Advertising in the Age of Persuasion

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Advertising in the Age of Persuasion: Building Brand America, 1941-1961  
Cover
Author(s) Dawn Spring
Country United States
Publisher Palgrave Macmillian
Publication date 2011
Pages 235
ISBN 978-0-230-11694-8

As the title suggests, this book written by Dawn Spring details the ideas of advertising strategies and branding and how, in the middle of the twentieth century, these practices managed to gain a foothold and eventually cement themselves as an integral part of the American business and economic machine. While advertising had its place within American markets prior to the 1940’s, it was with the outbreak of World War II as well as the growing paranoia that was brought about during the Cold War era that truly put the power in the hands of American advertising firms as an organization with the ability to promote American idealism and spirit which soon became a key element of these large firms to help increase their influence over many facets of not only the American business system, but the federal government and the American way of life as well. American advertisers would begin their experience as promoters of the American spirit with the role that they would play during war time American in the 1940’s. Wartime propaganda was seen as a powerful tool and form of advertising that would assist in the glorification of enlisted soldiers in the American military and the painting of foreign enemies as wrong doers, but more importantly, propaganda would serve to promote American values as well as unify Americans under these values to form one singular idea of nation identity. With the conclusion of the war in the middle of the 1940’s, the success of the propaganda campaigns supporting the war effort lead to talk of applying these same advertising strategies in post-war America to peacetime advertising organizations.

Much like the wartime propaganda that strove to unify American thought, so too did the newly established peacetime advertising firms and programs continue their efforts to effectively unify American’s thoughts and opinions through an impartial and unoffensive campaign; though people could have different political views, advertising programs sought to ignore taking sides during this time. Advertisers understood that they could attack a non-American way of thinking, but had to remain in a position to support all opinions under the American system; while contradictory, this would lead to many moral victories for the reputations of American advertising agencies even if they did not fully practice all that they preached. Dawn Spring talks in great length on the creation of the Freedom Train which was a national tour created by advertising firms and the federal government of the time in order to continue the promotion of the American spirit and ideology that had united Americans during World War II. While the Freedom Train’s objective was the education of all Americans on the ways of patriotism, it is important to note, the advertisers targeted the education of the youth as they believed educating America at a young age would better cement the ideals they were promoting to Americans across the nation. The Freedom Train also had other goals in mind as the endorsement of civil duties such as voting as well as the promotion of symbolic themes like the American Flag would not only create an American image that was being used by many as a basis of their national identity, but also strengthen many advertising agencies influence. Although advertisers found some road blocks with the Freedom Train, overall, they found it to reaffirm their power and influence over American opinion as well as the growing need to persuade Americans to actively contribute their opinions in the participation of the American way of life. While advertisers had immense power over the American mindset at this time, they understood that their relationship with the American people was a two way street; advertising companies needed the approval of public opinion in order to maintain a position of power in the American market economy. Though remaining as impartial as possible at times, advertising companies would soon begin approaching different audiences and groups of people with specific strategies and products that would better appeal to them mentally and psychologically; the ideas of demographics and differing opinions would soon lead to a completely new approach of marketing strategies enlisting the help of many psychologist and other professionals as they were a great asset to the planning and teaching of these new advertising strategies. It is here that Dawn Spring talks of a new idea within the marketing and advertising sphere which was the idea of branding. The practice of branding products would be used to better advertise certain qualities and assurances associated a with product to be known before purchasing that would create not only a growing need for companies to begin the practice of branding, but also the growing influence of advertising firms over these companies as they were seen as the creative force behind this movement. This influence would soon lead to the creation of the Brand Name Foundation. Similar to earlier efforts of advertising programs such as the Freedom Train, the Brand Name Foundation began advertising to a diverse crowd of all ages intending to educate and unify Americans under the idea of brand loyalty; unity through similar product and brand preferences. The Brand Name Foundation would put into place many marketing campaigns that would cause a major tipping point in favor of branding products and companies as it targeted retailers and endorsed the importance of American brand name items.

The rapid adoption and success of the branding in American came up with the idea that brand names created a market full of choices and that it was up to the American consumer to make a choice for themselves as to which product they preferred; the idea of branding soon became a patriotic practice as it “linked brand-name goods and the choice between consumer goods with democracy” (47). Similar to wartime propaganda, the patriotic themes that soon became associated with market advertising and branding would lead to the creation of the ideal image of American life and thought; a brand name for the American nation. Dawn Spring again makes connections to the Freedom Train campaign as the branding of an ideal America would give the public an image to rally behind as though the nation was made up of many opinions, all could stand behind and believe in the American dream and the American way of life. This strong American image would soon gain even better footing and be used to greater effect during the Cold War era in American history. As peacetime required other means of insuring America’s strength outside of combat, American advertising and business were seen as the perfect way to counteract the effects of the Cold War and ideas that surrounded Communist thought. American advertisers and branders would continue to pitch democratic themes to the nation’s citizens as well as continue molding the country as a brand “creating an international brand for the country, symbolized by red, white, and blue and stars and stripes” (85). The need to link advertising agency practices to foreign markets and policies would further strengthen the roles of advertisers in American business practices; the plugging of American business practices into foreign markets would promote the ideas of a free enterprise and free market system that would directly contradict the economic model of communist countries.

Dawn Spring concludes her work with the 1960’s and with the growing technological market that was being tapped into by advertising firms. While advertising and branding are seen as marketing standards in today’s modern world, Dawn Spring’s book serves to illustrate how prior to this, advertisers and brand name makers had to work at linking their profession and trade to the very foundation of American economics allowing for longevity in an America market that might have considered it an unnecessary profession. Soon becoming a core practice in American economics, these agencies took measures to make sure the nation did not view advertising and branding as economic waste and instead as a necessary tool used to identity the limitless potential of the American spirit.