Advertising is a deeply pervasive part of all lives lived in consumerist economies. The average individual in Western society is bombarded with several hundred adverts per day -- billboards, TV commercials, film trailers and product placement in films, Internet ads, radio blurbs, newspaper and magazine ads, and more. Advertising both is a kind or popular culture, and it is a major way that we learn about and learn how to interpret other kinds of popular culture. Film trailers, for instance, not only seek to sell their cinematic product, but they also hope to shape the way we think about the movie. Advertising is a major mode of socialization, telling us how to think and feel (what's hip, what's sexy, what's normal), and what problems we need to worry about (lack of the latest e-gadget, insufficiently white teeth, mammary magnitude, etc.).
Advertising is as old as commercial popular culture, and viewing older ads can tell us a great deal about past eras and our own. One thing revealed by studying older ads is the ways in which aesthetic styles change over time. Fro example, it is clear once avant garde techniques become domesticated over time such that some shocking bit of 1930 surrealism is now seamlessly accepted into an ad for a mainstream cleaning product or automobile. Or note how, on the one hand most advertising has become less verbal and more visual free association, while on the other hand the rise of the mute button has led to an increasing amount of written language in TV ads.
The links below include some famous historical and recent ad campaigns, archives of historic advertisements, ad industry sites, ad parody sites (which often teach much about ad manipulation techniques), articles and site analyzing ads, and more.
- Adbusters. Smart, funny media analysis group aiming to bring real truth in advertising. Includes parodies of advertisements, and offers various ways to become a media activist.
- AdFlip.com. Bills itself as the most extensive collection of contemporary and historical print ads online.
- Ad Land A database archiving great and not so great ad campaigns.
- Ad Respect, formerly Commercial Closet. Site on LGBTQ advertising.
- Advertising Age magazine. A useful resource for looking inside the advertising industry.
- Advertising Bibliographies.
- GLAAD. A watchdog organization against LGBTQ discrimination. Includes articles and protests on a variety of topics including LGBTQ imagery in ads. You will have to do a search to find the info needed.
- Media Awareness Network. Excellent teaching resource on media literacy of all kinds, including advertising.
- "Advertiser's Strategies to Target Gay Audiences in Attitude and Gay Times." An article by Rebecca Phillips.
- "Advertising: A Campaign for AIDS Drug Adds Warning" A New York Times article which highlights the misleading rhetoric of pharmaceutical companies' advertisements for HIV/AIDS medications.
- "All of Your Insecurities Wrapped up in a Thirty Second Spot." A look at how advertisements affect young women, by Abby Friedrich.
- "Figures of Rhetoric in Advertising Language." An article by Edward F. McQuarrie and David Glen Mick.
- "From Social Taboo to 'Torch of Freedom': The Marketing of Cigarettes to Women." An essay investigating the changes of attitude revolving around smoking in the 20th and 21st centuries, by Amanda Amosa and Margaretha Haglundb.
- "Madison Avenue versus The Feminine Mystique." Looks at a variety of ways in which advertisers have sought to co-opt women's movement rhetoric, by Stephen Craig.
- "Mens Men and Womens Women: How TV Commercials Portray Gender to Different Audiences." Explores the ways that gender is portrayed in TV commercials, depending on who the expected audience of the commercial is. Focuses specifically on four ads from different times of the day/week (so,targeted to different audiences). This article is available as a pdf file at the author's site.
- "Objects, Decision Considerations and Self-Image in Men's and Women's Impulse Purchases." An article by Helga Dittmar, Jane Beattie and Susanne Friese. Survey data revealing gender differences and the importance of image creation in impulse-buying.
- "Prime-time Pushers." A look at the recent trend toward more and more television ads for prescription drugs. What does it mean for our health care when serious medicine is marketed like soap?
- A Semiotic Analysis of Magazine Ads for Mens Fragrances. An analysis of five different magazine ads for men's colognes, by Alexander Clare.
- "'So Rich, Mild, and Fresh': A Critical Look at TV Cigarette Commercials: 1948-1971." An essay taking a critical look at television commercials for cigarettes between 1948 and 1971, by Steve Craig and Terry Moellinger.
