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Customer Review

on October 19, 2003
I found this book to be very interesting, and disturbing. Klein is certainly a Leftist, and generally as a conservative I would dispute much of her world-view but with the first half of her book she is on to something. I believe that the second half is less successful, and I do not share her idealization of graffiti artists and anti-global activists, but overall her book is a provacative and important one. Read and beware.
I would like to respond to an earlier reviewer's comments, which many of my friends have directed me to when I told them of the book. Tristan from Australia finds fault with a graph in her book (not indexed for inflation) and then sets to beaking her over the head with it. I think he misses much of the point of her book - even if her graph is off.
There is no question based on anecdotal evidence alone that advertising and the pervasiveness of "branded" space has increased. Look at modern sports stadiums, say the NFL - they're all named after corporations. The athletes at "FedEx Field" are all wearing brands that the team has negotiated (and been paid large sums to wear) - and they can be fined if they aren't wearing a "Starter brand" cap when they sit on the bench, etc. They then sit down and drink a Gatorade, while they watch the Coca-cola sponsored half-time show featuring Michael Jackson, Britney Spears or whoever the company believes they can best get to flog their product. The highlights from the first half will be then shown on the X-brand half-time show, and then recreated using graphics from EA Sports John Madden game. You could avoid all this and go to a movie, but first you'll have to sit through advertisements before the movie - and not just for upcoming movies anymore. First you'll be shushed by Halley Epsenberger while she's cramming Pepsi down your throat - all this after you spent $9.50 to be a captive audience for commercials - at least when you watch basic TV the excuse that the advertising is paying for the programs make sense, but this? And then you can be clever and see how many products have been placed in the movie. If it's James Bond you can see him wearing X-brand watch, drive his BMW, and polish it off with some Tanqueray Gin - not because smooth sophisticates drink it, but because Tanqueray paid the most for it.
As for her other points - she goes into great depth about how we're becoming fungible goods as workers. An example I remember from the book is that Microsoft has a core of permanent employees and true they do make good money, but half of their work is done by temps. And to ensure that temps don't try and claim anything as basic as health coverage (what would they be thinking?) they're required to be laid off for a 30 day period every year so that no one classifies them as full time workers. Walmart does get to keep prices low as the Australian writer suggested, but unlike prior employers who believed they had a responsibility to take care of their workers - e.g. Ford wanted every worker to be able to afford a Ford - Walmart doesn't care whether it's employees can afford to shop their or not. As I know from having done some work for them they're all about keeping employees employed at under 28 hours a week - again so they can keep from having to pay any benefits. Great you say - get another job, but others such as Starbucks have caught on to that and screw their employees similarly. Sure you work 30 hours a week, but the schedule is such that you can't realistically get a job to fill in the time you're not working for them, plus you get to be on unpaid call (I guess for a coffee emergency), and in typical fashion they've even done computerized studies on each employee's productivity. They know each stores peak hours, how many customers x-employee typically serves, etc. - so they can schedule the employees only for the most cost-effective time. On one hand this sounds fair, but on the other - it's completely shafting the employee - especially those that treat it as their "real" job. Given that we're becoming a service based economy, this is getting to be a larger and larger part of the public.
So the Australian guy can carp all he wants about graphs, and he can avoid the point of her argument - which is that advertising has gotten more sophisticated, and insidious - all to help companies, which are shedding any "brick and mortar" connections to become brands and images rather than production (an interesting example - Levis - which no longer owns a single factory, but has outsourced all of its production to third-world factories - which it is not responsible for, and which it can leverage to provide even cheaper and cheaper products - damn the sweatshop employees). I hope he and others are comforted when their jobs disappear and he goes to stand in line at the Hillfiger sponsored Employment office.
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