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Opinion

Branding battles result in billion dollar spending, product pushing

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September 25, 2008

How many dollars do we spend annually on advertising, and to what ends? After asking myself this question I decided to try and get to the bottom of it. I did a quick Web search and found a Web site called adage.com, which may be familiar to some business and marketing majors.

Though it is a somewhat complicated and messy Web site, it has some very useful information, such as market data for the annual amount of money spent on advertising, which was my goal in the first place. I went down to the “Marketer Family Trees” section which documents the amount and what kind of spending by the top 100 companies in America.

There were no cut and dried statistics as to just how much money was being spent overall, so I decided to do a little math of my own and added the first ten companies spending totals together to reach an amount larger than $11 billion.

Now I felt a little closer to the answer and could now make an educated guess that the United States was spending somewhere over $110 billion dollars a year on advertising. The list was ordered alphabetically, so the numbers should be representational of the average, as the standings were staggered.

To me this amount is shocking and suggests a reality which can be upsetting. Perhaps if some of that money could be better appropriated, it would not have led me to such disdain for the media and advertising. However, I could come to only one conclusion, that the mass media is constantly pushing new advertising on us and trying to cram new and “advantageous” products down our throats, with little or no real benefit to society. The Gap alone spent nearly $400 million on advertising in 2007.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am all for capitalism and free markets, but society is coming to a point where profit margins are becoming more important than humanity. It seems that now what you buy defines who you are, and this seems entirely contrary to the natural order of humanity. With something as simple as clothing, many people fall under the false assumption that clothing style represents a group – as though no matter what, each person should constantly be seeking affirmation as a part of the group, and it is entirely plausible that today our idea of what it is to be a “group” and what these groups mean to us are not notions created by us, for us, but created by a mass marketing machine built to sell, sell, sell.

Does anyone else find it disturbing that we separate ourselves from each other based on labels created by external forces? It is as though we are all islands in a vast ocean – interconnected by our foundations, but all with different features so we are afraid to cross the water and meet someone new simply because advertising has told us that “this island is scary,” or “this island will hurt you,” or “this one will reject you.” Our islands are being connected in more ways than we have ever imagined – from the television to the radio to the cable, yet it is possible that we need to be looking closer at these outside influences and how closely they are affecting our lives.

Zachary D. Hauser generally spends his time forming opinions, though when he’s not doing that, he’s trying his damndest to destroy them.

 

<b>Zach Hauser</b> is a student at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls.