Advertising, the Uneasy Persuasion: Its Dubious Impact on American Society

By Michael Schudson | Go to book overview

Introduction

I FIND it hard to pay close attention to ads, especially on television. In this regard, it seems I am like most Americans. About 60 percent of adults remain in the room with the television on during an ordinary commercial break and most of them read, talk, eat, or do household chores. It is little wonder that, on average, less than 25 percent of a television audience can remember an ad they saw on television the day before, even when prodded with various clues. Unprodded, about 9 percent of viewers can name the brand or product category they saw advertised on television immediately before answering the phone call from the market researcher. 1

Advertisements ordinarily work their wonders, to the extent that they work at all, on an inattentive public. If we think of popular culture as a variety of forms ranging from those that are avidly followed to those that are barely acknowledged, then popular movies like E.T. or Star Wars or celebrations like the 4th of July fireworks would be at the high-involvement pole. They are cultural forms that people go out of their way to see, they become "events" in the foreground of people's lives, and they may provide grounds for talk and even for critical reflection. At the low-

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Advertising, the Uneasy Persuasion: Its Dubious Impact on American Society
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Preface to the Paperback Edition xiii
  • Notes xxiii
  • Introduction 3
  • 1 - The Advertiser's Perspective 14
  • 2 - What Advertising Agencies Know 44
  • 3 - The Consumer's Information Environment 90
  • 4 - An Anthropology of Goods 129
  • 5 - Historical Roots of Consumer Culture 147
  • 6 - The Emergence of New Consumer Patterns: a Case Study of the Cigarette 178
  • 7 - Advertising as Capitalist Realism 209
  • 8 - An Evaluation of Advertising 234
  • Notes 244
  • Index 277
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