Debating the cultural influence of advertising

McChesney, Robert  “The Age of Hyper-Commercialism.” The Problem of the Media: US Communication Politics in the Twenty-first Century. New York: Monthly Review Press, 2004. 138 – 174.

This chapter is a bit long, but it provides a well-documented account of how advertising has been changing over the past couple decades.  McChesney argues that the wall between the editorial and advertising aims of media production have been collapsing, and he describes various tricks that advertisers have turned to try to capture attention from resistant audiences – from product placement, to branded entertainment, to colonizing new spaces.   He connects these trends to changes in media production, reception, and consolidation of the advertising industry while making a case for policy interventions to lessen the dependence of media producers on advertising.  It’s certainly not intended as a detached, “objective” piece, but he makes a well-argued case that my students have found provocative.

I’ve paired this reading with a more positive interpretation of contemporary advertising:

Twitchell, James. “An English Teacher Looks at Branding.”  Journal of Consumer Research 31 (2004): 484 – 489.

And a recommended reading of a debate between Twichell and Jhally on the cultural influence of advertising as well as great short story by George Saunders that offers a critical perspective on the world of advertising.

Twitchell, James and Sut Jhally. “On Advertising: Sut Jhally v James Twitchell.”  Stay Free! n.d.

Saunders, George. “In Persuasion Nation.” Harpers. November 2005: 81 – 89.

Below I’m attaching some discussion questions I’ve used with this reading.

McChesney, Twitchell, Saunder Questions

This entry was posted in Readings for Undergraduates and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply