all around the top systems, whether it be creating a mii on the Nintendo Wii or having a figure to be associated with a gamertag on Xbox live. Users have the ability to make their avatars look like themselves or make them look absurd and give them features and clothing that make them look nothing like themselves. Some systems like the Nintendo Wii allow the user to play with their avatars in actual games, but most systems use avatars for show. A somewhat new trend that has emerged in video games is an in-game avatar feature (separate from the systems avatar). Games like Call of Duty and Fortnite allow you to display characters as an avatar, but they can also be used for display in pre-game lobbies. Many online computer games like Runescape and Counter Strike: Global Offensive use avatars too that are separate from in-game characters.

Video Game avatars are ultimately created to represent ourselves in an accurate way online. Robert Hotz of the Wall Street Journal suggests that video game avatars may portray characteristics that we would not normally reveal, saying that “Psychologists are discovering that the digital identities we create for play online, known as avatars, reveal more aspects of our personalities than we may intend to disclose and can change how we behave in the real world”  (Hotz 2015). The likely reason gamers reveal more online is due to the fact that playing video games is harmless by nature and most gamers do not know each other on a personal level so it is not normal for a face to be put with a name (and be judged).

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While it is not uncommon for video games to have their own avatars for each specific player, video game avatars are generally made for a specific username. Whether it be Xbox, playstation, Nintendo, online gaming, or numerous other platforms, these large systems ask for avatars to be paired with a gamer and username. Significant strides were made in gaming in 1974, where the video game Basketball would change gaming moving forward. According to the writers at ultimate history video games, Basketball was “the first example of a video game that displayed sprite images, both for the players and the baskets, first game to depict game character, first attempt at accurately simulating a team sport, first basketball game” (ultimatehistoryvideogames 2014). Basketball raised standards for video games and allowed the future of gaming to benefit from their genius through usage of sprites. By definition, a sprite “is a type of “stand-alone” computer graphic element that has evolved along with modern computer graphics technologies” (Janssen 2018). Video game avatars are essentially sprites that are larger, have better graphics, and have more features.

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Video game avatars have been able to be created and enhanced over the years due to the various software that goes in to creating a video game. These software advancements have caught the attention of many for the future, like Fox Harrell, where he says “New technologies for creating empowering identity representations” (Harrell 2010). The future of these software and identities joining could tell companies about users and use it for economical advantage and improvements. Video game avatars are usually created in the same routine way across all gaming platforms. For instance, after unboxing a system and putting personal information in, the Wii and Xbox systems allow the user to create an avatar after the individual creates a username. After the username is created, the user typically is asked to create the face, being that it is the key to an individuals identity, then hair color, then body type, and the accessories and clothing. While users are asked to start with the face, systems do allow users to start wherever they want and proceed as they wish being that some people do not take the process of creating an avatar seriously, this allows those who are serious and not serious about creating an avatar to navigate freely, like Ryan Khosravi when he talks about the choice of creating an avatar seriously, saying that “some people want to make a character that looks badass or interesting, and some people just want to make something that resembles them” (Khosravi 2017). After creating an avatar, gamers can start gaming and show off their character.


Harrell, F. (2010, April 24). Identity And Online Avatars: A Discussion. Retrieved from

History, U. (n.d.). Basketball. Retrieved from

Hotz, R. L. (2015, January 20). Practice Personalities: What an Avatar Can Teach You. Retrieved from

Janssen, D. (n.d.). What is an Avatar? – Definition from Techopedia. Retrieved May 2, 2018, from

Janssen, D. (n.d.). What is a Sprite? – Definition from Techopedia. Retrieved May 2, 2018, from

Khosravi, R. (n.d.). How Non-Binary Folks Navigate Creating Avatars In Video Games. Retrieved from

Image Attribution: Image One: Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0) The image used in this post is in the Public Domain; Image Two: Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0) The image used in this post is in the Public Domain; Image three: Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0) The image used in this post is in the Public Domain

Written by Matthew Tancredi, 2018.

Bechdel Test

The Bechdel Test is an examination of a film, book, or any work of fiction in general based on three criteria. For a work of fiction to pass the Bechdel Test, the work must a) have at least two women b) who talk each other c) about something other than a man. If Mikethe work of fiction meets all three criteria, the Bechdel Test gives it an “A for Approved” rating. The Bechdel Test is often applied to film, but it can also be applied to literature, comics, TV shows and some podcasts. Even day-to-day interactions between everyday people can pass or fail the Bechdel Test (Selisker 2015).

Alison Bechdel, an American cartoonist, introduced the concept of the Bechdel Test in a 1985 strip of the comic Dykes to Watch Out For. In this comic, an unnamed character asks two women if a fictional piece can who two or more women who talk to each other about something other than a man (Lindvall 2013). When the Bechdel Test is applied to films, audiences can determine if the film has a gender bias that may or may not be intentional but certainly prevalent (Scheiner-Fisher, Russell 2012).

