Anthropologist in Advertising Agencies: Mediating Structures of Power and Knowledge Capital by Managing Relationships

  • Timothy de Waal Malefyt Gabelli school of Business, Fordham University
Keywords: advertising, consumer research, fieldwork, frame analysis, relationship management


This essay discusses how working from within an advertising agency as an anthropologist yields particular advantages in terms of presenting anthropological insights and gaining access to information that one would not have been privy to, compared to a study of advertising from the outside. Working from within an agency affords access not only to forms of objective data and consumer research documents that are less accessible from the outside, but also to forming critical relationships and subjective associations with clients that produce knowledge practices and situate information in authoritative positions of power from within. I draw on fifteen years of experience as a corporate anthropologist working within and among relationships in advertising which define, produce and sustain various structures of power and knowledge capital that orient insights and information in critical ways.

Author Biography

Timothy de Waal Malefyt, Gabelli school of Business, Fordham University

Timothy de Waal Malefyt is Clinical Associate Professor of Marketing at Fordham University, Gabelli school of Business, in NYC. Previously he was VP, Director of Cultural Discoveries at BBDO advertising in NYC, and Senior Account Planner, at D’Arcy, Masius, Benton & Bowles in Detroit, where he worked on Cadillac. He is co-editor of Advertising Cultures (2003), and co-author of Advertising and Anthropology (2012).