Combining shrewd analysis of contemporary practices with a historical perspective, Breaking Up America traces the momentous shift that began in the mid-1970s when advertisers rejected mass marketing in favor of more aggressive target marketing. Turow shows how advertisers exploit differences between consumers based on income, age, gender, race, marital status, ethnicity, and lifesyles.
“An important book for anyone wanting insight into the advertising and media worlds of today. In plain English, Joe Turow explains not only why our television set is on, but what we are watching. The frightening part is that we are being watched as we do it.”—Larry King
“Provocative, sweeping and well made . . . Turow draws an efficient portrait of a marketing complex determined to replace the ’society-making media' that had dominated for most of this century with ’segment-making media' that could zero in on the demographic and psychodemographic corners of our 260-million-person consumer marketplace.”—Randall Rothenberg, Atlantic Monthly
Target marketing-the practice of pitching a narrow sales appeal to a specific demographic audience-is like a gated community: both are designed to appeal to an affluent few and to snub everyone else. In Breaking Up America, author Turow painstakingly details how target marketing exploits growing social divisions to maximize profits, and how, in doing so, it exacerbates these divisions. Utilizing data culled from books, interviews and trade journals, Turow spins a sobering tale of media manipulation. The rise of cable channels and niche magazines led to increased competition for audiences and, subsequently, to narrower "formats" designed to appeal to specific demographic profiles, primarily society's upper 20%, and to repel the remaining 80%. The result is a marketing strategy which consciously promotes and reinforces cultural divisiveness. Integral to these marketeers' strategy are stereotypes of race, gender, income and age. Turow is justifiably concerned; however, he does not adequately explain how, if advertisers deliberately rebuff the vast majority of consumers, this fractionalization pervades society as a whole. The intelligence and free will of the consumer are underplayed also, as if no one can see beyond the media's blatant button-pushing techniques. Breaking Up America is a well-researched, if depressing, look at the important phenomenon of target marketing and its impact on society.