Tuesday, March 8, 2022

1920's Consumerism

In the 1920's the economy shifted from wartime to peace and began an era of consumerism. Prices dropped and what people couldn't afford they began buying on credit.

Advertisers, now reaching millions of consumers on a daily or weekly basis, hired movie stars and sports figures to persuade Americans to buy all types of products, from washing machines to chewing gum. Business had become America's secular religion, thanks to advertising. Bruce Barton's 1925 book comparing religion and business, The Man Nobody Knows, declared Jesus Christ's parables as "the most powerful advertisements of all time.... He would be a national advertiser today."

Barton's philosophy was that good advertising appealed to consumers and created desire for a product. According to Barton, " The American conception of advertising is to arouse desires and stimulate wants, to make people dissatisfied with the old and out-of-date."  Barton told his employees that their ads should have a theme, an interesting headline, and a purpose to direct consumers to act in a particular way (usually to buy a product).  His ads often used catch slogans.

In 1919 Bruce Barton co-founded his own advertising firm whose clients included General Electric, General Motors, and US Steel.  His advertising firm was also one of the first agencies to use radio, rather than newspapers and magazines, for advertising.  Barton grew to be one of the most successful advertising executives of the 1920s.

What is the 'formula' for successful advertising?

What other techniques did advertisers use?

How do commercials get us to buy stuff we don't need?

Pick a product from the 1920's.

Create your own ad.

See some sample ads. 

Inflation Calculator:  How much would my product cost in 1920's?

How have perceptions of many of these products (i.e. cigarettes) changed over time?

The most important part of an AD is its 'signature' or 'brand recognition.  How many of these famous brands can you name?

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