History of Advertising in America in Public Relations and Politics Part 1

About the history of advertising in America in the realm of public relations and politics, the rise of United States interest in pr and public opinion.


In addition to motivation research and the advent of television, the 2 most important changes that took place in advertising in the postwar era were: 1. the public relations boom; and 2. the penetration of advertising into politics.

In the U.S. during the 1950s and 1960s, public relations achieved a heady prominence. By 1960, there were up to 100,000 persons employed in public relations. The avowed goals of PR are: ". . . to take initiative in bringing about the integration of spiritual principles and material progress which, and which alone, can assure for us and our fellow man a maximum of happiness." Fortune magazine called PRs ". . . cheap-jack publicists, promoters, greeters, lobbyists and fixers." PR exists to convince the public of a certain item, a product, a person, a way of life, a symbol, or a corporation. Since so many nearly identical products were crowding the shelves, the advertisers began to sell "images." Corporate images, product images, and so on became at least as important as the products themselves. Content and substance gave way to engineered illusions. This practice reached its highest fruition in the wedding of politics and advertising.

Napoleon had a Bureau of Public Opinion, its function to create political trends according to the dictator's will. In the 1930s, Albert Lasker had helped sell the Republicans. Now, in the 1950s, image-building completely infiltrated the American political process, culminating in the 1956 presidential "campaign." The advertising agency of Batten, Barton, Durstine and Osborn (BBDO) handled the Eisenhower account. On retainer to the Republicans since 1952, BBDO started blocking out $2 million of TV time a year before the elections. Robert Montgomery, the actor, was brought in to supervise Ike's TV appearances, advising him on matters such as lighting, makeup, and delivery. George Murphy, actor and PR director of M-G-M, was imported to stage-manage the 1956 GOP convention. Rosser Reeves, legendary adman and creator of a large number of famous campaigns ("Can't you keep Jimmy's bike out of the driveway?"), conceived a saturation barrage of half-minute spots for Eisenhower which cost over $1 million a week toward the end of the election effort. One ad showed an alleged taxi driver walking his dog in the park facing the White House. He looked in awe toward the light in the White House window and said fervently, "I need you!"

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