Gaul (2017) uses the Bechdel Test implicitly to analyze the relationships between female characters in the novel studied by herself and the class she instructed. Sincerity by Susanna Rowson, one of the books her class studied, became a popular novel among her students for the “female relationships, and, even more provocatively, how marriage affected female relationships” (Gaul, 2017: 146). Sincerity, Gaul says, exemplifies how the Bechdel Test can be seen in other media forms than just film, and she compares her class’ understanding of literature by American women to the Bechdel Test, saying it mirrors her students’ value of Sincerity and its take on the complex nature of female relationships.

Selisker (2015) describes the Bechdel Test in the form of character interactions in fictional narratives to find a method of linking these communications in one network. He breaks down his analysis into three different sections. In his first section, Social Network Analysis and Literary Works, he observes social interactions between fictional characters and how these interactions evolve into a connected network in that work of fiction. In his second section, Female Networks, or Between Women, he observes the roles of women in social interactions and how they act as intermediaries, if not instigators of conversation. In his third section, Critical Labor and Literary Data, he brings his article to a conclusion by referring to the Bechdel Test as a collection of data and closes with a new goal society should reach towards. “Rather than replacing persons with networks, I see the Bechdel Test as encouraging us to place persons within networks” (Selisker, 2015: 519). Selisker would like for society to insert themselves into these networks that he presents in his analysis and go further than just seeking out the presence of women who talk about something other than man.

Scheiner-Fisher & Russell use different examples of films with more prominent female characters to promote gender equity in history. They created a list of movies that both met the criteria for the Bechdel Test and remained popular among their audiences. These films include Elizabeth, Persepolis, and the Diary of Anne Frank. Scheiner-Fisher & Russell credit these films because unlike most films that are seen through the male gaze, “these ten films show women who are capable of carrying their own story and do more than satisfy the ‘chick flick’ narrative” (Scheiner-Fisher & Russell, 2012: 223). These films all pass the Bechdel Test and make strides towards gender equity in film and history.


Gaul, T. S. (2017). Female Relationships in Susanna Rowson’s Sincerity: The Bechdel Test and American Literature Syllabi. Legacy: A Journal of American Women Writers, 34(1), 141-150.

Lindvall, D. (2013, December). Editorial. Film International (16516826). pp. 4-5.

Scheiner-Fisher, C., & Russell, W. B. (2012). Using Historical Films to Promote Gender Equity in the History Curriculum. Social Studies, 103(6), 221-225. doi:10.1080/00377996.2011.616239

Selisker, S. (2015, Summer). The Bechdel Test and the Social Form of Character Networks. New Literary History, 46(3), 505-523.

Image Attribution: “Bechdel Test” by Srravya is licensed under CC0 by 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication

Written by Michael Mensah, 2018

Birmingham School

The Birmingham School, better known as the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies, was a research center at the University of Birmingham. Founded by Richard Hoggart in 1964, the school played a major role in the development of cultural studies not only in Britain, but across the globe. Cultural studies can be defined as the study of culture with the intention to understand a society and its politics (Sebastion 2017). It has become normal to associate The Birmingham School with the creation of this global idea of cultural studies (Connell 2015).

Established as a post graduate research institution, the school’s main focus, Sebastian (2017) explains, was to “contest the cultural elitism of literary theory” (p. 3) and to look deeper into the way culture and the people of society go together. For post-war British democrats, the CCCS provided a “point of focus” for the way the new generation of British democrats interacted with an increasingly affluent culture which was constantly being introduced to new forms of mass media (Connell 2015). The teachings here were rooted in the fact that culture was recognized as something that maintained a political order (Sebastian 2017).

Jack1However, the main approach of the Centre was to look at reconstructing the theory of pop culture into one that stated that pop culture is a way of resistance for the marginalized groups of society. Other approaches to investigating cultural studies included ideas from Antonio Gramsci, a leader for Mussolini’s Communist party who was later jailed by the Fascists and in jail, wrote a book called The Prison Notebooks (1948). In this book he describes the way elites maintain power over society using domination and power to create a sense of obedience and consent among the people. Better known as hegemony, this became another main course of study for the CCCS as it turned the focus of study towards mass media and pop culture to study the domination effect that it truly has on society (Sebastian 2017).

The CCCS was incredibly active and diligent in its quest to become a major research institution of cultural studies (Connell 2015). Typically, work began as a discussion of individual’s findings in certain areas of cultural studies which was then followed by field work and ethnography work (Sebastian 2017). Annual reports were also done to recap all the new findings and investigative work done the previous year. On a weekly basis, members of the Centre would alternate between the research of one single significant text and a person’s individual findings as a result of the research. This eventually developed into a broader infrastructure involved with academic debate and discussion (Connell 2015).

