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Adcult USA Paperback – April 15, 1997

ISBN-13: 978-0231103251 ISBN-10: 0231103255 Edition: Reprint

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 296 pages
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press; Reprint edition (April 15, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0231103255
  • ISBN-13: 978-0231103251
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 7.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #617,110 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Advertising, argues Twitchell (Carnival Culture), has become the lingua franca of American culture, supplying a common bond that links all Americans. However, he maintains, advertising does not shape our desires, but rather simply reflects our inherent materialism, a view he fails to convincingly support. Twitchell examines the history of magazines, radio and TV in light of the increasing power and prevalence of advertisements, claiming that it is naive not to expect advertisers to have a growing role in determining the content of the media they virtually subsidize. Twitchell only briefly discusses critics of advertising and mass culture, and while he takes issue with feminists' outrage at cosmetic advertising, he fails to substantially address the work of respected theorists of popular culture such as the Frankfurt School. In Twitchell's opinion, the role of advertising in our culture is comparable to that played by the church in Medieval Europe; and he also compares advertising's cultural centrality to that of art in the Italian Renaissance. While his portrayal of the power of advertising is persuasive, Twitchell fails in his self-consciously provocative attempt to claim that advertisements have a spiritual or aesthetic dimension remotely equivalent to that offered by religion or art.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

Let others bray about the evils of commercialism and mourn its helpless victims, Twitchell (Carnival Culture: The Trashing of Taste in America, Columbia, 1992) exalts in the triumph of the culture of advertising: "We make our media. Our media makes us. Commercialism is not making us act against our better judgment. Commercialism is our better judgment." He compares advertising to religion, arguing that the investment of a sliver of bone with the spiritual authority of a saint is little different from the anointing of athletic shoes by a basketball star. Twitchell discusses the various strategies advertisers have used over the years to lure consumers to make a choice between products that are essentially the same, providing reproductions of hundreds of old advertisements that illuminate his arguments. At times his indifference to the effects of advertising and broadcasting deregulation is unsettling, particularly because the book assumes that there exists a dominant culture that all participate in equally and freely. But by and large this is a fresh, well-thought-out study that deserves a place in academic libraries.
Adam Mazmanian, "Library Journal"
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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The book is funny, educational and actually fun to read.
A Customer
Twitchell reminds me a lot of the anthropologist who got too close to her subjects and couldn't report on them objectively any more.
Todd I. Stark
Good book for advertising students, professors, and industry professionals.
Average Joe

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Robert S. Frey on September 11, 1998
Format: Paperback
The premise of AdcultUSA-that advertising is the "dominant meaning-making system of modern life" [p. 253]-is argued compellingly and authenticated meticulously with numerous examples, photos, and anecdotes. Yet the messages about the transformative impact of advertising on contemporary American culture are downright disconcerting. On many levels, advertising has shaped our shared myths, our self concepts, and our marking of calendric time. [p. 124] People relate to each other by the commercials they have experienced and consumed rather than by the books they have read or the human interactions they have shared.
We embrace advertising; we also blame it and give it vastly accentuated power. However, demonizing advertising says alot about human passivity in the face of complexity [p. 111]. Whereas it can be argued that advertisers are the primary censors of media content in the U.S. today [p. 119], and engage in intermingling fact and fiction [p. 134], the culture of advertising-adcult-arose and gained prominence by us as customers and consumers participating actively and passively in its meteoric rise. In many ways, we have consented to allowing our minds to be treated as a rental space for brand-name products ranging from jeans and perfume to cars and snack foods.
Author James Twitchell, a professor of English at the University of Florida, asserts that "advertising is the culture developed to expedite the central problem of capitalism: the distribution of surplus goods." [p. 41] The two principal advertisers in America today are corporations which manufacture and distribute alcohol and tobacco products. According to his research, these industries collectively control 65% of newspaper space and 22% of television time.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Jennifer Dolloff on March 1, 1999
Format: Paperback
It may seem like an exageration to say that a book about advertising fundamentally changed the way I view the world... but it did (and 9 out of ten dental hygenists agree). Anyways, this book is sensational. It give an interesting historical overview, and then goes on to analyze the way advertising has shaped modern society. I'm going to read all of Mr. Twitchell's books. He is a really clever and witty writer, and obviously has some great insights on modern culture. Plus, this book has lots of pictures of the ads/trends he discusses-- this is a real asset to the text.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 20, 1998
Format: Paperback
In the time of fragmentation and frantic search for answers and patterns of what is going on in contemporary society, Twichell's book is a must read for every thinking person. Not just for advertising people (although it's of crucial value for getting the philosophy of modern advertising) but for educated person in general. For, it's not possible to understand why modern people behave the way they do if you don't know what is the role of modern advertising in their lives. Twichell's book is sharp-minded dissection of the strongest cult known today: advertising.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Modemac on March 1, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Rick Dagwan's teaching opened my eyes and made me realize how a mass medium such as movies or television can be used to manipulate the beliefs, desires, and feelings of a great many people -- often to the point where an expert at media manipulation can become rich, or powerful, or both. (Is it just a coincidence that we end up electing the politicians who run the best TV commercials?) Advertising is one of the most insidious tools of the Conspiracy, in that it is so omnipresent ithat many of us don't even realize just how much of an effect it has on us. This is where books like Adcult USA come in. This book is a searing jolt of truth that wakes ups up and shows us just how much of our culture is shaped through advertising (the entire Christmas holiday season, for starters), while at the same time reminding us that we like to be advertised to. Because we've been bombarded with advertising for our entire lives, we've become used to it and this makes us receptive to short messages that insinute themselves into our culture. Adcult USA can be seen as a wake-up call or just a hell of an entertaining read, but it's likely to make you think twice when you watch TV or read.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 19, 2001
Format: Hardcover
To discover why Americans are sold on advertising, read this book. Twitchell examines the dpeths to which advertisers will go to win the affection of the American people. The book is funny, educational and actually fun to read.
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