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Advertising and Advertisers During and After World War II

For this issue, a variety of original articles came together to provide a new look at the role of advertising and advertisers during and after World War II.

In the first article, "To What Extent Did American Corporations Publish 'Brag Ads' During World War II?," Ric Jensen and Christopher Thomas take a look at the "brag ads" that were sometimes placed by advertisers during the war. The term, coined by Harry Truman, refers to ads and posters where the main intent focused more on promoting the merits of a corporation, product, or service than on encouraging patriotism or support for the war effort. The approach varies from a superficial patriotism to patently false claims about the role the company's product was playing in the war. Jensen and Thomas have reviewed and classified hundreds of ads from the period. However, their discussion of the overall circumstances for advertisers during the war helps frame our understanding and guides us through the remaining articles.

Jensen and Thomas' article, for instance, helps to frame the essay by Lee and Clark, "'I'm Saying This for Uncle Sam!': How Corporations Used Images of Family to Help Fund World War II." This piece takes a look at a small, but important subsegment of ads that used family-oriented appeals to influence consumers to buy bonds instead of products during the war.

The next item is actually a "missing chapter" from my own book, Fresh Lipstick: Redressing Fashion and Feminism (2005). I am particularly pleased to have this chance to publish "Warring Images: Fashion and the Women's Magazines 1941–1945," since many reviewers of the book liked it best of all the chapters. However, since the war period only represented four years in a book trying to cover 150 years of fashion, advertising, and feminism, my publisher felt the length constraints demanded we leave it out. I went along with this decision, but have always regretted it—and many who read the book in the early stages have written to me to say they missed it. So it is with great pleasure that I am able to introduce it here—along with the ads that illustrate my thesis, which looks at the ways women challenged their cultural constraints during the war and the advertising images that reflect these changes.

The American postwar period is an era that has received much attention by academic and popular press alike. Even the advertising from this key period in the rise of American consumer culture has had a fair amount of attention. However, there has been little work to date that examines the experiences of other countries, particularly those that were largely destroyed during the war and had to be rebuilt. In this issue, Frauke Hachtmann's "Promoting Consumerism in West Germany During the Cold War: An Agency Perspective," investigates the role of advertising agencies, specifically J. Walter Thompson, in shifting the postwar economy of Germany into a modern framework, complete with consumer demand.

These four articles contribute to our overall understanding of the force of advertising under war conditions, as well as to its role in expanding the consumer economy around the world.

Linda M. Scott
Editor

 

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