Book Review: 101 Things I Learned In Advertising School

101 Things I Learned In Advertising School, by Tracy Arrington with Matthew Frederick

[Note:  This book was provided free of charge by Net Gallery.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.]

I’m not familiar with the series that this book is a part of, but judging from what the book says, it is likely that the series as a whole is at least somewhat polarizing if this book is any indication.  My own feelings about advertising and marketing are somewhat ambivalent, but this book does a good jot, for the most part, at presenting the high road in giving advertising legitimacy by providing the means by which people who have goods and services to offer make others aware of that fact in ways that encourage their bottom line.  I see nothing inherently illegitimate about advertising, but feel it necessary to recognize that much of it is unethical and manipulative in its nature [1].  The authors of this book–and it seems as if the cowriter is given credit mainly because he was the one who created the series rather than for being the main author–do a good job at drawing interest to this book through their mostly good-natured sense of humor about advertising.  Other than a particularly saucy and daring quotation from Hitler about the nature of propaganda and its audience, this book manages to take the high road and defend ethics and truth-telling in advertising to a high degree.

In terms of its contents this book is short and straightforward to a high degree.  Each of the 101 things that the author(s) learned in Advertising school are introduced with some sort of provocative visual and there is usually some sort of provocative quotation or short discussion about it.  This is not a book that aims at great depth but it certainly is the start of book that can start a conversation with the reader about the nature of advertising and marketing efforts that certainly deserves to be had.  What is the value of brokers and middlemen in general?  What are the alternatives to advertising efforts, and are there ways that advertisers can improve their rather pitiful reputation among an increasingly cynical general public?  How can much of the clutter that the authors talk about in advertising be removed for the benefit of everyone involved except for those business which profit from the proliferation of intrusive and often irritating advertisement?  This book does not definitely answer such fairly obvious questions but does at least provide a pro-advertising point of view that ought to inspire some sort of comment and response among many readers, which is likely what it was meant to do.

Even so, at the end of the day I find it hard simply to buy the arguments of the author(s) in favor of advertising.  The authors seem to want to do a great deal in a somewhat superficial way here, and much of it is certainly interesting and some of it downright ironic, such as the insight that advertising agencies do not themselves advertise, except indirectly through the marketing campaigns that they work on for others.  The book also praises companies whose reputations have fallen a bit on hard times, like that on Dove with recent advertising that has been deemed racist.  Those who want something to argue with or respond to will find much of interest here.  Those whose views are favorable to marketers and advertisers will also find much of interest here, but I wonder if this book is designed more to preach to the choir in a highly polarized atmosphere concerning advertising and marketing and to provoke debate with those who are opposed to the authors’ worldview than it is to provide the means for a convincing argument in favor of their worldview.  At least some of this book appears an awful lot like trolling, especially the quotation from Mein Kempf and its reference to 9/11 truthers that are its most controversial comments/insights.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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4 Responses to Book Review: 101 Things I Learned In Advertising School

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