Date of Award


Degree Name



W. Page Pitt School of Journalism and Mass Communication

Type of Degree


Document Type


First Advisor

Christopher Swindell

Second Advisor

Janet Dooley

Third Advisor

Christine Ingersoll


In the 31 years since Stuart Hall added a defiant read to audience reception analysis, several scholars have broadened its use beyond television discourse. The current study used directed focus groups to attempt the same. Encoding/decoding (1980) revolutionized modern critical thought by expanding audience interpretation. Gone were notions that mass audiences simply bowed to their message overlords in every case without thought or conviction. The oppositional read was a breakthrough with few comparisons. Still present and true to standard critical thought, was the preferred read—an interpretation of text that closely followed authorial intent (Hall,1980, p. 107). The negotiated read yielded to audience members who may have agreed to parts of the message but disagreed or had opposite experience with another. Suddenly, critical/cultural thought had evolved to include the reality that all audiences were not homogenous, long a complaint of Uses and Gratifications theory proponents.

What about the notion that all life is really just text open to interpretation? The researchers wondered whether branding/marketing claims to teenagers were as subject to decoded interpretation as the television discourse of the original. Fortunately, the current study is not the first to explore encoding/decoding from an alternative perspective.

This thesis project interprets Stuart Hall in a new light, bringing the Encoding/Decoding theory into advertising analysis. What attitudes do teens hold toward health messaging on prepackaged foods? How influential are the health claims on prepackaged, branded foods? Do teens feel that they are making healthy choices by eating prepackaged food? And finally, what potential read are the teens making with their perceived belief or lack thereof in the persuasive advertising messaging.


Mass media and culture


Advertising and youth


Branding (Marketing)