Study Guide

Watchmen Advertising

By Alan Moore

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In Alternate 1985, Veidt Enterprises pretty much has a monopoly over the ad-world. New York City is wallpapered with billboards and signs for his perfumes (Nostalgia and Millennium), action figures, and plans for self-improvement.

Take a page like X.5.4. In the foreground, Nite Owl is talking to Rorschach, but in the background, there are ads for the sold-out Pale Horse concert at Madison Square Garden as well as the Ozymandias Charity Show. Not only that, but there’s a political poster for Richard Nixon’s fifth reelection campaign. That can’t be legal, can it? All of these ads remind us that Watchmen’s America is a lot like our own… that whole fifth-term-for-Nixon bit aside.

Advertising makes up the background noise to our lives. Billboards are everywhere, commercials have almost as much airtime as TV shows, and popup ads litter the internet. You can certainly make a case for this being a bad thing, how nothing is sacred anymore except the mantra buy buy buy. But advertisers might counter that criticism by saying they just give us what we want and what we need. But is this kind of like when doctors used to advertise cigarettes as being good for you?

Just because there’s a sucker born every minute doesn’t let us off the hook. We have to be smart consumers and smart readers, so we can profit off what writers like Alan Moore are selling us.

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