August 6, 2018  (Web Review)

Advertising at the Edge of the Apocalypse

(2017) 60 min. DVD: $34.95: public libraries; $280: community colleges; $350 (w/PPR): colleges & universities. DRA. Media Education Foundation ( PPR. ISBN: 1-944024-10-7.

Reviewer rating: 3.0/4

Sut Jhally, a professor at the University of Massachusetts, is on a mission to make consumers more aware of advertising. Like the earlier Marshall McLuhan, Jhally believes that advertising is so pervasive we take it for granted and allow it to shape our lives. While Jhally might sound alarmist with his claim that, “Advertising is the dominant storytelling force of our time,” the fact is that ads can cost 10 times more than the TV shows they accompany, making it clear that the medium exists more as a delivery system for advertising than for programming (corporations spend over $200 billion a year on advertising in the United States). Jhally cites some of the more expensive examples, such as Baz Luhrmann’s $45 million Chanel ad featuring Nicole Kidman. Furthermore, because changes have been so gradual it’s easy to miss the fact that advertising continues to take up more of each programming day, from 13% in the 1950s to 25% today—and that figure doesn’t include product placement in TV shows and movies. In addition, corporations have colonized the web, sports arenas, high schools, and other spaces. Jhally also traces the history of advertising as a major component of capitalist society, where consumption fuels production. If Jhally has a fairly dry and humorless style, the professor also knows his subject inside and out, although a more appropriate title might be Capitalism at the Edge of the Apocalypse, since his big-picture approach also incorporates consumer debt, income inequality, and climate change. Recommended. Aud: C, P. (K. Fennessy)