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Changes in the Strategies that Advertisers Adopted at Various Times

Digital History TOPIC ID 22

1890 - 1920

Advertisement encouraged consumers to buy brand name products. An ad for Kellogg’s, the cereal maker, portrays an assertive woman telling her grocer: "Excuse me. I know what I want, and I want what I asked for, Toasted Corn Flakes. Good day." The product itself remained at the center of advertisements.

1920 - 1929

The 1920s was the decade during which the phrase “Madison Avenue” was first used to describe the advertising industry and in which many products are sold because they hold out the promise of a more modern and freer life, filled with exciting opportunities to consumer new products.

Some ads stressed that ordinary Americans could have the same products as the rich and the socially prominent. Others described natural products are superior to artificial products. Many ads for cars and refrigerators treated these products as objects worthy of worship by surrounding them with halos. Invented characters like General Mills' Betty Crocker and Philip Morris's little bellhop, Johnny helped consumers establish a personal connection with a particular product.

1930 – 1941

The Great Depression ushered in a heightened concern with thrift; but many ads also featured celebrities who promised that ordinary Americans could also be glamorous.

Scare campaigns were popular during the Great Depression. Thrift is increasingly treated as a virtue. Prices are increasing mentioned in ads. Men in overalls begin to appear in advertisements. Some products (such as soap) are sold as ways of ensuring employment.

1941 – 1945

During the war years, private businesses produced posters—like the famous portrait of Rosie the Riveter—as a way to remind consumers about their companies while demonstrating their support for the war effort. Image campaigns sought to associate companies with wartime concerns. Stetson hats promoted its product with the slogan “Keep it under your Stetson,” reminding the public about the importance of maintaining wartime secrecy. It was in 1942 that the Advertising Council, the industry's chief trade association, was founded; it was originally called the War Advertising Council. It was established as an adjunct of the Federal Office of War Information and sponsored public service ads, such as Smokey the Bear campaign that reminded the public that "Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires."

Postwar Era

Much advertising emphasized the family and the theme of family togetherness, including such products as the family cars and the suburban home. The art in many ads became much more self-consciously artistic.

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