Exposing advertising's inner workings
The Sponsored Life
Ads, TV, and American Culture
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How does a blatant lying in TV commercialslike Joe Isuzu's manic claimscreate public trust in a product or a company? How does a company associated with a disaster, Exxon or Du Pont for example, restore its reputation? What is the real story behind the rendering of the now infamous Joe Camel? And what is the deeper meaning of living in an ad, ad, ad world? For a decade, journalist Leslie Savan has been exposing the techniques used by advertisers to push products and pump up corporate images. In the lively essays in this collection, Savan penetrates beneath the slick surfaces of specific ads and marketing campaigns to show how they reflect and shape consumer desires.
Savan's interviews with ad agencies and corporate clientsalong with her insightful analyses of influential TV sportsreveal how successful advertising works. Ads do more than command attention. They are signposts to the political, cultural, and social trends that infiltrate the individual consumer's psyche. Think of the products associated with corporate mascotsthe drum-beating bunny, the cereal-pushing tiger, the doughboythat have become pop culture icons. Think cool. Think of the clothing manufacturer that uses multiracial imagery. Think progressive. Buy their worldview, buy their product. When virtually every product can be associate with some positive self-image, we are subtly refashioned into the advertiser's concept of a good citizen. Like it or not, we lead "the sponsored life."
"[A] smart, stingingly funny collection.... Ms. Savan brings to bear a pithy style, a peppery wit and an unerring moral compass that enables her to score hits on the corporate fictions that increasingly structure our world view.
"Her delectably sarcastic analyses offer disturbing insights into the images that millions of citizens seek to adopt."
"Savan has a keen eye for baloney, and she peels off layers of it to reveal the moldy Wonder Bread of corporate greed-without losing her sense of humor."
"When, decades from now, historians look back and try to understand how advertising overwhelmed our culture in the 1980s, they will surely start by reading Leslie Savan's bright and trenchant reportage. For those likewise concerned right now, The Sponsored Life is an indispensable collectionas well-informed as the account of any cool insider, yet powerfully critical throughout."
"This is one of those books you see, and say, Oh! And just reach for and purchase without even thinkingthe ultimate dream, no doubt, of the advertisers who generated the TV commercials she so crisply analyzes inside."
"Original. Provocative. Breathtakingly insightful."
"Savan is one of the best new cultural criticsher voice is strong, clever; her writing has verve, passion; her quick and feisty rejoinders talk back to commerce.... By paying attention to social issues, particularly women and race, she makes us notice the politics at work in the spaces between news and entertainment."
1. Too Cool for Words
2. Corporate Image Adjustments
3. Real Problems, Surreal Ads
4. Our Bodies, Our Sells
5. Shock of the Hue
6. The Sponsored Life
In the series
Culture and the Moving Image, edited by Robert Sklar.
The Culture and the Moving Image series, edited by Robert Sklar, seeks to publish innovative scholarship and criticism on cinema, television, and the culture of the moving image. The series will emphasize works that view these media in their broad cultural and social frameworks. Its themes will include a global perspective on the world-wide production of images; the links between film, television, and video art; a concern with issues of race, class, and gender; and an engagement with the growing convergence of history and theory in moving image studies.