Professor Sean Nixon

Department of Sociology
Professor Sean Nixon
  • Email

  • Telephone

    +44 (0) 1206 872646

  • Location

    6.349, Colchester Campus



Sean has recently finished his third monograph, Hard Sell: Advertising, Affluence and Trans-Atlantic Relations circa 1951-69, published by Manchester University Press in May 2013. Hard Sell explores how American ideas and practices changed British advertising in the 1950s and 60s. In doing so, it tells the story of advertising in this period as part of a trans-Atlantic history of commercial change. Historians have often understood the post-war relations between Britain and America through the idea of Americanization. Challenging this, Hard Sell shows how American influences across a range of areas of advertising practice, including market research and the development of the genres of television advertising, were not only a source of inspiration, but were also adapted and reworked to more effectively speak to the British consumer. Out of this emerged distinctive British styles of advertising, especially on the new medium of television. But these were styles of advertising born of a trans-Atlantic dialogue. Nowhere was this more clearly the case than in advertising aimed at the mass market housewife. Nixon shows how the ordinary housewife was assembled within advertising and how the industry elaborated the arts of modern living associated with an expanded consumer society. Through detailed studies of advertising, the practices of advertising agencies and the public debates that shaped their reception, including responses from ordinary viewers, the popular press, cultural critics and parliamentary committees, Hard Sell offers a major new analysis of advertising in the decades of post-war affluence and the industrys influence upon social changes associated with growing prosperity. It marks a significant contribution to debates within contemporary British history, the sociology of affluence and to studies of consumer and marketing history. May 2013 saw the publication of a second edition of the collection Representation: Cultural Representation and Signifying Practices, co-edited with Stuart Hall and Jessica Evans. Sean is working on a new project exploring the promotional, educational and recreational dimensions of post-war nature conservation in Britain.The research will deepen our understanding of the role played by nature conservation organizations in elaborating the new relationship between wild birds, the natural environment and urban and suburban populations, focusing on how these groups shaped a post-war culture of natural history centred upon practices of observing and recording and gave voice to growing concerns about environmental change. The research addresses how this culture of organized natural history and its conservation ethic exerted an influence upon other bird-centred pastimes and will investigate how it reconfigured the wider field of relationships between people, wild birds and the physical environment. This will include a reflection on the role played by wild birds in mediating human relations with regional, national and international landscapes and environments. The relationship between natural history, landscape and national culture and identity has been long acknowledged, but we need to know more about the links between cultures of nature, national culture and their intersection with local/regional and trans-national landscapes and identities. Sean's current teaching is focused around the BA (Hons) Media Culture Society for which he teaches the third year compulsory course SC364 Mass Media And Modern Lifeand the third year module SC 397 Advertising and Consumer Culture. The remainder of his teaching falls within the MA Advertising, Marketing and the Media and includes the core module SC 519 Advertising: Commerce & Creativity and the optionSC653 The Uses of Culture . He has also acted as an academic consultant on the Open University's third level undergraduate course D318 Culture, Media and Identities and authored two chapters in the subsequent course publications. These were published as 'Exhibiting Masculinity', in Stuart Hall (ed.) Representation, cultural representation and signifying practices (Sage, 1997) and 'Circulating Culture', in Paul du Gay (ed.) Production of Culture/Cultures of Production (Sage, 1997). Both books have been translated into a number of languages. Sean is a Governor of the History of Advertising Trust.


  • BSc (Hons) (CNAA)

  • PhD (Open)

Research and professional activities

Research interests

Consumption and Commercial Cultures

Open to supervise

Advertising and Market Devices

Open to supervise

Masculinity, sexuality and Cultural Change

Open to supervise

Cultural Studies

Open to supervise

Television and the Natural World

Open to supervise

Cultures of nature and human-avian relations

Open to supervise

Teaching and supervision

Current teaching responsibilities

  • Mass Media and Modern Life (SC364)

  • Advertising: Commerce and Creativity (SC519)

Previous supervision

Richard Andrew Davis
Richard Andrew Davis
Thesis title: Home Is Where the Wifi Connects Automatically: The Everyday Practice of Internet Use
Degree subject: Sociology
Degree type: Doctor of Philosophy
Awarded date: 25/6/2015
Ayse Deniz Unan
Ayse Deniz Unan
Thesis title: Hate Crime in Turkey: Exploring the Implications of Collective Action, Media Representations and Policy Making
Degree subject: Sociology
Degree type: Doctor of Philosophy
Awarded date: 16/2/2015
Kumru Berfin Emre
Kumru Berfin Emre
Thesis title: Nationalism and Masculinity in Turkish Television: The Case of Valley of the Wolves
Degree subject: Sociology
Degree type: Doctor of Philosophy
Awarded date: 3/4/2013


Nixon, S., (2015). Trouble at the National Trust: Post-war Recreation, the Benson Report and the Rebuilding of a Conservation Organization in the 1960s. Twentieth Century British History. 26 (4), hwv031-hwv031

Nixon, S., (2015). Trouble at the National Trust: Post-war Recreation, the Benson Report and the Rebuilding of a Conservation Organization in the 1960s. Twentieth Century British History. 26 (4), 529-550

Nixon, S., (2010). ‘Salesmen of the Will to Want’: Advertising and its Critics in Britain 1951–1967. Contemporary British History. 24 (2), 213-233

Nixon, S., (2009). Understanding Ordinary Women: Advertising, consumer research and mass consumption in Britain, 1948-67. Journal of Cultural Economy. 2 (3), 301-323

