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Advertising in the USA


Advertising was already a well-established phenomenon by the turn of the twentieth century. American newspapers had begun carrying ads as far back as the early 1700s and magazines had soon followed. By 1850, the country had its first advertising agency, the American Newspaper Advertising Agency, though its function was to buy advertising space rather than come up with creative campaigns. "To advertise" originally carried the sense of to broadcast or disseminate news. Thus a nineteenth-century newspaper that called itself The Advertiser meant that it had lots of news, not lots of ads. By the early 1800s the term had been stretched to accommodate the idea of spreading the news of the availability of certain goods or services. In the sense of persuading members of the public to acquire items they didn't know they needed - advertising is a phenomenon of the modern age.

By the 1890s advertising was appearing everywhere. Very early on, advertisers discovered the importance of a good slogan. Sometimes slogans took a little working on. Coca-Cola described itself as 'the drink that makes a pause refreshing' before realizing, in 1929, that "the pause that refreshes' was rather more succinct and memorable. A slogan could make all the difference to a product’s success. After advertising its soap an efficacious way of dealing with “conspicuous nose pores”, Woodbury’s facial soap came up with a slogan “The skin you love to touch” and won the hearts of millions. The great thing about a slogan was that it didn't have to be accurate to be effective. Heinz never actually had '57 varieties' of anything. The catchphrase arose simply because H.J. Heinz, the company's founder, decided he liked the sound of the number. Undeterred by considerations of verity, he had the slogan slapped on every one of the products he produced, which in 1896 was already far more than fifty-seven.

Early in the 1900s, advertisers discovered another perennial feature of marketing - the giveaway.

Consumers soon became acquainted with the irresistibly tempting notion that if they bought a particular product they could expect a reward - the chance to win prizes, to receive a free book or to get a free sample. Typical of the genre was a turn-of-the-century tome called The Vital Question Cook Book, which was promoted as an aid to livelier meals, but which proved upon receipt to contain 112 pages of recipes, all involving the use of Shredded Wheat. Many of these had a certain air of desperation about them, notably the 'Shredded Wheat Biscuit Jellied Apple Sandwich' and the 'Creamed Spinach on Shredded Wheat Biscuit Toast'. Almost all in fact involved nothing more than putting some everyday food on to a piece of shredded wheat and giving it an inflated name. None the less, the company distributed no fewer than four million copies of The Vital Question Cook Book to eager consumers.

But the great breakthrough in the twentieth-century advertising came with the identification and exploitation of the American consumer's Achilles heel: anxiety. One of the first to master the form was King Gillette, inventor of the first safety razor and one of the most relentless advertisers of the early 1990s. Most of the early ads featured Gillette himself. After starting with a few jaunty words about the ease and convenience of the safety razor - 'Compact? Rather!' - he plunged the reader into the heart of the matter: 'When you use my razor you are exempt from the dangers that men often encounter who allow their faces to come in contact with brush, soap and barber shop accessories used on other people.'

Here was an entirely new approach to selling goods. Gillette's ads were in effect telling you that not only did there exist a product that you never previously suspected you needed, but if you didn't use it you would very possibly attract a crop of facial diseases you never knew existed. The combination proved irresistible.

Fear is the biggest weapon of all. The consumer is literally scared into spending his money when he is reminded that that he may die to morrow and leave his family unprovided for. The bait dangled before his nose is security, and he is gripped with fear when he compares his miserable lot with that of a smiling healthy-looking man in the advertisement, who was provident enough to do all the right things at the right time.

The softest spot is our vanity. We are flattered and coaxed until we almost believe that we have the makings of potential film stars, providing of course, that we use … Sometimes the methods employed are even more subtle. They persuade us that we are superior to other people and it is time we realise that.

All the advertisements have one thing in common: they make strong appeal to our emotions. No one can seriously pretend to remain unaffected by adverts. No matter how hard we resist, clever little tunes and catch-phrases seep into our subconscious minds and stay there. It is impossible to turn a blind eye to the pressing offers to buy this or that and to avoid being helpless victims as we tune in to our favourite radio and television programmes.

No amount of logical argument can convince so much as this assault on our emotions. When a crunchy, honey-filled chocolate bar stares up at you from a glossy page, what else can you do but rush out and buy one?


20 Explain the following words and word combinations.


• disseminate • succinct • deter • verity • perennial

• giveaway • breakthrough • relentless • Achilles' heel • bait • lot • coax


21 Answer the following questions:

1. Why does the writer use the phrase “as far back as”?

2. Why does the writer mention “Jos. Parker, Hatter”?

3. What was the role of original adverts?

4. What does the writer imply about modern advertising?

5. In your own word, explain why Coca-Cola chose its slogan in 1929?

6. In what way did the two slogans for Woodbury’s facial soap differ?

7. What is meant by the phrase “undeterred by the considerations of verity”?

8. Why is the giveaway considered to be a “perennial feature of marketing”? What emotions does this gimmick appeal to?

9. What does the writer imply when he says that some of the recipes in The Vital Question Cook Book had a “a certain air of desperation”?

10. What does the writer mean when he says that the names of some of the recipes were “inflated”?

11. What does the consumer’s “Achilles heel” in the context refer to?

12. How did the beginnings of King Gillette’s adverts differ from what followed in them?

13. What do all advertisements have in common?

14. What emotions do they appeal to?

15. Why is it impossible to remain unaffected by advertisement?

16. Why is logical argument ineffectual against an assault on one’s emotions?


Date: 2016-03-03; view: 1153

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