The Big Lie

The Truth about Advertising

Chuck Anderson. 320 pages

British advertising is cynical, clever and witty - the best in the world. American advertising is saccharine, crass and clunky - an insult to the intelligence. Is that so? Does either work? How? An American adman who has worked in Europe for thirty years deconstructs the conventional wisdom of Adland to disclose at its heart a black hole of ignorance and deceit.

The Big LieFifty years ago Vance Packard concluded his seminal exposé, The Hidden Persuaders, by questioning the morality of advertising's manipulative motivational techniques. If his concerns seem quaint now, it is because we have now surrendered to consumerism as the dominant cultural force in the world. Advertising has assumed a priestly role: to sustain its myths by promulgating falsehoods.

Yet the first Big Lie is that advertisers and their agencies know what they are doing. The second is the belief most people have that they are not influenced by advertising. Another is the contention that advertising does not have broad social effects beyond brand-switching. This book also examines whether the seductive techniques advertisers use, such as humour, irony and celebrity endorsement, are really successful; exposes whole industries founded on falsehood; and warns of the false assumptions gathering around the new communications technology and the Internet.

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