Book Review: Made You Look

Reading Level

Ages 9-12

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This cool new book from Annick Press can be a focus for kids of all ages, but older readers are the target.

Illustrated entertainingly by Warren Clark, this book goes behind the superficiality of advertising to reveal the philosophy behind the intense to get consumers to "buy, buy, buy." And the examples are ones that kids will recognize, like product placements in Saturday morning cartoons and movies that are merely hourlong ads. In so doing, the author reveals many truths that readers might not realize:

  • Television ads that make food look so good are misleading in that the food is usually covered with inedible substances to make the food look more appearling. For example, a hamburger might be covered with petroleum jelly to make it shimmer more under the harsh lights of a TV camera recorder or glue might be used in a bowl of cereal so that the cereal doesn't get soggy in milk.
  • In the same way, a toy or electronic device or even a car will look so appealing in an ad that features a certain price; then, when the consumer goes to make the purchase, he or she discovers that the featured item doesn't match the featured price.
  • Media outlets (newspapers, radio stations, and TV stations) owe their livelihood in large part to advertisers, and this means that sometimes "news" is really "advertorial," meaning that large companies sometimes find themselves getting more exposure from a so-called news item that is really an ad. If Coca-Cola or Pepsi unveils a new formula, that is sure to be news and covered as such, when it really is just an ad.

Product placement is a huge business today, especially in movies and on TV. The author asks readers to play a game when watching favorite programs or movies: Count how many scenes contain brand-name products.

The book is filled to the brim with examples of the power—subliminal or blatant—of advertising. Studies have estimated that a typical American consumer can be subjected to 16,000 ads a day, including bumper stickers, notices on telephone poles, logos on clothing, refrigerator magnets, and posters on school and business walls.

One thing the author does really well is issue calls to action. The reader is presented with many examples of how people have made a difference in the world of advertising (including complaining about ads that they found offensive, resulting in the elimination of the ad). Graydon also includes a handy list of "Official Do's and Don'ts" specified by the advertising regulations, so that readers can make informed choices about the legality of what they are seeing, and a list of contact information for advertising regulation organizations (including both mail and website addresses).

Another selling point is that the book focuses on both the U.S. and Canada, pointing out the similarities and differences in both advertising strategies and regulation. Since many readers in both countries undoubtedly see crossover, this information is very helpful in making an informed decision.

Written especially for older kids but also useful for adults, this book is a wonderful insight into the power of advertising and the (sometimes subliminal) ways that it works.

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Social Studies for Kids
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David White