In the Centre’s first year, there were only six full time students involved with it. Other members of the staff included Hoggart, Michael Green who was a member of the University’s English department, and a secretary. However, the student sit-in of 1968 not only catapulted the Centre into notoriety, but also led to the departure of the founder, Richard Hoggart (Connell 2015). When Hoggart’s successor, Stuart Hall took over as director of the CCCS, the school began to apply Louis Althusser’s beliefs and urge to study subcultural groups and why they make the decisions they make. As the CCCS continued to grow in the background of the rising New British Left, many founders of the New Left became important members of the CCCS such as Hoggart, Hall, Raymond Williams, and historian E.P. Thompson. This created a balanced influence between work on cultural studies and looking at the new form of politics (Sebastian 2017).

Jack2By 1973, there were 39 students, the Centre was financially backed by the University, and it began to focus more on its famous “sub-group” model of research. In the academic year of 1975-76, cultural studies was first offered as a M.A. and had over 50 students involved with the Centre. Cultural studies, however, was often  misunderstood due to the fact that many of the subject areas were initially regarded by higher ranking colleges of the school and other institutions as irrelevant and unimportant (Connell 2015).

The Centre became the center of political and academic scrutiny due to misunderstanding because of the unorthodox approach to challenging academic organizations. Former members of the school argue that the University was the school’s main enemy due to its lack of funding after the events of 1968 when the Centre began to flourish on its own. Another enemy of the school was some members of the British far left who disagreed and were upset at the embracement of Althusserian  structuralism, also known as structural Marxism. Political issues involving feminism and race led to major division among the Center which, in turn, resulted in the departure of Hoggart’s successor, Stuart Hall in 1979. The University of Birmingham not only refused to properly fund the Centre, but treated it in a nonsensical manner shown by its many re-organizations of the institution as well as its final close decades later (Connell 2015). In 2002, management at the University chose to shut down and finally end the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies (Sebastian 2017).


Connell, Kieran, & Hilton, Matthew. (2015). The Working Practices of Birmingham’s Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies. Taylor & Francis Group, Vol. 40 (30). Retrieved from

Sebastian, Bibin. (2017). Birmingham School of Cultural Studies: An Overview. International Journal of Advance Research and Innovative Ideas, Vol. 3(5), 1338-1342.

Image Attribution: The first image used in this post is in the Public Domain. The second image used in the post is by mattbuck and licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License CC BY-SA 3.0

Written by Jack Greer, 2018

Cantril’s Psychology of Panic

In Hadley Cantril’s book The Invasion from Mars: A Study in the Psychology of Panic he examines the effects of the CBS War of the Worlds broadcast. His work used direct but inaccurate examples to analyze the after effects of the broadcast. After the broadcast he analyzed responses from interviewees to conclude that the reality of the fictional alien invasion was based upon the education and the ego of the individual listening (Laughey, 2007).

Hadley Cantril, a Princeton social psychologist, started his work on the psychology of panic after the War of the Worlds broadcast on October 30, 1938 (Laughey, 2007). The broadcast covered a dramatized performance of the H.G. Wells novel starring a cast of actors, including Orson Wells. Some listeners of the broadcast believed CBS was broadcasting a live alien invasion in New Jersey. While Cantril is credited for the psychology of panic, Paul Lazarfeld and Frank Stanton were also focusing on measuring the spread of panic at the time (Socolow, 2008).

After interviewing 135 listeners Cantril concluded that there were five main reasons listeners were so vulnerable to the reality of the broadcast (Laughey, 2007). The five reasons were the pedestalization of radio, the prestige of the speakers, the dramatization of the speakers’ voices, the use of notable locations in the area, and the overall tension added to the radio performance (Laughey, 2007). After conducting the interviews Cantril invested himself in the psychology behind listeners susceptibility.

In The Public Opinion Quarterly Cantril defined the psychology behind mobs and panics. Mobs begin as crowds of people that take a course of action to achieve a certain goal (Cantril, 1943). Members are characterized by having a common need or desire for someone to explain their hardships (Cantril, 1943). Listeners of the War of the Worlds broadcast were brought together by the alleged alien invasion. Panics occur when people are in a group and do not address the catastrophe at hand (Cantril, 1943). Panics are often attached to personal psychological issues.

After analyzing the personal lives of his interviewees, Cantril found seven characteristics of susceptibility. The personal characteristics found were: social insecurity, phobias, amount of worry, lack of self-confidence, fatalism, religiously, and frequency of church attendance (Laughey, 2007). Cantril found that education was a defining factor in listeners’ understanding of reality during the broadcast (Cantril, 1943). He attached the higher percentage of vulnerability in southern states to the large amount of poor and educated listeners in the area (Cantril, 1940). An educated listener would have likely sought out other news sources for validation of the alien attack. While education played a role in understanding reality, the underling cause of panic comes from “a perceived threat to an individual’s Ego” (Laughey, 2007, p. 18). A threat to one’s ego would cause a high degree of susceptibility, which would send the individual into panic. The relationship between the individual and their ego mediates their susceptibility to mass panic.

