The Evolution of the Advertising Discipline Through Four Decades: A Machine Learning Scope Analysis of Themes, Topics and Methods

Stafford, M., Itai Himelboim, Walter, D. & Ophir, Y. (Accepted). The Evolution of the Advertising Discipline Through Four Decades: A Machine Learning Scope Analysis of Themes, Topics and Methods. International Journal of Advertising.

Abstract: Over the past forty years, what we, as a discipline, define as advertising research has been negotiated through our primary scholastic contribution to the field: peer reviewed journal articles. The question “what is advertising research?” may produce different answers by different scholars during various points of the history of our field. The goal of this study is to identify key developments in advertising research — themes, topics, and methods — over the last four decades (1980-2020), as published by the leading general advertising journals: International Journal of Advertising, Journal of Advertising, Journal of Advertising Research, and (Journal of) Current Issues and Research in Advertising. We use a combination of dictionary methods, qualitative analysis, unsupervised machine learning, and network analysis, to examine the abstracts of all journal articles published during that time (N = 6,084) and identify thematic dynamics in theoretical and methodological foci over time. We explain the evolution of the discipline by identifying trends and changes, areas with both growing and declining research emphasis, and subsequently draw conclusions for the future of the field.

Itai Himelboim 

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