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Do you find you can't get that advertising jingle you heard on TV out of your head? Are your kids driving you crazy because they want you to buy a certain cereal or insist on brand-name blue jeans? During the movie did you notice those brand-name products your favorite actor or actress ate, drank, drove, or wore?

A new book, Marketing Madness, documents exactly how pervasive advertising has become today. Marketing has now reached most sections of our society including our schools, our mail boxes, our telephones, and our national and religious holidays.

Businesses are now spending $565 per person or $2,200 per family each year to get us to buy their products.

Of course, advertising in itself is not bad. However, if its power is abused then something is wrong. For example, is it right to target children with ads on children's programs for sugary cereals and then place those cereals at children's eye level at the supermarket? Business pay to have their products put into movies, without telling the viewers. Many religious leaders have complained about the commercialism of Christmas, yet every year the barrage of Christmas advertising starts earlier and earlier.

The subtle message of advertising is that we should be dissatisfied with our lot in life. To quote Marketing Madness, "Each ad is a parable that illuminates the same theme: All of life's problems can be solved and happiness attained by buying things."

$avvy shoppers need to be aware of advertising's manipulation and take all advertising with a large grain of salt. Since children are impressionable, vulnerable and trusting, we need to tell them from a very early age, "Advertising is not to be trusted." A family could save thousands of dollars each year buying store brands, lesser known brands, used cars and used clothes, and still live at a very high standard of living.

When I was very young, I would tell my father about this great product I saw at the store. "They're just trying to sell you something," he would always say. My Dad, who was born in 1896 had seen mass advertising evolve from its earliest days. At the time I thought he was just an old codger. Now his attitude seems very modern.

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If you want to get the full low down on how advertising works, then buy Advertising Madness, A Survival Guide for a Consumer Society. Published by the non-profit Center for the Study of Commercialism, it is well documented with 15 pages of footnotes. While I don't consider it unbiased, it should start a fruitful discussion of our shared values and the proper place for advertising in our society.

Marketing Madness, Michael Jacobson and Laurie Ann Mazur, Westview Press.

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