Grand Theft Auto is a notoriously violent and controversial video game. Writes Bill Marsh at the New York Times:

Game players inhabit a gangster who is equipped to dispatch scores of rival criminals and others, including police officers and innocent bystanders, on the rough streets of Liberty City, the bullet-riddled stand-in for New York… The latest… allows players to hire prostitutes and then run them over or shoot them right after they’ve performed their work…

Here is a visual that compares the spectacular success of Grand Theft Auto (measured by units sold and profits) with the most successful music and movies:

This McDonald’s Is All Out Of “Boy Toys,” via The Consumerist

This “Onslaught” ad by Dove has garnered a lot of attention and positive press:

The idea, of course, is that we need to protect our daughters from the images that may harm their self-esteem or make them uncomfortable about their bodies. A great message, no doubt.

However, corporate activism usually has limits and contradictions (as do most things in life, really). Miguel sent us this ad spoof that points out that many of the images the Dove ad says we should be protecting our daughters from are actually used in Axe ads–and Axe is owned by Unilever, the same company that owns Dove.

So Unilever manages to target both markets–those who respond to sexualized images and those who find them harmful–through different brands. This is a common tactic–because large multinational companies own so many different brands, they can market to many different groups of consumers; when we reject one product because of its production process or advertising and buy another instead, there’s a very good chance we’re buying from the same corporate entity, just a different brand name.

As one blogger nicely put it:

It’s a parent’s responsibility to make sure the damaging messages they themselves produce don’t reach your kids.

That is, Dove is telling parents to protect their kids, as if Dove CARES, but Dove’s parent company is producing those very same messages. (It’s kind of like a single corporation owning a beer company and running Alcoholics Anonymous. How very convenient for both.)

A commenter pointed out that Greenpeace made an ad based on Dove’s “Onslaught” commercial that brings up the effects of palm oil production in the destruction of forests in Indonesia:

Thanks, Dangger!

NEW: There is a terrific post at Moment of Choice about one woman’s experience auditioning for a Dove Real Woman commercial. From the post:

Under the guise of looking for women who felt truly comfortable in their own skin, no matter what they looked like, they asked us to bare all or most of it, to prove just how comfortable we really were…A young peppy assistant demonstrated how they wanted us to shake our hands in the air like we just didn’t care and do a full 360 for the camera and male judging panel.

It’s a fascinating inside look at a process most of us never take part in, and reinforces the fact that corporate activism often covers an awful lot of business-as-usual behind the scenes.

Jane created this awesome visual of how brands inhabit our lives, from dawn until dusk:

Thanks to Kevin for sending it along!

I use this set of engagement ring ads, though any set would do, to illustrate the way in which ads have to sell much more than just the product. To sell an engagement ring, these ads also are selling: monogamy and the pair bond; marriage as the proper way to cement that bond; love, and love as a basis for marriage; the need for a symbol of commitment and a ring (a diamond ring specifically, apparently platinum preferably) as that symbol; men’s role as financial provider and decider (in that he buys the ring and proposes); the importance of the proposal (it needs to be a surprise and an event in itself); the importance of an expensive ring (i.e., “Does he know how much I really love him?”); and… what else?


Text: “When you can truly be yourselves. Your love has just gone Platinum.”


Text: “Tacori: A symbol of unending love”


Text: “Never compromise… when asking someone to spend the rest of their life with you.”


Text: “Platinum. For a lifetime of love. Platinum’s purity endows it with a natural white luster which allows the true radiance of your diamond to shine. As uncommon as true love, platinum is 35 times rarer than gold. Like the bond between you, platinum will hold your diamond securely now and for always.”


She asks: “Does he know how much I really love him?”

Under the image: “With love comes questions. The right diamond shouldn’t be one of them.”


Text: “For one moment the world is spinning around her.”

Here’s an ad for earrings that has the same message about love:


This interactive chart in the NYT uses shapes to represent how much the average American spends in different categories. Larger shapes make up a larger part of spending; colors show changes in prices from March 2007 to March 2008. Red means an increase in the relative cost, light tan and white relative stability, and blue a decrease.

Note from Gwen: Since it was causing some people with Firefox problems, I’m changing it so you have to click to see it, rather than having it come up automatically when you visit the site. Hope this helps.


Worldmapper offers maps in which the actual land area is morphed to represent various disproportionalities across the globe. The website has over 300 maps! Thanks 73man for the tip!

I borrowed a few examples and pasted them in below. The first map is an actual land area map for reference.

Territory size shows the proportion of worldwide net exports of toys (in US$) that come from there. Net exports are exports minus imports. When imports are larger than exports the territory is not shown.

Territory size shows the proportion of worldwide net imports of toys (in US$) that are received there. Net imports are imports minus exports. When exports are larger than imports the territory is not shown.

Territory size shows the proportion of carbon dioxide emissions in 1980 that were directly from there.

Territory size shows the proportion of all territory level decreases in carbon dioxide emissions between 1980 and 2000, that occurred there.

Territory size shows the proportion of state military spending worldwide that was spent by that territory in 2002.

Territory size shows the proportion of species worldwide that became extinct between 1500 current era and 2004, that became extinct there.

Territory size shows the proportion of all people over 15 in the world living with diabetes who live there.

Territory size shows the proportion of all people aged 15-49 with HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) worldwide, living there.

See more alternative maps here.


Consumption as sport:

Thanks Miguel!

Lisa Wade, PhD is an Associate Professor at Tulane University. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture; a textbook about gender; and a forthcoming introductory text: Terrible Magnificent Sociology. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.