Susan Strasser, Satisfaction Guaranteed: The Making of the American Mass Market, Washington: Smithsonian Books (1989): 30, 57.
Strasser, 34-35.Marcel Danesi, Brands, New York: Routledge (2006): 36.
Roland Marchand,Advertising the American Dream: Making Way for Modernity, Berkeley: University of California Press (1985): 165, 181-184.
Marchand, 167.Thomas Frank, The Conquest of Cool, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press (1997): 4-5.
American Advertising: A Survey, by Jacob Gindi
AMERICAN ADVERTISING: A SURVEYA mini-exhibit for the Smithsonian Institute’s ―American Enterprise‖ Jacob Gindi December, 2011 Brown University
INTRODUCTION: HOW DOES ADVERTISING WORK?Since the late 19th century, advertising has developed into one of the world’smost versatile modes of communication. In its evolution from primitive textualpromotions in newspapers to visually stimulating print ads, to radio spots, totelevision commercials, and finally to digital, mobile, and social media,advertising has shaped and reflected many aspects of modern society.In its early days, advertising allowed for the creation of the American massmarket by standardizing selling practices and enhancing consumerism. Whenmass production became widespread across the United States, newtechnologies led to standardized goods, bringing about uniform packaging andbranding. By the 1920’s, Americans became fully acquainted with consumerism,and advertising campaigns began to make social commentaries, sellingappealing lifestyles rather than the goods themselves.
INTRODUCTION (CONT.)Throughout the 1940’s and 50’s, advertisements grew more lavish and excessive untilmany Americans became fed up with consumerism. In swept 1960’s advertising rebelssuch as Bill Bernbach, who created ads that corresponded with anti-advertisingsentiments and the Counterculture movement of the 1960’s. Over the next few decades,advertising began to appeal to and accept free thinkers and creative individuals. Nolonger did ads call for a homogenous middle-class, but rather they stressedindividualistic strength and ―coolness.‖Common throughout all advertising, from its inception to the present, is the desire tocreate a desirable ―brand identity.‖ Everything from a brand’s name and logo to itsadvertising campaigns contributes to the psychological and cultural symbolism andconnotations of a product. Advertising, throughout its evolution, has worked through thesynthesis and collaboration of advertisers and consumers to create, perceive, spread,and sell branded products in the American capitalist market.
MALTA-VITA ADVERTISEMENT, 1900 This ad for Malta-Vita cereal shows an early attempt at branding in the new American mass market. Although still very heavy on text like earlier non-graphic ads, the large image and heading give this advertisement visual gravity. The repetition of the brand name in the text demonstrates that consumers still needed to be conditioned to respond to specific brands, as they were gradually growing accustomed to buying standardized goods from large manufacturers rather than individual storekeepers. For manufacturers, this type of branding offered a more controllable market, since differentiation allowed the possibility of consumer goodwill and protection against competition. Newspaper ad for cereal. ―The Perfect Food‖ Agency: N.W. Ayer & Son
MOTHER’S OATS ADVERTISEMENT, 1900 This ad for Mother’s Oats cereal was released in the same year as the Malta-Vita ad by the same agency, yet its format is completely different, indicating experimentation and diversity among ads from the early 20th century. The main focus of this ad, unlike Malta-Vita, is not to excessively describe the product or its quality, but rather to offer premiums (in this case, free color prints of the pictures from the ad). Many companies believed that premiums were the most effective way to gain consumer loyalty and to proliferate their brand name, yet ―premium‖ products tended to be targeted towards poorer consumers, while higher quality products proudly claimed to refuse the use of premiums.Newspaper ad for cereal. ―Raises Nice Boys‖Agency: N.W. Ayer & Son
NABISCO ADVERTISEMENT, 1902 This lithograph ad for NABISCO is completely devoid of text, emphasizing its singular focus—weatherproof packaging. Standardized packaging was a new phenomenon at the turn of the century, and most Americans bought their edible goods out of barrels from a storekeeper, only trusting foods that they could taste beforehand. Advertisers felt they had to promote ―product education‖ in order to gain consumer trust and to stress the practicality and convenience of packaging. This also helped to build a brand image that would become recognizable to the public, suggesting connotations such as ―sturdy‖ and ―dependable.‖ Color card ad for NABISCO. Boy Camping Agency: N.W. Ayer & Son
