Weiss cites a 1978 poll to the effect that 98 percent of Americans believe they cannot trust ads. Anyone reading her book is...

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THE SCHOOL ON MADISON AVENUE: Advertising and What It Teaches

Weiss cites a 1978 poll to the effect that 98 percent of Americans believe they cannot trust ads. Anyone reading her book is likely to be in that number and thus will have little to learn from her very soft analysis. Weiss talks about the ""permissible lie""; actresses posing as housewives and other such tricks; ads that play on people's secret fears and wishes; and the agist-sexist-racist ""lessons in living"" we get from advertisers' visions of consumer paradise. She cites an occasional juicy instance--an agency for a department store chain threatened to cut ads to radio and TV stations which warned people against driving in severe snowstorms, as such ""weather editorializing"" cut retail sales--and an occasional apt quote, such as Action for Children's Television's Peggy Charren's observation that ""toys are designed to make good 30-second messages, not to make good toys."" But Weiss is shallow and uncritical on the wider economic picture, and she cites only past accomplishments in the single area of reform she mentions, better regulation. And she follows all the examples of deception and manipulation with the same sort of mindless slush she began with: more than 100 pages after being told that ""political advertising educates us about the men who are running for public office,"" we read that ""Advertising can tell us about a new book that may inspire or uplift us"" and ""It can offer us a chance to save money on cents-off coupons."" (Weiss should look into the effect on consumers of cents-off coupons and into what happens when they get to the supermarket and find the ""bargain"" item marked up past competing brands.) No doubt Weiss will be commended, simply for recognizing in print what 98 percent know, but she just isn't sharp enough to take on the ad men.

Pub Date: Feb. 25, 1980

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1980