Saturday, February 05, 2005

Sick Super Bowl Sunday and the conspicious consumer

Rah, Rah, The Money
"Like those who worship the sun, Americans who worship football, money and excess take this opportunity in dead of winter to pay tribute to the notion that sheer waste is the highest form of display. Thorstein Veblen would love this validation of his theories explaining the behavior of the leisure classes. The only major difference is that by the end of the 20th century the leisured classes have grown to become the leisured society.

At the turn of the previous millennium, Veblen described the styles of conspicuous consumption, conspicuous leisure and conspicuous waste as the means by which the leisured classes display their wealth to one another and to the lesser beings in their society. On a planet plagued by collapsed and collapsing economies, the ravages of war and malnutrition, and the human struggle for survival, the level of consumption at this time each year challenges the boundaries of the merely vulgar and obscene. With the maturing of the Super Bowl into a national festival, the upper classes display their wealth to one another while America itself displays its wealth to the world."

"Super Bowl Sunday is truly a great day - a tribute to American life as we enter this new millennium; a notice given to the rest of the world about who has the wealth and who aims to keep it; an invitation to all to share vicariously in the pleasures of imperial decadence during the high holy days of the American Century. No wonder Norman Vincent Peale once said, "If Jesus were alive today, he would be at the Super Bowl.

Finally, it should be noted that Ordinary Americans do not resent this spectacle of waste done largely at the taxpayers expense (nearly all costs are tax write-offs as business expenses), but rather it is admired and vicariously shared via the media, who dutifully report the excesses and extravagance. It is, of course, all good clean fun and it gets bigger, better and more excessive every year.

Proving once again that Welfare for the Rich can be fun."

"Christiansen Capital Advisors, a leading management consulting and market research firm servicing the gaming and entertainment industries, estimates that between $375-400 million will be bet on the Super Bowl through online sports books alone, an increase of between $50-75 million from 2002.

Compared to the $71.6 million wagered with land-based sports books in Las Vegas in 2003, online gambling is rapidly gaining popularity and acceptance among consumers throughout the United States."

How Stuff Works
"Americans double their average daily snack food consumption on Super Bowl Sunday. Let's take a look at what Americans are eating while they watch the big game:

* 30.4 million pounds of snack foods
* 11 million pounds of potato chips
* 13.2 million pounds of avocados
* 8.2 million pounds of tortilla chips
* 4.3 million pounds of pretzels
* 3.8 million pounds of popcorn
* 2.5 million pounds of snack nuts"

Source: Snack Food Association

How effective is advertising?
"How much did an advertiser pay for a 30 second spot on the last Super Bowl broadcast?

According to Advertising Age, January 12, 2004, $2,250,000 ($2.25 million).

To put that $2.25 million into some perspective, think about this. In 2000, the average teacher in the U.S. earned $36,972. At that rate, if one advertiser decided to forego one 30 second ad on the Super Bowl, s/he could pay the salaries of 60 new teachers for one school year. There were 54 thirty second in-game ad spots available during the Super Bowl broadcast. That means if we took the money that advertisers spent during that one program (approximately 3 to 4 hours long), we could pay the average yearly salaries of an additional 3,286 teachers in the U.S. That raises the question of what is more important to the nation, one afternoon's ads on one broadcast, or yearly salaries for 3,286 teachers. Looking at the advertisers' side, we need to remember that the money we spend on the products and services advertised goes to support people who might be out of work if we didn't spend that money. How many they are, and how much they earn, I can't say. Maybe we should know that too."

Don't Forget the Dip
"The teams and fans aren't the only ones who eagerly look forward to the Super Bowl. Super Bowl Sunday is also a favorite day of restaurants, bars, and food retailers. A long television program, plus a gathering of friends of family equals lots of food being eaten. Only Thanksgiving surpasses Super Bowl Sunday for one-day food consumption in America, according to the American Institute of Food Distribution."