- Stanford Research into the Impact of Tobacco Advertising A wide selection of ads and analysis of tobacco advertising. Including campaigns targeting doctors, women, and the use of cartoon mascots.
- "Taking ADvantage Ads We Could Probably Do Without." A variety of ads which use sex to sell products, compiled by Richard Taflinger.
- "Taking ADvantage I Want It, I Want It Now: Greed and Advertising." A web project by Richard Taflinger, Washington State University.
- "Womens Bodies in Sports Ads." Brief critique of the way womens physiques are depicted in ads for sportswear. Also contains links to other sections, looking at things suchas feminist rhetoric in ads and specific competition between Nike and Reebok for female customers.
Advertising and Kids
- "Captive Kids: A Report on Commercial Pressures on Kids at School." An in-depth look at what kind of influences kids are subject to (including direct ads,sponsored educational materials, contests, incentives, etc.), and what effects it may be having on the kids.
- "Capturing the 'Eyeballs' and 'E-Wallets' of Captive Kids in School: Dot.com Invades Dot.edu." Looks especially at the way corporations are gathering information from/about kids in school (PDF).
- Citizens' Campaign for Commercial-Free Schools.
- Commercial Alert.
- Commercialism in Education Research Unit (CERU).
- Kids Unbranded. Center for a New American Dream.
- "Sellouts." Explores various aspects of the issue, providing some pertinent statistics along the way. As with several of the articles on this issue, it also provides some ideas for working to solve the problem.
- "Sesame Street Meets Madison Avenue." Looks at PBS rhetoric from both sides, what they are telling parents, and what they are telling potential advertisers. Also rich with links on related topics.
- "Why They Whine: How Corporations Prey on Our Children." Breaks down corporate interest in The Nag Factor (also known as The Art of Fine Whining). From Media Awareness Network:
Selected Ads For Further Study (with a few ad parodies to ease the task)
- Absolut. Archive ofAbsolut vodka ads.
- Benetton. The famous united colors series, and others.
- Benetton Ad Parody.
- Got Milk? The series of milky mustaches on famous faces.
- Guess Jeans. Guess what they are selling besides jeans?
- Ad Access. Duke University presents images and database information for over 7,000advertisements printed in US and Canadian newspapers and magazines between 1911and 1955.
- AdFlip.com. Bills itself as the most extensive collection of historical ads online, from the forties to the nineties.
- Classic Advertisements Gallery. Includes about twenty ads made between the 1880s and 1930s (two pages).
- Emergence of Advertising in America: 1850-1920. Excellent resource from Duke University.
- Famous Advertising Campaign slogans.
- Top 10 Advertising Icons of 20th Century. Why has each of these figures been so successful? Is there a pattern, or several patterns?
[Few topics on popular culture can be adequately researched on the web alone.These reading suggestions are designed as beginning points for further offline study.]
- Ewen, Stuart and Elizabeth Ewen. Channels of Desire: Mass Images and the Shaping of American Consciousness. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1982.
- Incisive look at how advertising and related consumer-oriented messages have shaped US culture and consumer consciousness.
- Jamieson, Kathleen Hall. Packaging the Presidency: A History and Criticism of Presidential Campaign Advertising. New York: Oxford University Press, 1984.
- Classic study of how advertising techniques have shaped the American electoral process.
- Jhally, Sut. The Codes of Advertising: Fetishism and the Political Economy of Meaning in the Consumer Society. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1987.
- Strong study of how advertising texts shape racial, gender, and class beliefs and create a consumer consciousness.
- Lears, T.J. Jackson. Fables of Abundance: A Cultural History of American Advertising. New York: Basic Books, 1994.
- Richly detailed study of the rise of American advertising in the context of later 19th and early 20th century American culture.
- Schudson, Michael. Advertising, the Uneasy Persuasion. New York: Basic Books, 1984.
- Careful sociological study of the impact of advertising on US. culture.
- Williamson, Judith. Decoding Advertisements: Ideology and Meaning in Advertising. London: Boyars, 1978.
- The classic text on how advertisements address and create their audiences.