MILO CIGARETTES, 1918Once the American mass market was firmlyestablished and customers weresuccessfully and willingly transformed intoconsumers, marketers began emphasizingappealing lifestyles rather than products.They began to depict social tableaux, whichportrayed ―ideal‖ modern consumers thatreaders were meant to envy and/or admire.This Milo Cigarettes ad depicts a modernwoman typical of many advertisements ofthe time. The woman’s extremely thin andtall proportions, reminiscent of ―Art Decofigurines,‖ were common symbols ofelegance and high social status. Description: Inimitable Fragrance N.W. Ayer & Son
KELLOGG’S – RICE KRISPIES, 1930 This Rice Krispies ad depicts a social tableau of the modern mother-daughter relationship. Many ads from the 1920’s-30’s addressed the struggles of motherhood and promised to make a mother’s job easier. This ―parable of the captivated child‖ promised to enchant defiant children with a healthy/beneficial product that a mother could allow. Although the daughter in this ad does not appear to be defiant, the mother- child relationship is emphasized and depicted in an extremely positive light, connoting happiness, enchantment, and peace. Description: ―Mother, Listen! It talks out loud!‖ Agency: N.W. Ayer & Son
LUX SOAP, 1940This ad for Lux Soap shows the degree ofextravagance and excess in advertisingpractices of the 1940’s and 50’s. Sinceadvertisers saw themselves as ―apostlesof modernity,‖ they felt they had to spreadthe ideal and/or perfect modern life. RitaHayworth is a prime example of bothperfection and modernity, as she was afashionable movie star, beloved for hertalent and looks. This ad fantasticallyoffers the consumer the possibility oftransforming herself into this beauty. Thisexaggerated, unrealistic, and inaccurate(―9 out of 10 screen stars use Lux ToiletSoap‖) type of advertisement began tocreate unrest and widespread annoyancewith consumer culture by the 1960’s.Rita Hayworth for Lux SoapAgency: Unknown
VOLKSWAGEN – THINK SMALL, 1959 DDB’s famous ―Think Small‖ campaign for Volkswagen challenged advertising norms. As opposed to most automobile ads, which emphasized a car’s size and power, this campaign humorously called out the VW’s compact and unattractive design. This minimalistic, straightforward, and honest ad was able to identify the general distaste for over-the-top advertising (e.g. Lux’s Rita Hayworth ad) and appeal to those tired of the American consumer culture. This campaign anticipated a larger trend of advertisers to take advantage of anti-consumerist sentiments and to use the rebellious counterculture as positive capitalist fuel. Magazine reprint. ―ThinkSmall‖ Agency: Doyle Dane Bernbach
PEPSI, 1965This BBDO ad for Pepsi continued in thesame vein as DDB’s Volkswagen campaignby co-opting and taking advantage of theCounterculture movement. With the ―PepsiGeneration‖ ads, BBDO literally invented afictional youth movement in order to exciteconsumers, and to allow them to become apart of hip culture. Although theCounterculture was centered around anti-consumerism, Pepsi offered an ―easy wayout‖ for consumers—this campaign allowedthem to take part in a youth movement withoutthe inconvenience of refraining fromconsumerism. By connecting the Pepsi brandwith words like ―lively‖ and ―energetic,‖ BBDOhoped to excite consumers to join theirartificial yet appealing ―generation.‖ Pepsi – Come Alive Agency: Batton, Barton, Durstine, and Osborne
NIKE ADVERTISEMENT, 1991 This Nike ad, like the earlier Kellogg’s Rice Krispies ad, depicts a mother-daughter relationship. This ad, however, champions individualism, parental inspiration, and even rebellion. The campaign as a whole advocated for women as athletes and individuals, and borrowed influence from the Creative Revolution to capture rather than control human emotions. This ad, rather than speaking materialistically, speaks directly to one’s identity, creating a brand image of understanding, support, and encouragement.Nike: You do not have to be your mother…Agency: Weiden-Kennedy
Works Cited:Danesi, Marcel. Brands. New York: Routledge, 2006.Dávila, Arlene. Latinos, Inc.: the marketing and making of a people. Berkeley, CA:University of California Press, 2001.Frank, Thomas. The conquest of cool: business culture, counterculture, and therise of hip consumerism. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997.Marchand, Roland. Advertising the American dream: making way for modernity,1920-1940. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985.Schudson, Michael. Advertising, the uneasy persuasion: its dubious impact onAmerican society. New York: Basic Books, 1984.Strasser, Susan. Satisfaction guaranteed: the making of the American massmarket. New York: Pantheon Books, 1989.