Ads, Fads, & Consumer Culture: Advertising's Impact on American Character & Society/The Consumer Trap: Big Business Marketing in American Life

By Alessandri, Sue Westcott | Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, Summer 2006 | Go to article overview

Ads, Fads, & Consumer Culture: Advertising's Impact on American Character & Society/The Consumer Trap: Big Business Marketing in American Life


Alessandri, Sue Westcott, Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly


Ads, Fads, & Consumer Culture: Advertising's Impact on American Character & Society, 2d ed. Arthur Asa Berger. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2004. 196 pp. $65.00 hbk. $19.95 pbk.

The Consumer Trap: Big Business Marketing in American Life. Michael Dawson. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2005. 203 pp. $27.00 hbk. $17.95 pbk.

The Consumer Trap lists the author's credentials as follows: "Michael Dawson is a part-time lecturer in the Department of Sociology at Portland State University and also works as a paralegal." I mention his credentials first because, as I was reading this book, I was left continually wondering about the extent of his expertise on the subject matter of his book.

Dawson's work is a critical look at the machine he calls "big business marketing in American life." His point of view is clear from the start: "The essence of my argument is that big business marketing is neither more nor less than a system for profitably Grafting and applying stealthy little versions of the force and fraud that have always sustained class dominance."

While his critical view is obvious from the beginning, it does not seem to shape the first third of the book. In fact, chapter 3 is an extremely factual-and thorough-overview of the historical development of market research. Professors teaching advertising or public relations research classes could use this chapter as a complete background on their topics.

Another quite interesting part of the book focuses on the marketing of cigarettes in the Third World. Dawson talks about the tobacco companies' efforts to frame cigarettes as "American glamour." It is these interesting little factoids that are most interesting about Dawson's work. The book also suffers from some serious flaws, however, that I believe result from Dawson's lack of background in the field of marketing.

The first problem with Dawson's book is his assumption that "big business marketing" and "corporate marketing" are synonymous. Advertising practitioners and academics, who have struggled in the past to differentiate the seemingly nuanced terms, are likely to take offense at Dawson's lumping corporate marketing, and more specifically corporate advertising, into his catch-all terms.

Dawson researched this book, in part, at two highly respected marketing archives, one at the Smithsonian and one at Duke University. While his examples throughout the book are quite specific, which is a positive, his focus on Campbell's Soup marketing and his negative perception of the automobile industry get a little tedious. As for the latter, it seems Dawson has a personal stake: He dedicates the book, in part, to his aunt Lisa, "one of the 53,172 people who lost their lives in American automobile 'accidents' in 1980." Since I read book dedications, I got the feeling from the beginning that any mention of the auto industry was going to include a conspiracy-plot feel.

Generally speaking, the fatal flaw in Dawson's work is that his critical approach lacks credibility in a marketing context because it lacks any practicality. Sure, there may be a lot wrong with marketing, but what is the substitute? How else is our media system, and our free press, going to get the support it needs without such a system of financial support?

Also, Dawson seems to make his attack on marketing personal. For example, he writes that, "Another common tactic is smarmy emotional inflation, where the 'good feelings' associated with a product are blown out of proportion in order to increase buying." I began to wonder whether Dawson is a perpetually disgruntied consumer, readying his aim on the entire capitalist system.

Finally, as evidence of the extremes to which Dawson relates marketing's influence, he borrows from the advertising industry by employing a classic fear appeal. In discussing the possibility of a chemical or nuclear war, he writes: "If we follow our present course of big businessled social development, will at least one of these massive calamities befall us in the next century? …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Ads, Fads, & Consumer Culture: Advertising's Impact on American Character & Society/The Consumer Trap: Big Business Marketing in American Life
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.