The National Communication Association (NCA) presented Assistant Professor Michael Serazio, Ph.D., with the Gerald R. Miller Dissertation Award. Created in 1970, the award recognizes new scholars who have recently completed their dissertations. Dr. Serazio’s dissertation was announced as the best among all of the submissions last November at the NCA’s 97th Annual Convention.
Dr. Maggie Wills, associate professor of communication and chair of the department said, “When Mike won the NCA’s coveted Top Dissertation Award, his colleagues were thrilled, though not surprised. His fine record of scholarship – cultivated in record time since he set foot on campus in fall 2010 – already includes publications in top communication journals. With work that is cutting edge and savvy in its critique of new media and popular culture, we expect Professor Serazio’s Top Dissertation Award won’t be the last time his exceptional scholarship is recognized.”
The dissertation, “Your Ad Here: The Cool Sell of Guerrilla Marketing,” has been accepted for publication by the prestigious New York University Press. The book examines the development of guerrilla marketing, an advertising strategy where unique concepts are crafted to generate buzz about a product through unconventional methods such as word-of-mouth, viral videos, and Web 2.0. Examples include the America’s Army video game, Pabst Blue Ribbon’s hipster seeding, and The Dark Knight’s “Why So Serious?” campaign.
Through archival research, interviews, and case studies based on the theories of Michel Foucault and Marshall McLuhan, Dr. Serazio analyzed how advertising has been reshaped as an institution of cultural production. “By uncovering how promotional messages are creeping into uncharted media spaces, we can better understand covert, interactive, and outsourced flows of commercial persuasion – and a world of advertising that tries not to seem like advertising,” he explained.
The idea for the topic came from Dr. Serazio’s interest in studying culture. “I long knew that I wanted to do a qualitative project in the tradition of cultural studies, but I realized I wanted to be studying media production even more than audience reception. And I knew I wanted the project to connect somehow with the profound technological changes of the past decade. Advertising, it turned out, offered a window of opportunity and a place to situate those aims.”
Dr. Serazio received his Ph.D. from the prestigious University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication. He also has a B.A. in communication from the University of San Francisco and an M.S. in journalism from Columbia University. Before turning to a career in research and teaching, he worked at the Houston Press, an alternative weekly.
“Before going back to grad school, I worked as a journalist and realized I liked reporting and writing about the ‘big ideas’ that animate a story,” Dr. Serazio said. “There’d inevitably be an opportunity where I’d get to call up a professor to add context and meaning to the facts on the ground and I’d really dig that part of the process. What could be better than living and working in that milieu full-time? So, yeah, I guess I kind of always knew I wanted to try to teach at a university and get my students as fired up about those big ideas as I am.”
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