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Advertising at War

Advertising at War: Business, Consumers, and Government in the 1940s

Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    Advertising at War
    Book Description:

    Advertising at War challenges the notion that advertising disappeared as a political issue in the United States in 1938 with the passage of the Wheeler-Lea Amendment to the Federal Trade Commission Act, the result of more than a decade of campaigning to regulate the advertising industry. Inger L. Stole suggests that the war experience, even more than the legislative battles of the 1930s, defined the role of advertising in U.S. postwar political economy and the nation's cultural firmament. She argues that Washington and Madison Avenue were soon working in tandem with the creation of the Advertising Council in 1942, a joint effort established by the Office of War Information, the Association of National Advertisers, and the American Association of Advertising Agencies._x000B__x000B_Using archival sources, newspapers accounts, and trade publications, Stole demonstrates that the war elevated and magnified the seeming contradictions of advertising and allowed critics of these practices one final opportunity to corral and regulate the institution of advertising. Exploring how New Dealers and consumer advocates such as the Consumers Union battled the advertising industry, Advertising at War traces the debate over two basic policy questions: whether advertising should continue to be a tax-deductible business expense during the war, and whether the government should require effective standards and labeling for consumer products, which would render most advertising irrelevant. Ultimately the postwar climate of political intolerance and reverence for free enterprise quashed critical investigations into the advertising industry. While advertising could be criticized or lampooned, the institution itself became inviolable._x000B_

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09423-1
    Subjects: History, Language & Literature, Marketing & Advertising

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vi-vi)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-x)
    (pp. 1-16)

    The past two decades have witnessed an increased interest in advertising and consumer issues across scholarly disciplines. Fields ranging from business and advertising to sociology, American studies, history, mass communication, art history, anthropology, and psychology are recognizing the centrality of consumption and consumer-related issues to their scholarly pursuits. Most scholars explore these issues from contemporary perspectives, although the recent appearance of historical accounts suggests the emergence of additional approaches.¹ To date, however, the historical approach has favored the decades flanking World War II, leaving advertising and consumer issues that emerged in connection with war conditions largely undocumented.² Thus, scholars have...

  6. 1 Prelude to War
    (pp. 17-34)

    The advertising industry concluded the turbulent decade of the 1930s with some sense of accomplishment. Its public relations campaigns appeared to have marginalized the consumer movement’s most radical demands, and the five-year battle over federal regulation of advertising had culminated in the Wheeler-Lea Amendment, a law that for all practical purposes sanctioned existing advertising practices. Nonetheless, the years from 1938 through 1941 were fraught with danger in the minds of industry leaders, who perceived the notorious New Dealers to have intensified their critical stance toward advertising as the decade drew to a close. Many were of the opinion that the...

  7. 2 Advertising Navigates the Defense Economy
    (pp. 35-55)

    Industry leaders, their misgivings fueled by constant alarms, failed to recognize that New Deal actions against advertising had been relatively mild. They continued to monitor influential government officials, worried that a single critical comment might escalate into a crisis demanding the industry’s full attention. America’s response to the war in Europe and the gradual shift from a consumer to a defense economy raised new questions about advertising’s role and function in society. Now, on the eve of the nation’s own entry into the war, industry leaders were, in the words of one trade journal, trying “frantically to prepare a sound...

  8. 3 The Initial Year of the Advertising Council
    (pp. 56-70)

    In certain key respects, advertising and advertisers themselves underwent major changes in 1942. This chapter explores the first month of the Advertising Council’s existence. It discusses the industry’s challenges in adhering to a common goal and probes the relationship between Madison Avenue and Washington, D.C., during the first year of World War II—a relationship that for the first few months was fraught with communication problems and a certain degree of mistrust on both sides.

    The situation was greatly helped by the creation of the Office of War Information (OWI) in June of 1942, followed by the establishment of an...

  9. 4 The Consumer Movement’s Return
    (pp. 71-93)

    Just when things were going well for advertisers in Washington, an old arch-nemesis reentered the scene. After being so active in the 1930s, the consumer movement had kept a low profile throughout the defense period. A few groups, however, including Consumers Union, had done their best to keep the momentum going. Officially formed in 1936, CU had been created after an intense and at times violent struggle over labor practices in Consumers’ Research. It branched out into lobbying and educational efforts and became a stealth defender of consumers’ rights in the ongoing public hearings leading to the 1938 Wheeler-Lea Amendment....

  10. 5 Advertising, Washington, and the Renamed War Advertising Council
    (pp. 94-120)

    One of the first controversies to emerge in connection with war-theme advertising was the extent to which print media should be expected to provide free advertising space to the government. The discussion started early in the war, and the issue was not resolved until the end of 1943, after government sources, the commercial media, and the advertising industry had ironed out their differences and finally reached accord. While most large advertisers and media owners eventually came to the conclusion that private industry should provide space for free, the newspaper industry was split. Larger and more financially stable newspapers favored commercial...

  11. 6 The Increasing Role of the War Advertising Council
    (pp. 121-152)

    By the end of 1943, the advertising industry had established itself as an indispensable component of the government’s domestic wartime information operations.¹ The quarrel over the Office of War Information had resulted in increased government reliance on the War Advertising Council, putting advertisers in a position to make dramatic public relations gains. In contrast to the atmosphere of mistrust and widespread criticism that had existed only a few years earlier, the industry was enjoying greater credibility and legitimacy in the eyes of the public, the government, and the business community as a whole.

    This, however, put increasing pressure on the...

  12. 7 Peace and the Reconversion of the Advertising Council
    (pp. 153-175)

    The War Advertising Council had been created with the understanding that it would be a temporary organization, to be terminated at the end of the war. Its success at improving the advertising industry’s standing had far exceeded expectations. In just a few years, the formerly hostile relationship between the industry and Washington had changed to one of mutual respect and cooperation, leading the organization’s officers to agree that continuing its activities would be a wise strategy.¹

    In contrast to the war years, when the WAC’s main role was to communicate the government’s home-front instructions, the postwar council selected campaigns from...

    (pp. 176-188)

    Although scholars have acknowledged the importance of advertising and its broad acceptance among policymakers and the general public in the post–World War II era, only limited attention has been paid to the events that facilitated this development.¹ The goal of this book has been to explore the political processes and maneuvers that, in the span of only a few years, helped change advertising’s image, transforming it from a scorned industry with a tendency toward monopoly building—and thus a damper on the free enterprise system—into a necessary institution for the protection and promotion of political and economic freedom....

  14. Notes
    (pp. 189-254)
  15. Index
    (pp. 255-264)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 265-271)