Sunday, October 9, 2011

Book Review: The Age of Persuasion

Came across The Age of Persuasion at the library and picked it up. It was OK in some ways, poor in others.

The book is a history of modern day marketing, as seen through the eyes of an advertising copywriter turned broadcaster. It covers a lot of interesting history, rife with colorful examples, of advertising over the past century.

On the plus side, there are a ton of interesting factoids, and the authors seemed to have done their research. They cover the advertising side of the business and the factors motivating players in each strata of the business.

On the down side, there are three flaws I find with the book.

The first, which is minor and forgivable, and which can be seen by the cover art, is that the book is very much trying to ride the coattails of Madmen, focusing, and perhaps over-glorifying advertising's 'golden age'.

The second is that "marketing" is not the same thing as "advertising". If the book's tagline were "how advertising ate our culture", that'd be fine, but otherwise the authors perpetuate the myth that marketing is about ramming stuff down people's throats. It largely ignores the other half, which is figuring out what they want or need to begin with.

The third issue is that by seeing the world through an ad man's eyes, the book is too quick to ascribe too much value and too little blame to advertising in the influence that it has. Where they do cite negatives, it's always the other guys, the inept and evil ad men, not the creative good ones (which they likely include themselves in). I feel like it's really not so black and white.

If you can see past the negatives, there are some interesting data points and interesting bits of trivia here. Just make sure you take much of the book with a grain of salt.

The Age of Persuasion: How Marketing Ate Our Culture

1 comment:

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