ADCULT USA by James B. Twitchell


The Triumph of Advertising in American Culture
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 A virtuosic survey of advertising in America, this book is a romp through the land where you (and your wallet) are the most desirable, sought-after creature in the world. As a Zen understanding of life would have us all partaking equally of Buddha nature, so Twitchell (English/Univ. of Florida; Forbidden Partners, 1986, etc.) here casts advertising as the very air we breathe, the very life force of our culture. In versatile, caffeinated prose that mirrors perfectly the attention-getting high jinks of his subject, the author states his thesis--that advertising, ``Adcult,'' is culture--and then spends 250-plus pages illustrating it. It is not a sophisticated critique; Twitchell leaves moral and Marxist explorations to others. As a simple chronicler, however, he delivers. Adcult is best mined for its nifty facts: how mass production of soap made from vegetable oils changed the face of advertising; how Mother's Day began; when coffee became a morning rather than an evening drink; how the five- day work week evolved; how Saturday attained its tremendous significance to consumer and reveler. Especially entertaining are accounts of scary but real modern inventions: the Voxbox, which counts TV viewers at home by monitoring body heat and mass, and the Tachistoscope, an ultrafast strobe light that made possible the infamous ``subliminal advertising'' (``Eat popcorn!'') planted in movies in the 1950s. The book concludes by informing us that even the most popular commercials nowadays don't sell the product so much as themselves, that advertising's success and likability an sich has led it, ironically, to reduced effectiveness. For what is next, the authors says, we can only stay tuned. Like advertising's favorite medium, TV, Adcult rivets attention powerfully, even brilliantly, but edifies little. (181 illustrations, not seen) (Author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 5th, 1996
ISBN: 0-231-10324-7
Page count: 296pp
Publisher: Columbia Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1995


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