December 13, 2005

Ads and Ends

Blecch, sorry for the lack of posts lately. I've been trying to catch up on work all day and it didn't help that I got back from the San Quentin death-penalty rally at about 4:30 last night. (Yes, yes, I hear that debate's alive and kicking.) But as a random link, Carrie McLaren's piece in Stay Free! magazine this month, on the history of the uproar over subliminal advertising, is very interesting. In the end, she argues, all the popular outcry in the '70s and '80s over the possibility that advertisers were sneaking in subliminal "Eat Popcorn!" messages into every fifth frame in a movie ended up blinding people to the more sinister ways in which advertising really does manipulate consumer desires and the like.

By the way, I certainly didn't know that U.S. companies spent $1.074 trillion on marketing in 2005—about 9 percent of GDP. That's a damn lot of marketing. But hey, so long as wealth in this country keeps getting redistributed upwards, wages keep stagnating, and credit cards keep getting maxed out, it will get harder and harder to get the masses to keep stuff, so this is a pretty good investment, no?

While we're on the topic, though, Juliet Schor's paper on the "commercialization of children" is pretty interesting. I've never really been sold on the anti-consumerism movement—after all, surely the problem with, say, Nike is on the production end, where overpriced sneakers are made by 10-year-old girls with bleeding fingers in draconian sweatshops, and not the fact that people like owning "stylish" clothes—but Schor has been making some decent counterarguments over the years (see here as well).

Of course, it's also much easier for a college professor to make anti-consumerism arguments—their status doesn't depend quite so much on material possessions after all; in an anti-consumerist culture, they'll be at the top of the pecking order. Well, that and the fact that any anti-consumerist movement always becomes commercialized anyway, as David Brooks enjoys pointing out. Myself, I enjoy the Citigroup billboards all around this city saying things like, "Remember when you were young and carefree and money didn't matter [!!] ?" This from the company that covered for Enron and defrauded consumers by the fistful. Where I was going with all this, I've forgotten.
-- Brad Plumer 10:01 PM || ||