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Ad Nauseam: A Survivor's Guide to American Consumer Culture Paperback – June 23, 2009

3.2 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“In his opening salvo in the mental war against the paradoxes of late capitalism, George W. S. Trow proposed a motto: ‘Wounded by the Million; Healed--One by One.' What the editors of Stay Free! set up inside the brilliant framework of their magazine is an arena where writers can roll up their sleeves and get cheerfully to work at shrugging off the succubus of commercial culture--for their own sakes, and for all our sakes. This book is a treasury of Trow's kind of healing.” ―Jonathan Lethem, author of The Fortress of Solitude

“There's no better way for you to avoid the pitfalls of our sinister consumer culture than by buying this book. Purchase it now. And make sure to browse the store's wide selection of novelty bookmarks.” ―Patton Oswalt, actor and comedian

“Equal parts damning and delightful, Ad Nauseam is a guide for every shell-shocked consumer besieged by American commodity culture, a battleground where the greatest danger is thinking you're smarter than an ad.” ―Ben Popken, Consumerist.com

“As a longtime critic of advertising and a great fan of Carrie McLaren's and of Stay Free!, I welcome this collection of smart and sassy, illuminating and entertaining essays. This book is a must for anyone concerned about the increasingly pervasive and pernicious impact of the consumer culture on our lives and our world.” ―Jean Kilbourne, creator of the "Killing Us Softly: Advertising's Image of Women" film series

“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 Institute of Technology, Library Journal Reviews

“Entertaining and informative … If you want to convince your dog to love your iPod, this is the book for you.” ―Book Calendar Review

“Several pieces … delve into less familiar territory, and in these passages, the book's themes garner real heft. … While I was reading it, and for a time after I was finished, I found myself questioning everything. … Ad Nauseum broke through the haze built up over years of media consumption.” ―Carolyn Juris, Bookslut

About 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.


Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber; First Edition edition (June 23, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0865479879
  • ISBN-13: 978-0865479876
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #995,115 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Every so often, it's nice to read a book that a makes you think, "Yes, I was right all along." Ad Nauseam was such a book for me. And in case you are wondering about the authors' approach to advertising, perhaps the image of a barf bag on the cover will provide a few hints.

I divide nonfiction into two categories: heavily researched and annotated books that aim to be scholarly treatises, and more mass-market books meant to be easier reading. I put AD NAUSEAM squarely in the latter category. It's pretty honest from the get-go that it's more a collection of related pieces than a scholarly work. So, with that in mind, I read along quite happily, nodding my head in agreement many times, very much enjoying the fact that these authors seem to perceive the same things I do, and learning enjoyably as I read along. For those of you who don't know how Lysol started out, you're in for a shock...

I particularly liked the look at trends in advertising from inception through today, as well a revisit of the idea of "subliminal advertising" and the unintended effects of one crazy man's tendency to see skulls and bestiality in ice cubes. Plenty of fun stuff in here, too, like the "secret" word that can be attached to the names of most SUVs, some really hilarious fake ads, and nice opinion pieces about, say, the type of guy who goes to taste-test Johnnie Walker scotch at a tent on the grounds of the Playboy Mansion.

The writing's great, too. That snotty, we-know-it-all-and-are-VERY-hip Brooklyn tone. Truthfully, that annoys me sometimes, but for this book - it works, because, really, how can you write about the modern advertising business without being really, really snotty? But the writing's clever, and funny, and pokes fun at itself, too.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was required to read this book for a class and I found it to be informative yet playful. Ad Nauseam opens your eyes to aspects of advertising that you don't often think about while using humor to keep your attention. I also like the layout of the book. It's full of images of ridiculous ads and humorous mini quizzes. Not much was said in the postscript on how the problems with advertising can be changed, but overall I think it is very insightful especially for a high school student or college freshman. The book contains some important general information such as some of the history of advertising, subliminal advertising, and the psychology behind advertising. It then includes entertaining short chapters to help illustrate the bigger view and to poke fun at advertising. It is a simple read but I can appreciate that. The authors want the readers to have fun with this book but at the same time learn a thing or too about this crazy world that we live in. The goal of the book is awareness which it does successfully.

I have never posted a review on here, but I feel like I have to for this book because it's that awesome. Read it!
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Format: Paperback
While I have not been a reader of StayFree Magazine, I picked up this book as a potential candidate for my bookclub to read. By the end of it, I was enlightened as to how I and certainly millions of others have been brainwashed by the advertising industry. I wanted to cry out "how stupid I have been!" I am in my 60s and have been subjected to advertising since TV first became available, well before "I could read a magazine." I have a collection of old Life magazines my in-laws had collected back to 1939. It was very interesting to look back at old ads and see the progression to the "harder subliminal sell" of this century. I think "Ad Nauseum" by Carrie McLaren noted this very same progression with a keen and studied approach. I fear for the children of the last few decades as to how their little brains are so completely controlled by the "next must have toy or article of clothing." We have pretty much all experienced seeing a child in almost any store throwing a tantrum to have mommy or daddy buy something the child has seen advertised or that every other friend has. Though my children are grown into their 30's now, I still see their minds being controlled by the latest must have electronic devices and clothing. Ms. McLaren has put forth a very interesting and provocative subject of which most of us have been totally unaware.
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Format: Paperback
I think it would actually be a lot more interesting talking to the authors than reading their book, which is mainly a collection of short essays on a variety of advertising topics. Many of them are quite funny, like a marketing party for scotch at the Playboy mansion, a review of ad mascots through the years, and renaming SUVs to name a few. However, there isn't a lot of deep criticism of the damage of advertising in American culture. The book reads like a very well researched college paper, but don't expect to find a wealth of new theories on how advertising works, or how to avoid its traps.
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Format: Paperback
--A book of essays about advertising. It’s off to a good start, describing the insides and out of ad branding, placement, design and purpose. One of the most intriguing displays is on page 32, which shows a series of “perception” and “reality” photos of some current food displays. Ah, I liked where this book was going…. --zeroing in on today’s adMeisters’ way of presenting products in the best possible light… even if in rather deceptive illuminations.

In a rather (unfortunate) dark, small and detail-less layout of various food items, the McDonald’s “Big Mac” photo shows a delicious-looking, towering sandwich, obviously prepared with much thought and luv, neatly stacked with the trimmings in view…but the side-by-side comparison of same (of what consumers actually get) shows a slovenly construction, a slightly tipped fast-build sandwich at about 80% of the beauty shot’s girth. And so it is with Wendy’s, Arby’s and Banquet products shown. They package the perception, we buy the not-quite-so-appealing reality…and this book’s going to focus-in and tell us all about the sleight of marketing hand that consumers experience everyday. (?!) ~Not.

After some lightweight essay discussions about product placement and general marketing, Ad Nauseum makes a turn for the worst and engages us in advertising history, physiological advertising design of the 20s and 30s, Hollywood legalities, prankster-ism, how 80s ads targeted kids, how marketeers use paid shoppers to influence other shoppers…none of which goes beyond a two to four-page “chapter.”

Before it gets really interesting, it’s on to the next (rather) unconnected chapter…about, for instance, how ad-men of the 20s relied on gauging the buying public as rather unsophisticated and “idiotic” shoppers.
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