Advertising

The Demon Drink

I confess that I did a double take. At 65 mph I sidled up to a loaded semi sporting the heavy red and regal gold logo of Budweiser. What surprised me was that the truck was “autowrapped” from headlight to taillight in the three-color desert camouflage pattern of light tan, pale green, and brown. The “King of Beers” was tricked out in battle dress.

It’s not unusual to see overt military presence around my home in Washington, D.C. Anymore, I hardly notice the anti-aircraft missiles mounted on Humvees around the Pentagon and Capitol or the invasion of discreet security cameras and recording devices at strategic downtown intersections or the new Army recruiting office that sprouted up in a previously abandoned storefront on Georgia Avenue. When I see, though, the dozens of men and women with new prosthetic limbs walking the grounds of Walter Reed Army hospital, I still run cold with shame, and pity, and anger at myself—and all of us—for letting this war happen, for letting it go on.

But it was the desert drab Bud truck that snapped me “awake” (as in 1 Thessalonians 5:6). No doubt the design was part of Anheuser-Busch’s “Here’s to the Heroes” campaign to support the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. But the “For all you do, this Bud’s for you” feel-good attitude is just too much at odds with what we know about Iraq—more than 2,800 American soldiers killed; more than a quarter million Iraqi civilians killed, including as many as 54,000 children; the pornography of torture at Bagram and Abu Ghraib; the rise in soldier divorces and suicides. Will this be accompanied by the pay-per-view execution of Saddam Hussein—hanged by the neck until dead? All I could think was that America has become what, in 17th-century France, was called “a theater of devils” or “a theater of the possessed.” I was haunted by the King of Beers.

Read the Full Article

Sojourners Magazine January 2007
​You've reached the end of our free magazine preview. For full digital access to Sojourners articles for as little as $2.95, please subscribe now. Your subscription allows us to pay authors fairly for their terrific work!
Subscribe Now!

Flexing Some Muscle

The Swedish appliance manufacturer ASKO dropped advertising that mocked eating disorders in response to a campaign effort by the U.S.-based organization Dads and Daughters. In its magazine ad, ASKO said of its energy efficient kitchen appliances, "Like most Swedish supermodels, they consume next to nothing." ASKO representative Joe Yoder wrote, "The offending ad will not run again. We thank you for reminding us of our obligation to not only provide the most environmentally conscious products but also to promote them in a socially responsible manner." DADs is also urging ASKO to adopt the "Best Advertising Practices" created by girls in the "Turn Beauty Inside Out" campaign.

Read the Full Article

Sojourners Magazine November-December 2002
​You've reached the end of our free magazine preview. For full digital access to Sojourners articles for as little as $2.95, please subscribe now. Your subscription allows us to pay authors fairly for their terrific work!
Subscribe Now!

It's a Wrap

You've probably seen a full-body bus ad—that 30-foot-long dot.com logo on wheels discharging passengers. Now "autowrapping" companies will pay you to swath your personal car in a digitally printed vinyl ad. Thanks to cutting-edge technology and the apparently insatiable need for ad space, you too can drive your very own 4-door billboard.

In order to provide "crucial data and control" to clients [advertisers], the autowrap company will monitor your movements with a Global Positioning System device that plugs into your cigarette lighter. How handy! Two of the most happening trends of our toddling new century in one convenient package: High-tech surveillance and in-your-pores advertising.

Not to make this sound more sinister than it is. (Wouldn't you feel much more secure if someone were tracking your every move? No?) The GPS device is simply used by the company to make sure that you're rolling your glossy ad by as many souls as possible. To this end, a wrapped car and driver is expected to frequent high-traffic areas, park on the street and open lots, and drive 800 to 1,000 miles a month.

They don't install two-way radios to direct you away from "low-impact" or bad-for-the-advertisers'-image locations. But wouldn't it be fun if they did? "Why are you on a quiet side street? Get back in that traffic jam!" Or, "Drive out of the Wal-Mart parking lot right now and no one gets hurt."

