Advertising and Society, 2e

Benjamin Singer     

Captus Press, ISBN 978-1-895712-05-6 (1994)
260 pages, 350 g, 6 X 9, $27.50 (US$27.50)

Advertising has all but been ignored in sociological education and literature although it is concerned with such key concepts in sociology as the values and norms that guide human behaviour, the roles occupied by people and their status, the collective behaviour in which people engage, and the processes of social control. This book examines some of the most critical issues that arise from advertising's powerful role in society -- regulation, the effect of advertising on the economy, the motivational techniques used in advertising, the ethics of advertising professionals, and the abuse of power through "social advertising."

Part One examines the most relevant structural, historical, and economic issues. It provides insight into the present structure of advertising institutions: advertisers, advertising agencies, media, and control institutions. An historical analysis sheds light on the important role social forces such as technology have played in the evolution of advertising.

Part Two focuses on advertising's explicit and implicit mechanisms of social control. Four target groups are spotlighted: children, women, the elderly, and visible minorities. In our society, these are the groups with the least power to determine their own roles and the way in which those roles are to be perceived by them and by others. Because advertising generally reflects and reinforces the status quo, it has been a contentious force for these groups.

Part Three looks at the control exerted over advertising. It highlights such paradoxes as our society's encouragement of producers of alcoholic beverages and tobacco to market them, while applying complicated rules that restrict such efforts. Debates concerning professionals' advertising and the use of advertising to promote points of view of large institutions on social issues are also explored. Part Three concludes with an inquiry into the future of advertising.

Benjamin Singer has provided an up-to-date presentation of these issues which are essential to understanding contemporary Canadian and American societies. Selected illustrations underline the author's themes and provide a focus for class discussion. Advertising and Society is an ideal textbook for post-secondary courses and an excellent library resource.

Table of Contents   top


Exploring the Identity of Advertising

  • The Canadian Advertising System: A Structural View
  • Historical Factors in Advertising
  • The Economic Controversy
  • Reaching the Audience: Advertising as a Sociological Enterprise
  • People as Social Issues

    • Advertising and Children
    • Women and Advertising
    • The Missing Minorities: The Elderly and Visible Minorities in Advertising

    Social Problems and Advertising Norms

    • The Paradox of Promotion: The Advertising of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco
    • Who Should Advertise? Ethical Issues for Professionals
    • Social Advertising
    • Hitting Below the Threshold: Subliminal Advertising

    Epilogue: The Future of Advertising


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    About the Author   top

    Benjamin Singer is Professor of Sociology at the University of Western Ontario. He is author of many books including Black Rioters, Feedback and Society, Racial Factors in Psychiatric Intervention and Communications in Canadian Society. Various papers, written by him, on mass communications, futurism and the sociology of standards have also been published in North American and international journals.