Made You Look by Shari Graydon | Book Review

27 August 2013 by GrrlScientist, posted in Book review

SUMMARY: this educational, intelligent and thought-provoking look at advertising is targeted to young adults, but adults will find much to ponder in this book, too

Advertising: we all love to hate it. As American humourist, actor and cowboy Will Rogers wryly observed long ago: "Advertising is the art of convincing people to spend money they don't have for something they don't need."

But I wonder if Mr Rogers might have been astonished -- ok, maybe just a little bit surprised -- at the incredible barrage of advertising that pours into our lives every minute of every day on the radio and TV, in magazines, newspapers, on billboards, storefronts and signs lining our streets, in movie houses and in the movies themselves, on our clothing, on social media, video and videogames (even in our personal email accounts and smart phones as we walk down the street) -- and yes, even on live barnyard animals munching their way through green pastures alongside roadways. (What would he have thought of herding ad-cows?)

In this newly published edition of Shari Graydon's classic children's book, Made You Look: How Advertising Works and Why You Should Know [Annick Press; 2013 (revised): Amazon UK; Amazon US], the reader learns how to be a savvy consumer by becoming aware of the myriad clever and tricky ways that advertising insinuates itself into every waking moment of our lives.

Originally published ten years ago, this book has been revised and updated to include our online experiences. The author discusses some of the modern technologies and methods commonly used, such as digital tracking, browser cookies and undercover marketers to create targeted ads that invade facebook and other social media, your personal email -- and that even texts ads to your smart phone as you stroll past a store.

Perhaps not surprisingly, children are increasingly the targets of advertising (although this practice is illegal in a few countries). But like adults, children can become empowered consumers by learning the tricks of the trade, and this book, targeted to children of age eleven and older, is a powerful first step on that journey. But this book's appeal is not limited to children; it also is suitable reading for teens and adults, and is a rewarding guide for consumer education courses.

This readable and eye-opening book is filled with interesting questions that are helpful conversation-starters for classrooms and family dinner tables. The thoughtful and balanced presentation, clear explanations and entertaining real-life examples are a solid starting point for getting children -- and adults -- to think critically about the way that products are advertised.

If you suspect this book is anti-advertising or against consuming, you would be wrong. Instead, this book provides a fair and balanced view of what advertising is and why it works. The author explains the history and principles of advertising, explores the psychology of advertising, and she even tells us how to complain effectively (a transferrable skill that comes in handy in many non-advertising contexts too). Each chapter also includes activities that you can try at home or in the classroom.

Although the ideas and information are generally clearly presented and the writing was enjoyable, I was exasperated by several inexcusable formatting issues throughout the entire book, making me wonder whether the ebook was copy edited at all. Large awkward spaces appeared in the text at seemingly random intervals. I later sussed out that these spaces correspond to missing apostrophes, quotation marks and dashes (oddly, hyphens appeared without any problems). Diacritics, such as umlats, accents and tildas, were likewise replaced with large spaces, which was annoying and, when reading about "Pok mon cards" and "S o Paulo", quickly became incredibly distracting. Perhaps to make up for excess spacing in some sentences, other sentences had no spaces at all, effectively smashing the entire sentence into a gigantic "tapeworm word" rivaling anything that the Germans have invented.

Since I have not seen the hard copy of this book, it is possible that these issues are limited to the digital PDF, but it is worth checking this out before purchasing the book -- especially if you have a ready-to-rampage copy editor lurking inside your head, too. For these reasons, I certainly would NOT recommend the ebook to children, especially those who may already be struggling with reading. [NOTE: Joanna Karaplis, the Digital Development & Online Marketing Manager at Annick Press tells me the PDF that I read is not the final version for the ebook, so my comments may not apply -- GrrlScientist, 9 August 2013]

Despite my criticisms, this educational book is worth reading -- but definitely avoid carefully check the formatting of the ebook! This informative resource would be a valuable addition to classrooms and to school and public libraries. Despite being targeted to children, teens and adults will also find much to ponder in this engaging book.

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Disclaimer: This review is based on a PDF e-galley provided by NetGalley that was read using bluefire reader. GrrlScientist has no known connection to the book's author or illustrator. No compensation in any form was received from the publisher by GrrlScientist for this review. All images appear here by courtesy of the publisher.

NOTE: This book review is slightly edited from the original, which was written by GrrlScientist and published by the Guardian.

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Shari Graydon is a media literacy activist and writer. She taught media literacy at university and is a former president of MediaWatch, and she has written chapters for textbooks, newspaper columns, television programs and radio commentaries. She has written several young adult books about advertising. Married to author and historian, David Mitchell, she currently lives in Ottawa.

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Grrlscientist can also be found on on her eponymous Guardian blog, and she sometimes lurks on social media; facebook, G+, LinkedIn, Pinterest. She's quite active on twitter: @GrrlScientist

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