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In our society, advertising is institutional propaganda at its most obvious level. It serves as a constant reminder that we are being bombarded with messages intended to bring us to a certain point of view or behavior. Yet, we can only absorb so much of what we are expected to, and so we have learned to cope with this enormous information overload. We may look but not really see the television commercial, we may listen but not really hear the radio jingle, and we leaf by print advertisements without paying attention. But every so often, we do see or hear or read, and this is what is intended by the creators of advertising. From the more than 2,000 “messages” we are exposed to every day, we remember at most only about 80 (Heilbroner, 1985).
More than 33,000 nationally advertised brands are for sale in the United States. It is the job of the advertisers (and their appointed advertising agencies) to make their brands stand out from the rest, and so we are inundated with advertising campaigns extolling the specific virtues of individual products, services, institutions, or individuals. In 1997, nearly $200 billion was spent on advertising expenditures in the United States. In 2007, this had increased to $279 billion. This was for all types of advertising, and advertising services, from $1,000,000 commercials on the Super Bowl telecast to the classified advertisements in the local neighborhood newspaper. However, the economic recession, which hit the United States in 2008, resulted in a dramatic decline in advertising expenditures of an estimated 12.3% in 2009 (“Kantar Media,” 2010).