Nixon, S., (2008). Apostles of Americanization? J. Walter Thompson Company Ltd, Advertising and Anglo-American Relations 1945–67. Contemporary British History. 22 (4), 477-499

Nixon, S., (2006). THE PURSUIT OF NEWNESS. Cultural Studies. 20 (1), 89-106

Nixon, S. and Crew, B., (2004). Pleasure at Work? Gender, Consumption and Work-based Identities in the Creative Industries. Consumption Markets & Culture. 7 (2), 129-147

Nixon, S. and Du Gay, P., (2002). Who Needs Cultural Intermediaries?. Cultural Studies. 16 (4), 495-500

Nixon, S., (1993). Looking for the Holy Grail: Publishing and advertising strategies and contemporary men's magazines. Cultural Studies. 7 (3), 466-492

Books (5)

Nixon, S., (2016). Hard sell: Advertising, affluence and transatlantic relations, c. 1951-69. Oxford University Press. 0719085373. 9780719085376

Nixon, S., (2016). Hard looks: Masculinities, spectatorship and contemporary consumption. Springer. 1349614424. 9780312163327

Hall, S., Evans, J. and Nixon, S., (2013). Representation: Cultural Representation and Signifying Practices Second Edition. Sage. 9781849205634

Nixon, S., (2003). Advertising Cultures: Gender, Commerce, Creativity. SAGE Publications Ltd. 9780761961987

Hall, S., (1997). Representation Cultural Representations and Signifying Practices. SAGE. 0761954325. 9780761954323

Book chapters (16)

Nixon, S., (2014). Cultural Intermediaries or Market Device? The Case of Advertising. In: The Cultural Intermediaries Reader. Editors: Smith Maguire, J. and Matthews, J., . Sage. 9781446201336

Nixon, S., (2013). Exhibiting masculinity. In: Representation: Cultural Representation and Signifying Practices Second Edition. Editors: Hall, S., Evans, J. and Nixon, S., . Sage. 9781849205634

Nixon, S., (2011). From Full-Service Agency to 3-D Marketing Consultants: 'Creativity' and Organizational Change in Advertising. In: Managing Media Work. Editors: Deuze, M., . Sage. 199- 208. 9781412971249

Nixon, S., (2011). Trading on Human Weakness: Richard Hoggart and his Advertising Critics in the 1960s. In: Richard Hoggart, Culture & Critique. Editors: Bailey, M. and Eagleton, M., . Critical, Cultural and Communication Press. 9781905510375

(2009). Creativity, Innovation and the Cultural Economy. In: Creativity, Innovation and the Cultural Economy. Routledge. 41- 53. 0203880013. 9780203880012

Nixon, S., (2009). Advertising, Magazine Culture and the 'New Man'. In: Media Studies, a reader (3rd edition). Editors: Thornham, S., Bassett, C. and Marris, P., . Edinburgh University Press. 9780748637836

Shields, R., (2003). Lifestyle Shopping. In: Lifestyle Shopping: The Subject of Consumption. Routledge. 151- 170. 0203413075. 9780203413074

Nixon, S., (2002). Re-imaging the Advertising Agency: the Cultural Connotations of Economic Forms. In: Cultural Economy Cultural Analysis and Commercial Life. Editors: du Gay, P. and Pryke, M., . Sage. 132- 147. 9780761959939

Nixon, S., (2001). Resignifying Masculinity: From 'New Man' to 'New Lad'. In: British Cultural Studies: Geography, Nationality, and Identity. Editors: Morley, D. and Robins, K., . Oxford University Press (OUP). 373- 386. 978-0-19-874206-7

Nixon, S., (2000). In Pursuit of the Professional Ideal: UK Advertising and the Construction of Commercial Expertise 1953-64. In: Commercial Cultures: Economies, Practices, Spaces. Editors: Jackson, P., Lowe, M., Miller, D. and Mort, F., . Bloomsbury Academic. 55- 74. 9781859733820

Nixon, S., (2000). Intervening in Popular Culture: Cultural Politics and the Art of Translation. In: Without Guarantees, in honour of Stuart Hall. Editors: Gilroy, P., Grossberg, L. and McRobbie, A., . Verso. 254- 265. 9781859842874

Nixon, S., (1998). Circulating Culture. In: Cultures of Production/Production of Culture. Editors: du Gay, P., . Sage. 177- 234. 9780761954361

Nixon, S., (1997). Exhibiting Masculinity. In: Representation: Cultural Representation and Signifying Practices. Editors: Hall, S., . Sage. 291- 336. 9780761954323

Nixon, S., (1996). Advertising Executives as Modern Men: Masculinity and the UK Advertising Industry in the 1980s. In: Buy This Book, studies in advertising and consumerism. Editors: Nava, M., Blake, A., MacRury, I. and Richards, B., . Routledge. 103- 119

Nixon, S., (1996). Designs on Masculinity: Menswear Retailing and the Role of Retail Design. In: Back to Reality?: Social Experience and Cultural Studies. Editors: McRobbie, A., . Manchester University Press. 170- 189. 9780719044557

Nixon, S., (1992). Have You Got the Look? Masculinities and Shopping Spectacle. In: Lifestyle Shopping: The Subject of Consumption. Editors: Shields, R., . Routledge. 149- 169. 9780415060608

Grants and funding


The Life-Course of Public and Private Media Assets

British Telecommunications Plc

+44 (0) 1206 872646


6.349, Colchester Campus