% of the adult U.S. population (ages 20+) classified as overweight (a body mass index (BMI) equal to or greater than 27.8 for men, and 27.3 for women)
1976-80: 25.4% 1988-94: 38.4% 1998: 55.3%

Source: Statistical Abstract of the United States

"It is probably not coincidental that the leading restaurant, food and beverage companies spent nearly $11.5 billion in 2002 to convince us to eat and drink their products. That amounted to just under $4.8 billion more than they spent in 1996 (source: Advertising Age, Leading National Advertisers issues). While I don't have the numbers for the years leading up to 1996 in front of me, I feel confident in saying that they have increased steadily; probably matching the increase in our weights, and the changes in our beverage consumption patterns.

How many ads do you think you are exposed to on an average day?

3,000 according to Eli Noam ("Visions of the Media Age: Taming the Information Monster", in Multimedia: A Revolutionary Challenge) quoted in Data Smog by David Shenk. This is up from 560 per day in 1971.

* Advertising helps to keep consumers dissatisfied with their mode of life, discontented with "ugly" things around them. Satisfied customers are not as profitable as discontented ones. While the products may differ, the message is the same: Buying Things will make your life better."


* Television has so successfully spread the religion of conspicuous consumption, that the world consumed as many goods and services since 1950 (the launching of TV) as had all previous generations put together.1

* North American children in 1995 spent over $10 billion and influenced over $150 billion worth of family purchases.1

* Since the 1950's global advertising spending per capita has steadily increased from $15 to $50 per person.1

* Every year the average American child watches 40,000 TV commercials.1

* The New York Timesestimates that the average American is exposed to 3,500 ads a day.

Impacts of Consumer Society
* If all the world's people lived like today's North Americans, it would take two additional planet Earths' to produce enough resources and to absorb the wastes.

* Each American produces about 4.3 pounds of trash every day. The total waste generated by Americans every day fills 63,000 garbage trucks.

* Reducing waste and recycling saves energy and slows global warming, it also reduces water pollution, acid rain and the soil erosion caused by logging.


Lo said...

Was there supposed to be a point to your first article? ;)

Bouncie said...

I thought that was rather obvious. Americans consume too much, especially on days like the Super Bowl.

Lo said...

What's "too much"? I got that you stated your opinion, but how is anyone supposed to believe on a qualitative basis that that observation is valid? What are the appropriate amounts the free market (i.e., the consuming public) is supposed to consume?

Let me restate your thesis: *people stimulate the economy too much on Stupor Bowl Sunday*. Gasp. No! ;)

Bouncie said...

Americans consume too much in comparison to Third World countries.

Lo said...

They also produce "too much" in comparison to Third World countries. We also have too much clean water, sanitation, and medical care, in comparison to Third World companies. I don't see the point in comparing a successful country to non-successful countries. The only reason to make such comparisons is to insinuate -- without actually saying so -- that the US's consumptiveness directly hurts other countries; and that's drifting into unpleasant socialistic ideas of global redistrubution of wealth.

We have no moral or legal right to tell other Americans what they should or should not consume; imprimus, because it's their individual choice (none of that "the culture/society/advertising made them do it!" or such nonsense), and secundus, because it stimulates the economy as a whole. ;)

Bouncie said...

"We have no moral or legal right to tell other Americans what they should or should not consume"

But commercials are exempt? Telling and forcing are two different things.

"Let me restate your thesis: *people stimulate the economy too much on Stupor Bowl Sunday*. Gasp. No!;)"

Give me a break. It could easily be argued that the reason for the obesity rate is directly related to how much America consumes. Of course, people have a right to decide for themselves. As well as do the statisticians who pull up these alarming figures. Without them, I'd still be eating that same diet the American market promotes.

"The only reason to make such comparisons is to insinuate -- without actually saying so -- that the US's consumptiveness directly hurts other countries; and that's drifting into unpleasant socialistic ideas of global redistrubution of wealth."

I'll give you that one.