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Description - Advertising the American Dream by Roland Marchand

It has become impossible to imagine our culture without advertising. But how and why did advertising become a determiner of our self-image? "Advertising the American Dream" looks carefully at the two decades when advertising discovered striking new ways to play on our anxieties and to promise solace for the masses. As American society became more urban, more complex, and more dominated by massive bureaucracies, the old American Dream seemed threatened. Advertisers may only have dimly perceived the profound transformations America was experiencing. However, the advertising they created is a wonderfully graphic record of the underlying assumptions and changing values in American culture. With extensive reference to the popular media - radio broadcasts, confession magazines, and tabloid newspapers - Professor Marchand describes how advertisers manipulated modern art and photography to promote an enduring "consumption ethic."

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780520058859
ISBN-10: 0520058852
Format: Paperback
(254mm x 178mm x 25mm)
Pages: 472
Imprint: University of California Press
Publisher: University of California Press
Publish Date: 18-Sep-1986
Country of Publication: United States

Other Editions - Advertising the American Dream by Roland Marchand

Book Reviews - Advertising the American Dream by Roland Marchand

US Kirkus Review » An in-depth study of how Americans between the two wars were persuaded to help advertisers achieve what one ad executive defined as the function of advertising - "to move merchandise." While that objective was no different from what it had been in earlier times, the ways of achieving it changed radically during the two decades dealt with in this book, a period in which American society became more urban and one in which more goods and services became available to more people than ever before. The greater variety and availability of these goods and services, however, did not mean that the consumer should be left unaided in choosing what he or she consumed. It was not enough to tell the buyer - mostly women - what a product's good qualities were. The product itself had to be invested with a kind of mystique or glamour, and one way of doing this was to show that it was consumed by the best people. European peeresses, for example, began showing up in ads in which they expressed partiality for a particular beauty product (Queen Marie of Rumania had a catholicity of tastes that embraced many products and never hesitated to extol their virtues). What ordinary woman, then, could resist buying what a queen or countess bought, overlooking the fact that they had been paid for the plug? And if there were those who could not be taken in by the blandishments of European aristocrats, could any mother be so heartless as to deny her child Cream of Wheat after seeing ads in the Ladies' Home Journal in which young Livingston Ludlow Biddle III, shown tricycling on his family's winter estate, was plainly glowing with health because the cereal was included in his diet? One product, however, the radio set, was reserved almost exclusively for the wealthy during the 1920s because of its cost; and radio itself, which in its early days aired programs of a distinctly highbrow nature, was not regarded by advertisers as a suitable medium for reaching a mass audience. In 1928 only 30% of American families owned a radio. But as sets became more affordable, programming became less uplifting and more entertaining, and it soon became apparent that radio had something that print lacked. "It was radio's special promise of intimacy that ultimately lured advertisers toward a mutual seduction," says the author, who teaches history at the University of California. With the coming of the Depression, advertising became less genteel and more hard-sell, with the ads themselves becoming more strident and art work more garish. The advertising industry itself became alarmed at the trend, especially when a magazine called Ballyhoo made its appearance and began lampooning the better-known ads and their testimonials. Movie star La Belle Zilch, the magazine noted, kept her girlish figure by bathing with "Lox Toilet Soap." Marchand does not say what happened to Ballyhoo, nor does the time-frame he has chosen allow him to deal with television commercials. A sequel seems assured. . .and needed. (Kirkus Reviews)


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Author Biography - Roland Marchand

Roland Marchand (1933-1997) was Professor of History at the University of California, Davis, and authored numerous works on American cultural history.

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