Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name




Degree Program

Communication, MA

Committee Chair

Smith-Jones, Siobhan

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Della, Lindsay

Committee Member

Della, Lindsay

Committee Member

Barnes, Aaron

Author's Keywords

Race; advertising; synergy; diversity; luxury brands


During the summer of 2020 Black Lives Matter (BLM) became a rallying cry throughout the United States and the world. At that time, many individuals and organizations reflected on how they could better support the movement for equality, equity, and inclusion, but some of the results were ingenuine, perceived as virtue signaling or woke washing. In this thesis I explore the Black representation in advertising from three prominent car brands from both pre- and post-summer 2020. I analyze ads from Acura, Buick, and Lincoln to determine if they are synergistic and include multi-dimensional Black representation, criteria Burgess et al.’s (2020) set for audience connectedness. To measure synergy, I assess the ad elements and offer a new perspective that considers how ad elements that include Black representation work together to create a message about diversity. I discuss the implications of Black representation, or the lack thereof, using congruity theory and social cognitive theory to determine the impacts on both sales and society.