Institutional Work in Creative Industries: A Qualitative Study of Advertising Practitioners at Work

  • Donald Lancaster

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


International marketers expend some $800 billions+ annually through relationships with international advertising agencies at both head-office and local market levels. This thesis focuses qualitatively on these symbiotic four-way relationships between inter-connected clients and agencies and their elite team-leaders as actors. While much advertising research examines outputs – advertisements and their effects – this study concerns inputs, being those people who generate advertising. Most organisational and institutional research theorises large institutions and organisations, monadically or in dyads isolated from other relationships. We know less about institutional relationships at individual actor-level, about their symbiotic intertwining and the complexity of tensions, conflict and identities faced by such inter-related executives. This study’s contributions emerge from the research objective of theorising how individual, interlinked elite actors in the context of advertising balance and make compatible the demands of symbiotic interpersonal and inter-organisational relationships. Interviews with 44 executive across six countries lead to the identification and theorisation of ‘The Quad’ as a four-actor cross-border, cross-company operational and institutional construct, ubiquitous at the personal, organisational and institutional levels of analysis. Institutional Work theory (IW) illuminates this intricate, enduring construct that is central to prosecution of international advertising. I expose the work of Quad actors within their organisational context and theorise how their efforts may strengthen, differ from, maintain or work against organisational goals and needs, thereby creating an explanatory framework. In summary, key outputs are: The Quad is described as a new micro-institutional construct, redefining cross-cultural, inter and intra-firm relationships; aspects of constructive, maintaining and detrimental IW are evidenced in this micro-institution, in commercial/creative business situations (for the first time). The explanatory ‘post-dyadic’ framework provides for further theoretical testing. Findings have practical relevance beyond multinational advertisers and agencies, to other international professional service sectors and their people, without whom such businesses would not, and could not, function.
Date of Award12 Dec 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorIain Davies (Supervisor), Peter Nuttall (Supervisor) & Russ Vince (Supervisor)

Cite this