SOME people see air pollution, road rage, clogged highways, and development run amok. Autowrap entrepreneurs see opportunity. As one company's site puts it, "The sheer physical dominance of the car coupled with the worst traffic congestion levels in history make the personal vehicle a natural medium for outdoor advertising." Talk about taking lemons and making a nationally distributed sports drink! (Which, by the way, you could be promoting right now on your 4X4.)

Read the Full Article

Sojourners Magazine January-February 2001
​You've reached the end of our free magazine preview. For full digital access to Sojourners articles for as little as $2.95, please subscribe now. Your subscription allows us to pay authors fairly for their terrific work!
Subscribe Now!

Unhooking Ourselves

As an activist in the girls’ movement and father of two girls, I’ve always known that far too many advertising images were bad for girls. In a brilliant and logical argument, author Jean Kilbourne makes the connection between the premises of advertising and the scourge of addiction. Denial is the most intractable symptom of addiction, and Deadly Persuasion: Why Women and Girls Must Fight the Addictive Power of Advertising is among the most potent interventions available for our addiction to advertising, consumerism, and the immoral ways in which our commercial culture so often undermines our integrity.

For years, Kilbourne has taken her powerful, funny, and life-changing presentations to college campuses, businesses, and the federal government. Now she has combined this huge mine of information, insight, and critique into one outstanding book.

As Kilbourne shows, we are what’s for sale. Media outlets aren’t selling products to us so much as they are selling us to the products’ manufacturers. It works—what industry would spend $200 billion annually on something that doesn’t work? All we have to do is read the pages of advertising’s trade journals, where we see media ads proclaiming "Buy this 24-year-old and get all his friends absolutely free," or "We deliver Gen-X," or "One magazine delivers an audience spending $38 billion annually on American Express cards." It’s easy to see the underlying attitude that suggests that we use people as products and objects. This is the same mindset as pornography, and we are harmed in the same way by it.

Read the Full Article

Sojourners Magazine May-June 2000
​You've reached the end of our free magazine preview. For full digital access to Sojourners articles for as little as $2.95, please subscribe now. Your subscription allows us to pay authors fairly for their terrific work!
Subscribe Now!

Image Is...Well, Something

Travel the world over and American-generated advertising frames your view. McDonald’s, Coca Cola, AT&T, in billboard and signs, block skylines and provide ready landmarks with only slight modifications to reflect the local culture.

We the people of the United States of America are exporters of image. It is crucial to our identity. Even in radical countercultural circles, we know ourselves best when bemoaning uniquely horrific corporate American crassness—Rain Forest denizens watching Bay Watch, General Foods pimping mac and cheese to Latin American beans-and-rice connoisseurs, Kate Moss pushing voluntary starvation, even dot.com anti-advertising advertising.

So it’s jarring when some foreigner socks us in our cultural gut by turning our primary civic language against us. United Colors of Benetton—the Italian clothing company—has, for the last decade, been doing just that. Oliviero Toscani, the company’s advertising director and publicist, has brought to our billboards multicolored copulating horses, Ronald Reagan in the advanced stages of AIDS, a crucified Jesus with "Do You Play Alone?" stamped across the width. These thumb-waves at our prudish American sensibilities have incensed the Catholic League, AIDS activists, and people of good taste, most of whom have never seen (let alone purchased) a Benetton sweater or suit.

Benetton’s latest import is "We, On Death Row," a $15 million dollar print and billboard campaign. The centerpiece, a 96-page outsert bound with the February 2000 issue of Tina Brown’s Talk magazine (of which Toscani is creative director), profiles 25 men and one woman living on death row in the United States.

Read the Full Article

Sojourners Magazine May-June 2000
​You've reached the end of our free magazine preview. For full digital access to Sojourners articles for as little as $2.95, please subscribe now. Your subscription allows us to pay authors fairly for their terrific work!
Subscribe Now!

Pages

Subscribe