History of Advertising: Television Commercials and Advertising

About the history of advertising in the United States in television, tv commercials, sponsors, quotes and information.


Discussing the influence of television, Daniel Boorstin wrote: "Here at last is a supermarket of surrogate experience. Successful programming offers entertainment (under the guise of instruction), instruction (under the guise of entertainment), political persuasion (with the appeal of advertising), and advertising (with the appeal of drama)."

The low psychological and emotional intensity of much programmed television serves not only to spread acquiescence and conformity, but it represents a deliberate industry approach. Sponsors have found that if they program a show of challenging complexity or disturbing insight, the viewers will discuss it with each other as soon as the ads come on, and thus will not be able to give their full attention to the commercial announcements.

Marya Mannes commented: "The constant reminder of what is inaccessible must inevitably produce a subterranean but real discontent. . . . If we are constantly presented with what we are not, or cannot have, the dislocation deepens, contentment vanishes, and frustration reigns. Even for the substantially secure, there is always a better thing, a better way, to buy. That none of these things makes a better life may be consciously acknowledged, but still the desire lodges in the spirit. A commercial is more than an interruption; it tends to reduce news to a form of running entertainment, to smudge the edges of reality by treating death or disaster or diplomacy on the same level as household appliances or a new gasoline."

Janet Sternberg wrote ". . . The sheer impossibility of ever measuring up to the variety of selves thrust at a woman takes its toll in self-contempt. She is repeatedly exhorted by the media to assume a new persona, but of course, being human, cannot shed skins too gracefully. This repeated failure is internalized as a self-image of degradation. . . . Surrounded everywhere by images of what she should be, it becomes increasingly difficult for a woman to retain a core of self-determined identity."

Who controls television programming? This question was put to Jack Gould, television writer for The New York Times. "The heads of the networks as such bear final responsibility. . . . Of course, whoever has control of the dollar, the advertising program dollar, is going to make the final determination of what goes on the air in entertainment programming. It has always seemed to me very academic, the perennial controversy over whether the advertising agencies or the networks control the programming. As a practical matter and as things stand, it doesn't make any difference. So long as the sponsor can buy an individual program, so long as he can pick and choose his programs--whether the agencies conceive the programs or whether the networks conceive them--the result, in terms of program content, will be the same because both the agencies and the networks will devise the type of shows the sponsors want. . . . The real control rests with the sponsor. By the act of not purchasing certain kinds of programs the sponsor exercises a tremendous influence over television programming."

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