I encourage you to buy and read this book. It's a source of reason, enlightenment, passion, love. It's meaningful, revealing. I read it in a few days, subtracting time to my other activities. Each time it has been difficult to stop reading and close the book. If you are going to read only one book this year, choose this one.
This book is focused on a few, fundamental, issues (excerpts are between "quotation marks").
1 - It explains that advertising works. Most people think they are not influenced by advertising. But advertising works best precisely because people don't think it works on them.
"If you are like most people, you think that advertising has no influence on you. This is what advertisers want you to believe. But, if that were true, why would companies spend over $200 billion a year on advertising? Why would they be willing to spend over $250,000 to produce an average television commercial and another $250,000 to air it? If they want to broadcast their commercial during the Super Bowl, they will gladly spend over a million dollars to produce it and over one and a half million to air it. After all, they might have the kind of success that Victoria's Secret did during the 1999 Super Bowl. When they paraded bra-and-panty-clad models across TV screens for a mere thirty seconds, one million people turned away from the game to log on to the Website promoted in the ad. No influence?"
2 - It makes you understand that the message mass media and advertising repeat us moment by moment ("The average American is exposed to at least three thousand ads every day") is that happiness comes from products. Alas, products are only things: no matter how much we love them, they won't love us back. By the way, didn't you ask why - in the car commercials - there are all those cars entering tunnels?
We are sold models impossible to follow - and just wrong. But effortlessly advertised: you are made up to think they're true. Thus, a sense of strain comes. I think that many problems our society faces (high divorce rate, violence, alcoholism, drugs) come from this split. I'm a pharmacist: it's amazing how many tranquilizers I sell every day.
3 - It lets you to realize that advertising often turns people into objects.
"It is becoming clearer that this objectification has consequences, one of which is the effect that it has on sexuality and desire. Sex in advertising and the media is often criticized from a puritanical perspective - there's too much of it, it's too blatant, it will encourage kids to be promiscuous, and so forth. But sex in advertising has far more to do with trivializing sex than promoting it, with narcissism than with promiscuity, with consuming than with connecting. The problem is not that it is sinful, but that it is synthetic and cynical. (...) We never see eroticized images of older people, imperfect people, people with disabilities. The gods have sex, the rest of us watch - and judge our own imperfect sex lives against the fantasy of constant desire and sexual fulfilment portrayed in the media. (...) We can never measure up. Inevitably, this affects our self-images and radically distorts reality. "You have the right to remain sexy", says an ad featuring a beautiful young woman, her legs spread wide, but the subtext is "only if you look like this". And she is an object - available, exposed, essentially passive. She has the right to remain sexy, but not the right to be actively sexual."
4 - Did you know that we are a product? Mass media sell us to advertisers.
"Make no mistake: The primary purpose of the mass media is to sell audiences to advertisers. We are the product. Although people are much more sophisticated about advertising now than even a few years ago, most are still shocked to learn this."
"Through focus groups and depth interviews, psychological researchers can zero in on very specific target audiences - and their leaders. "Buy this 24-year-old and get all his friends absolutely free", proclaims an ad for MTV directed to advertisers. MTV presents itself publicly as a place for rebels and nonconformists. Behind the scenes, however, it tells potential advertisers that its viewers are lemmings who will buy whatever they are told to buy."
5 - I think this book is also valuable because it re-states the ethical principle that there are no shortcuts to riches, no shortcuts to happiness. There are no free lunches.
"Today the promise is that we can change our lives instantly, effortlessly - by winning the lottery, selecting the right mutual fund, having a fashion makeover, losing weight, having tighter abs, buying the right car or soft drink. It is this belief that such transformation is possible that drives us to keep dieting, to buy more stuff, to read fashion magazines that give us the same information over and over again."