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.
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Advertising the American Dream: Making Way for Modernity, 1920-1940
Daniel Horowitz, Roland Marchand. Most users should sign in with their email address. If you originally registered with a username please use that to sign in. To purchase short term access, please sign in to your Oxford Academic account above. Don't already have an Oxford Academic account? Oxford University Press is a department of the University of Oxford.
Using three highly successful campaigns as examples, Marchand illustrates why the early twenties were a turning point in advertising. However, any hope they may have had of uplifting their consumers through advertising itself or media in general—early radio, a high moral tone—foundered in reality. Radio moved from a sponsorship-only model to being heavily commercialized; advertisers reacted to saturation in magazines and newspapers by making their ads more like the editorial surrounding them including the down-scale funny papers and no topic was off limits for a sales pitch. Marchand then begins a series of close readings of the ads themselves, uncovering general themes running across categories during the s and early s, beginning with a look at how advertising encouraged increased consumption through an evocation of visual style. Another way that advertising addressed these dilemmas was through parables that illustrated a problem, then presented the product as the solution. The Democracy of Goods found class equality through a universal status as a consumer.
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