Cantril’s theory was subject to criticism from other scholars due to his methodology. He greatly exaggerates the ‘widespread’ panic across the nation when only 2% of all American’s experienced the ‘mass panic’ described in his work (Laughey, 2007). His work is heavily based on estimates and manipulation. Upon realizing many interviewees could have lied Cantril manipulated the numbers so that they would work in favor of his argument (Socolow, 2008). Cantril’s interviews were also biased because all the individuals interviewed were New Jersey inhabitants (Socolow, 2008). Of the 135 interviewees, 100 were known to have been upset by the broadcast (Socolow, 2008). Therefore, Cantril did not examine a diverse pool of listeners. His original colleagues, Stanton and Lazarsfeld, were not pleased with Cantril’s finished work. Both scholars believed that Cantril’s publication was based of off assumptions (Socolow, 2008). The issues with Cantril’s methodology were resolved throughout the evolution of his work.

Cantril’s emphasis on radio as a key factor in the realism of the broadcast influenced Marshall McLuhan’s theory that the medium is the message. This theory gives power to the medium instead of the message itself (Laughey, 2007). Therefore, without the proper medium a message could lose its value. The War of the Worlds broadcast could have had different effects if it had been broadcast on another medium because of radio’s high authority during the time. According to Cantril, “radio was – and still is – an accepted medium for important announcements” (Laughey, 2007, p. 17). In America radio was used to broadcast important news such as election returns and war updates (Cantril, 1940). People, especially in lower income and educational brackets, began to rely on radio for news instead of print newspapers (Cantril, 1940). During the 1938 broadcast listeners reliance and belief in the radio modified their ability to further investigate the ‘alien’ invasion. Technological naturalism, or the evolution of new media, makes change invisible to society (Czitrom, 1951). As listeners adapted to radio news they avoided validation from other sources to confirm the alleged invasion.

Hadley Cantril’s psychology of panic focused on listeners’ reactions to the War of the Worlds broadcast in 1938. His theory on the mental causes and effects of mass behavior can be applied to historical events such as the Salem Witch Trials in the 1690s and the Satanism Panic in the 1980s.


Examination of a Witch

The Salem Witch Trials began in 1692 in Massachusetts after a slave named Tituba was said to have performed acts of witchcraft on two young girls (Billings, 2013). The Puritans believed the two young girls and concluded that any strange mark on the body of an accused women was the mark where the devil sucked the blood of a witch (Billings, 2013). Colonists experienced hysteria after learning they could be living among witches. The Puritans began searching women’s bodies for physical signs left by the devil, which led to the immediate execution of six women (Billings, 2013). Alleged ‘witches’ were forced to accuse other women of witchcraft. The witchcraft fever spread quickly and the judges revived an old law to make witchcraft a capital offense (Billings,


Representation of a Trial

2013). Judges began to accept confession as regeneration and were merciful to witches who did confess, however, as Puritans many ‘witches’ were not willing to lie even if it could save their life (Billings, 2013). By the time the panic was over twenty women convicted of witchcraft had been executed (Billings, 2013). Like listeners of the War of the Worlds broadcast, the Puritans did not seek out evidence to validate claims during Salem Witch Trials, but instead relied on accusations from the public.

The satanism panic in the 1980s revolved around alleged satanic cults that were terrorizing the nation. One of the most publicized cult cases was the McMartin case. The McMartin Preschool trials began after a young mother insisted her 2-year-old was raped by a male employee at the daycare upon finding his bottom red (DeYoung, 1997). The mother took her son to multiple physicians before finally getting a reluctant diagnosis of


Depiction of Satan

sexual abuse (DeYoung, 1997). Soon all parents of children enrolled at McMartin were contacted and panic began in the California town (DeYoung, 1997). The sex crime was labeled as satanic ritual abuse and began widespread hysteria during the 1980s (DeYoung, 1997). The children being interviewed soon learned what investigators wanted to hear and began accusing everyone they knew of assault, including their parents (DeYoung, 1997). Panic swept across the nation as numerous day cares were accused satanic ritual abuse. The McMartin case and the satanism panic in the 1980s was based largely on assumptions and unreliable interviews, like Cantril’s study.


DeYoung, Mary. (1997). The Devil goes to Day Car: McMartin and the Making of a Moral Panic. In Journal of American Culture (pp. 19-25). Great Britain: Wiley–Blackwell.

Billings, W. & Manning, K. (2013). Salem Witchcraft Trials. In Salem Press Encyclopedia.

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Image Attribution: The images used in the entry are in the Public Domain.

Written by Jacklyn Russo, 2018.