Professor Anne Cronin

Professor of Cultural Sociology

Research Interests

Research overview

My key area of research is promotional culture – this encompasses the strands of advertising, marketing and public relations. Working in these areas I have contributed to debates in advertising, consumer culture, visual culture, cultural economy, gender studies and urban studies.

The key question which orients my research is:

How can an analysis of promotional culture illuminate the logics of neoliberal capitalism and practices of marketisation?

Current research

I recently completed a Leverhulme Research Fellowship researching the relationship between Public Relations and secrecy in society. The project is titled ‘Secrecy, public relations and the shadow world of the media sphere’ and uses empirical data and interdisciplinary conceptual material to examine how the increasing influence of the UK public relations industry is reshaping contemporary manifestations of secrecy. In this project I analyse the shifting role of secrecy in both the distribution of power and the creation of information inequalities shaped by PR’s management of communication in the public sphere.

In other recent research I have analysed the Public Relations industry and its relationship to contemporary advertising, marketing and promotional culture in the context of neoliberal capitalism. The PR industry has expanded rapidly in recent years and its practices have shifted to address a range of social and technological changes (eg public cynicism towards mainstream media and ‘spin’, public disengagement from diverse civic institutions, and the rise of social media). My research explores the new interface that PR creates between commercial culture and the political culture of democracy. This is a form of 'commercial democracy' that engenders new articulations of (political) representation, voice, engagement and values.

My key research concerns are summaried in the following books (see full publication list elsewhere):

Cronin, Anne. M. (2023) Secrecy in Public Relations, Mediation and News Cultures: The Shadow World of the Media Sphere London : Routledge. 138 p. ISBN: 9781032434100. Electronic ISBN: 9781003369585.

Cronin, Anne M. (2018) Public Relations Capitalism: Promotional Culture, Publics and Commercial Democracy. Basingstoke: Palgrave.

Cronin, Anne M. (2010) Advertising, Commercial Spaces and the Urban, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Cronin, Anne M. (2004) Advertising Myths: The Strange Half-Lives of Images and Commodities, London & New York: Routledge.

Cronin, Anne M. (2000) Advertising and Consumer Citizenship: Gender, Images and Rights, London & New York: Routledge

Edited book:

Cronin, A.M. & K. Hetherington (eds) (2008) Consuming the Entrepreneurial City: Image, Memory, Spectacle. New York: Routledge.

Previous Projects

FRIENDSHIP PROJECT. This project explores friendships as forms of social ties that are not captured by (academic or popular) narratives of family or narratives of romance. Most often analysed as relationships that facilitate social capital, I'm instead thinking of friendships as forms that create spaces in particular ways and function as ways of orienting people's interspersonal and emotional experience. Results of the project show interesting and under-explored aspects of people's personal lives. The first article explores how specific contexts, such as the workplace, strongly shape people's friendship practices and examines how emotions are produced intersubjectively in friendship relationships (see publications list). Other articles in progress examine how friendships are not only gendered, but are active in producing gender, and how friendship creates specific forms of spatial imaginaries.

ADVERTISING AND URBAN SPACE. This project was an ESRC-funded analysis of advertising and spatiality, focusing on outdoor advertising in and around cities (published as the book: Advertising, Commercial Spaces and the Urban, 2010, Palgrave Macmillan). It focuses, firstly, on how outdoor advertising companies' market research practices perform urban spaces and produce certain relationalities with imagined consumers that are spatialised and temporalised. And, secondly, it explores the way in which outdoor advertising - on billboards, panels, buses, building 'wraps' - organises urban space and draws on certain commodity logics, rearticulating the mapping of cities and people's experience of those time-spaces. And, thirdly, the book explores the commercial practices of the industry's actors and how they perform market relationships in the context of neo-capitalism. In the book, I develop ways of thinking about the relationship between visuality, space, and commercial practices, and explore the synergies and tensions between 'public space' and 'commercial space'. I frame outdoor advertising as a kind of 'commercial vernacular' that expresses not only capitalist logics, but also people's more diffuse and potentially resistant experiences of cities.

I have also published an edited collection on consumption and the city with Kevin Hetherington called Consuming the Entrepreneurial City: Image, Memory and Spectacle and a co-edited special issue of Feminist Review called 'Urban Space' (With Liz Oakley-Brown).

Grants / fellowships

Leverhulme Research Fellowship (1/9/21 – 30/9/22)

Project title: ‘Secrecy, public relations and the shadow world of the media sphere’.

British Academy Small Grant

2011-12 Project: Friendship, Social Ties and Urban Experience

ESRC Grant

2006-7 Project: Advertising and the city: making the symbolic and political economies of urban spaces

AHRC Research Leave Award (2001-2): Dangerous Images: Advertising, Addiction and the Compulsive Self.