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Undergraduate class experiences advertising hands-on with “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” exhibition

By Marlene Renz

Galit Marmor-Lavie is a professor at The University of Texas at Austin’s Moody College of Communication. This semester she brought students in her undergraduate Advertising and Popular Culture class, offered at the Stan Richards School of Advertising & Public Relations, to the Ransom Center’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland exhibition. Below, she explains the project that was inspired by the exhibition and what drew her to use the Ransom Center as a resource.

Students in “Advertising and Popular Culture” class on a tour of “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.” Photo by Pete Smith.
Students in “Advertising and Popular Culture” class on a tour of “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.” Photo by Pete Smith.

What students are in this class?

This class is an elective, undergraduate-level class. The students come from across campus; that’s what is so beautiful about this class. This may be the first encounter with communication ideas that students who study mathematics and natural science have. They are curious about the process of advertising. It’s really interesting to see how differently they examine communication messages. We have great discussions.



Why did you choose to use the Ransom Center’s exhibition?

This has not been the first time that I have taken my students to Ransom Center exhibitions. Last semester, I took a different class to The Making of Gone With the Wind. I always find that there are communication, advertising, and marketing aspects in your exhibitions. It’s really important to utilize the Center. It’s right across the street, and we should use university resources. And it’s such a beautiful world, rich with so many ideas. It’s a philosophy to get outside of the classroom and get engaged with different things. Last time I taught this class my students created posters for the South Austin Museum for Pop Culture. Then I saw this exhibition and thought that it would be a perfect match.



What project are the students undertaking?

After visiting the Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland exhibition, my students will create posters in groups that convey various messages about Alice. They need to advertise Alice’s story, but with a contemporary outlook. So I wanted to use those themes that we’ve covered in class to try to target millennials. A lot of them will change the way she looks, but it’s not just design and the external part. I’m searching for something deeper. We have a critical point of view of how advertising operates in our society and what should be done. Many times it is food for thought. How stereotypes have been portrayed in advertising – about women, about race, about love, about everything. My students can choose to comment on whatever it is they have passion for. We are so busy in our daily lives and we are so used to seeing all of these daily messages that we don’t stop for a second and see this aggregated persuasion, and I want them to learn to manifest a critical point of view of these messages. It’s a different approach, but the students are excited.



What do you hope they will learn from the project?

I want them to get hands-on experience. I want them to be the advertisers and see how hard their job is. I want them to talk to the target audience while thinking about communication aspects while understanding that advertising is an important conduit. It is about more than persuading people. The poster project is encapsulating these ideas: they learn what it means to be in advertising, they have the responsibility and the power, and they learn how to use the advertising tool in a bright, positive way. It’s a privilege for me to be able to influence the perceptions of these bright and eager students in the world of advertising. I want to teach them how to be proactive; I want them to be aware of communications, specifically advertising and for them to do it in a right way.



Do you plan on returning to the Ransom Center with future classes?

Yes. I remember I took my students to I Have Seen The Future: Norman Bel Geddes Designs America. I thought it was amazing, especially for us in advertising to see. It is helpful for students to be aware that these collections are here and to know how to ask where to find them or how to analyze them. Every semester I see what the Ransom Center is showing and see if I can make it work.



Students in Professor Marmor-Lavie’s class work throughout the semester to create posters. They tour the exhibition, brainstorm in groups, and are judged on the presentation of their messages. The Advertising and Popular Culture class is just one of the ways that the Ransom Center connects undergraduates to its vast collections.


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