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The United States of Advertising

The United States of Advertising

Four weeks, six cities, and a million, million ads, Aarti Nagraj takes readers on a tour of America’s advertising terrain for Communicate magazine.


September 24, 2009 1:10 by

In the end, the only advertisement that managed to tempt me in my month long US vacation was the one for curly fries at Arby’s. And restraint like that is quite an achievement, trust me.

The US defines consumerism.  From the time I stepped out of the airport, the ads invaded my space. The huge billboards on the roads, the endless TV and radio ads, the handouts on the streets; all of them travelled with me as I crossed the country to visit six major cities.

From the new spicy chicken in Wendy’s and the succulent steak at the local steakhouse, to the strawberry strudgel from Pillsbury and Domino’s pizza wars, food occupies a pretty (un)healthy portion of the ad space. “Eat, eat, eat,” they seem to say, and looking at people in the US, one can safely assume that the ads have fallen on willing ears (or more accurately, stomachs).

Obesity is rampant in the country, and according to a recent study by RTI International, an agency dealing with healthcare research, the prevalence of obesity in the US increased by 37 percent between 1998 and 2006.

Having succeeding in making people fat, marketers are now also earning their crust by advertising ways to make them thin. Miraculous pills for weight-loss, diets that are “guaranteed” to work, and personal trainers all occupy another substantial portion of the US ad market (with pictures of successful smiling users, naturally).

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