Department or Program



Nerd Up: The Rise of Nerd Media and Co-Optation of Narrative in Advertising

Advertisements are rooted in the Narrative Paradigm; they produce a good story that is probable and relevant to the consumer’s life. In the interest of relevance, advertisers often borrow narratives from cinema which increases the probability of narrative recognition among the consumers. The construction of narrative is predicated upon the ability of the advertiser to create a protagonist or spokesperson that can satisfy audience expectations and inspire the viewer to accept the brand message. Thus, classic cinematic heroes or likenesses dominate the advertising world. In light of recent economic struggles and shifting modes of production, the successful and fiscally responsible nerd has stolen the spotlight from the classic Joseph Campbell hero/adventurer. Given the rise of the nerd in cinema, advertising narratives have started to include this atypical character. The nerds that are represented in advertising are not the same as the nerds in cinema. Nerds in film are often portrayed as Jewish or African Americans; in advertising, nerd qualities are co-opted into a character that is exclusively Caucasian and stripped of all religious identifiers for mass consumption. Yet, the nerd has the ability to appeal to white audiences as well as minority demographics such as African Americans, Jews, and Homosexuals because the character embodies semiotic signifiers of difference. This makes the nerd the most versatile spokesperson because he can reach broad demographics without incriminating the brand.

Level of Access

Open Access

Date of Graduation

Spring 5-2012

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Number of Pages


Open Access

Available to all.