Thanks to Carrie McLaren I got myself a copy of the Survivor's Guide to American Consumer Culture as seen here, posing on a pile of sick bags with genuine falafal fat stains on it. (Yes, I have collected several hundred sick bags, if you haven't noticed by now, all signs point to me being a packrat on my way to rivaling the Collyer brothers) If you have been an avid reader of StayFree magazine like myself, don't worry there's fresh data in here to feast on mixed in with some of their best articles. If you've never read StayFree magazine, it's a bit like adbusters. Sure the authors bemoan the advertising seeping into every pore of our culture, but at the same time they are fascinated by it, armed with wit and plenty of research. Those who have followed adland for as long as I have written it will find ad creep and other phenomena as familiar faces in here, all helping to paint a bigger picture of what advertising and consumer culture is doing to our society as a whole. The whole book is funny, subversive and eye-opening - if you've had them closed that is.
Who should buy it? #1 You should, as a gift to anyone in advertising who isn't cynical enough yet. All five of them. The book is funny and a little sugar helps the medicine go down. #2 Any parent of a teenage or college-age kid worried about their consumer habits and media naïveté. Which is pretty much all of them. #3 Teachers that teach any kind of social studies class, because guess what the book already comes with exercises that the class can do alone or in groups. Bonus! Quoting a bit from the foreword by Rob Walker:
Everything in Ad Nauseum is about questioning what most people take for granted, laughing at the stuff you're meant to accept soberly, and taking seriously the things you're not intended to notice at all. This is done in a variety of ways. The opening overview of ad history is indispensable - and is followed promptly by an attempt to drain a dog to like iPods that makes some surprisingly effective points about marketing and the human animal. McLaren's piece about subliminal advertising is the most insightful take on the subject that i've ever read, and Torchinsky manages to visit a sponsored party at the playboy mansion provocative in an entirely different manner than you might expect. Throughout, it's a book about thinking about the news and entertainment we're offered and, in particular, about the commercial expression that underwrites so much of it. it's a book, that is, of thinking about what we're really not supposed to think about - and inspiring the reader to do the same.
ps - for more on Subliminal advertising See Adcult USA and Ogilvy on advertising. In Ad Nauseam much of the chapter is a bit of history with key players Vicary, Packard and then showing off images from Wilson Bryan Key's sex crazed theories - pointing out how wrong they were but what effect these myths had instead.