Ad Nauseam: A Survivor's Guide to American Consumer Culture

Overview

With the style and irreverence of Vice magazine and the critique of the corporatocracy that made Naomi Klein’s No Logo a global hit, the cult magazine Stay Free!—long considered the Adbusters of the United States—is finally offering a compendium of new and previously published material on the impact of consumer culture on our lives. The book questions, in the broadest sense, what happens to human beings when their brains are constantly assaulted by advertising and corporate messages. Most people assert that ...

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Ad Nauseam: A Survivor's Guide to American Consumer Culture

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Overview

With the style and irreverence of Vice magazine and the critique of the corporatocracy that made Naomi Klein’s No Logo a global hit, the cult magazine Stay Free!—long considered the Adbusters of the United States—is finally offering a compendium of new and previously published material on the impact of consumer culture on our lives. The book questions, in the broadest sense, what happens to human beings when their brains are constantly assaulted by advertising and corporate messages. Most people assert that advertising is easily ignored and doesn’t have any effect on them or their decision making, but Ad Nauseam shows that consumer pop culture does take its toll.

In an engaging, accessible, and graphically appealing style, Carrie McLaren and Jason Torchinsky (as well as contributors such as David Cross, The Onion’s Joe Garden, The New York Times’s Julie Scelfo, and others) discuss everything from why the TV program CSI affects jury selection, to the methods by which market researchers stalk shoppers, to how advertising strategy is like dog training. The result is an entertaining and eye-opening account of the many ways consumer culture continues to pervade and transform American life.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
McLaren and Torchinsky (Stay Free! magazine) provide a loose collection of essays and interviews to critique various aspects of American consumer culture. Two of the more thought-provoking entries are Julie Scelfo's (Newsweek) interview with NYU law professor Richard Sherwin on how television legal dramas shape expectations of jurors, and a debate between Sut Jhally (communications, Univ. of Massachusetts-Amherst) and James Twichell (English & advertising, Univ. of Florida-Gainesville) about the relative merits and demerits of advertising. There are some interesting pieces from inside the world of advertising, such as one on how holidays like "National Denim Day" and "National Private Investigators' Day" came to be, and others related to how magazine media kits try to attract ad revenue. VERDICT Readers familiar with Stay Free! magazine will recognize that, while some notable original essays are included in this book, many of them, as well as fake advertisements, are reprints of material freely available on Stay Free!'s web site (www.stayfreemagazine.org). The book will appeal to readers with an ironic sense of humor or a general suspicion of consumerism as well as those who enjoy keeping track of popular culture.—Elizabeth L. Winter, Georgia Inst. of Technology, Atlanta
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780865479876
  • Publisher: Faber and Faber
  • Publication date: 6/23/2009
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 368
  • Sales rank: 1,391,661
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Carrie McLaren founded Stay Free! in 1993. A longtime blogger, she speaks regularly on the topic of advertising and media. Jason Torchinsky is a writer and illustrator based in Los Angeles, who currently writes for the Onion News Network.

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Table of Contents

Foreword Rob Walker xi

Preface xv

1 How Advertising Works

The Evolution of Advertising 3

The Psychology of Advertising: We're All Apes 9

Advertising: The Ultimate Dog Whisperer 19

Image is Everything: Why the Adman Prefers Pictures 22

Truth in Advertising Case Study: Baby Videos (or, Humans' Capacity for Believing the Unbelievable) 26

Brand Magic 33

Key Questions 36

2 How Consumer Culture Shapes People

Your Ad Here: As Advertisers Race to Cover Every Available Surface, Are They Making Us Insane? 43

A Slow-Creeping Brain Death: Is Consumer Culture Rotting Our Minds? 49

Language Skills Then and Now 64

I'm with the Brand: The Consumer as Fan 70

Disneyaniacs! An Interview with the Little Mermaid's Biggest Fan 75

Regarding Media Violence: Why Do We Have Such a Tough Time Believing that People Imitate What They Watch? 81

The Media Made Them Do It 84

The Media Made Me Do It 90

Key Questions 94

3 Consumer Culture and Society

Shopping for Cancer: Why Economists Love Bellyaches, Bedbugs, and Broken Homes Jonathan Rowe 103

L.A. Law: How Hollywood is Shaping Our Legal System Julie Scelfo 115

How Do Kids Read Commercials? Roy Fox 127

On Advertising: Sut Jhally Versus James Twitchell 138

Did Somebody Say "Community"? Leslie Savan 154

A Vehicle for Comparison: The Volkswagen as a Measure of All Things Chris Boznos 160

Key Questions 167

4 Behind the Scenes

My Very Special Trip to the Nike Store David Cross 176

How to Tell You're a Details Reader (and Other Secrets of Magazine Advertising) 179

I'm Dreaming of a White National Cheese Day Alan Benson 190

Shopping Spies: Why is That Man Staringat Me? 201

Coca-Cola and the Case of the Disappearing Water Glass 206

Key Questions 209

5 Down the Memory Hole

Grave Revisionism: Advertising Resurrects the Dead 217

Subliminal Seduction: How Did the Uproar over Subliminal Manipulation Affect the Ad Industry? 223

The Idiot Consumer: Advertisers Once Described Typical Consumers as Barnyard Animals and Morons, but Then They Got "Savvy" 247

Everything I Learned About Life I Learned from Medical Marketing 263

Corporate Mascots, Then and Now 276

Key Questions 280

6 Adventures in Medialand

Buyer Beware: How Do Supermarket Shoppers React When You Place Foreign Objects in Their Baskets? Gaylord Fields 288

True Gentleman Urinates on Dumpster: Jason Torchinsky Tours the Playboy Mansion 292

Letter to the Creative Pretzel Eater's Club Damian Chadwick 298

Anal-yzing Car Consumption Kembrew McLeod 300

Prankster Sir Jon Hargrave Speaks 302

MeBay!: eBay for Fun and Profit Joe Garden 310

Drive-thru Entertainment 316

Key Questions 319

Postscript 325

Notes 331

Acknowledgments 337

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