Brought to You By

[ Film and Media Studies ]

Brought to You By

Postwar Television Advertising and the American Dream

By Lawrence R. Samuel

How television advertising rose to become a defining force in American culture.

2002

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6 x 9 | 288 pp. | 22 b&w photos

ISBN: 978-0-292-77763-7

This book is a history of how television advertising rose to become a defining force in American culture in the two decades after World War II.

  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
  • Part One: Home Sweet Home
    • Chapter 1: The Precocious Prodigy, 1946-1952
    • Chapter 2: Shower of Stars, 1953-1955
  • Part Two: Keeping Up with the Joneses
    • Chapter 3: The Spark Plug of Prosperity, 1956-1958
    • Chapter 4: A Mist Settling on Our Pond, 1959-1960
  • Part Three: The New Society
    • Chapter 5: Think Young, 1961-1962
    • Chapter 6: The Psychic Air We Breathe, 1963-1964
  • Conclusion
  • Notes
  • Index

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Brought to you by....
Beginning of The Jack Benny Program,Playhouse 90, and many other television shows

Between the years 1946 and 1964, American television—and much of American culture—was brought to you by television advertising. The aim of this book is to show how television advertising was ground central for the postwar American Dream, both shaping and reflecting our national ethos of consumption. Brought to You By: Postwar Television Advertising and the American Dream is designed to fill a gaping hole in the history of advertising and complete a missing chapter of twentieth-century American social history. The postwar years were what I believe to be the most exciting and dynamic period of advertising in America, as the development of the most powerful medium in history dovetailed with a patriotic celebration of consumerism and, of course, with the baby boom. Although television advertising of this era is a fascinating and important cultural site, the subject is conspicuously absent from both popular and scholarly literature. There are many good books on postwar television, but precious few resources dedicated to television advertising. This is unfortunate because it was television advertising that brought television to us and, in the process, assumed a central role in postwar culture. One cannot truly understand postwar America, I believe, without understanding the cultural history of one of its loudest voices.

Television advertising is especially fertile ground to study the social and cultural dynamics of postwar America because it was the perfect medium for and a perfect metaphor of the times, steeped in the values of consensus, conformity, and, of course, consumption. Television advertising quickly emerged as a new vocabulary all Americans could share, a common language that often crossed the social divisions of gender, race, class, and geography. By the early sixties, both doctors and construction workers could tell you that Ajax was stronger than dirt and that every litter bit hurts, and people in Casper, Wyoming knew just as well as New Yorkers that Timex watches could take a licking but still keep ticking. Television advertising was thus part of the larger standardization of American consumer culture in the postwar era, when national brands, retailers, franchises, and chains flattened out regional differences and bridged demographic diversity. Adding to this homogenizing effect, Michael Kammen has noted, was the fact that viewers in any given market received only a handful of television stations (at most three or four networks and two or three locals), far fewer than the dozen or more radio stations any urbanite could pick up. In addition to its creation of a "universal" base of knowledge was the proven ability for television advertising to make people take action. As one of the most influential forms of propaganda in history, television commercials were seemingly capable of motivating people to do things they otherwise would not consider. Why else gulp down Geritol if one didn't truly believe that it woke up "tired blood"?

Most important, however, was commercial television's role in reviving the national mythology of the American Dream, that is, every citizen's birthright to achieve success, realize prosperity, and enjoy the fruits of consumer culture. A revival of the American Dream in the postwar era was vital because of the cultural roller coaster of the previous quarter century, when business and its economic foundation of consumer capitalism were first celebrated and then seriously challenged. In his book The Good Life and Its Discontents, Robert J. Samuelson observed the dramatic change in the public's view of business that occurred between the wars. "In the 1920s," he writes, "the country had gotten visibly richer, and the effect was to fortify the power and prestige of business, which was credited for the American boom." However, Samuelson continues, the Depression "discredited private business and the faith that the normal workings of capitalism—what we now customarily call 'the market'—would automatically improve Americans' well-being." As the public image of business became restored during the war, a function of capital's alignment with the government, it was time for an equivalent recovery of the "the market." It was time for Americans to, in Samuelson's words, "yearn for private pleasures [versus] public agendas."

A full revival of market-driven capitalism, however, demanded that Americans be retaught to not want to save money, to replace things that still worked. After all, Americans had just spent the last four years scrounging for scrap metal, planting victory gardens, and putting their savings into war bonds. War bond propaganda had, of course, been a ubiquitous presence on the home front, appearing on everything from milk cartons to menus, urging Americans to invest their savings in the nation. Posters carrying headlines such as "Do Your Part to Win the War" (1942) and "Doing All You Can Brother?" (1943) had trained Americans to think of consumerism as selfish and decadent, antithetical to wartime sacrifice. The specter of Depression-era bank foreclosures and pervasive unemployment also lingered, scenarios that reinforced a consumption ethic focused on essentials only. Put most simply, most Americans just did not know how to be very good consumers in 1945. As David Halberstam pointed out in his book The Fifties, "For most Americans, the idea of buying luxury items was a relatively new concept, as was the idea of buying on time" immediately after the war. If the country was to make a full recovery and realize its destiny as "the city on a hill," then thrift—a patriotic value during both the Depression and war—would have to be recast as unpatriotic, a violation of the national commitment to keep the economy moving. Instead of scarcity, restraint, and delayed gratification, the nation's best interests now resided in the values of abundance, pleasure, and immediate gratification. "After the privations of the Depression, after the hardships and shortages of a war," Karal Ann Marling writes in As Seen on TV, " . . . victorious Americans deserved nothing but the best."

Importantly, the new American Dream had to be articulated and perceived as a less elitist and divisive form of consumer capitalism than that of the unbridled, unchecked economy of the 1920s, which had let the nation down. Business, however, had learned a valuable lesson over the last decade and a half, integrating the democratic, populist spirit of both the New Deal and wartime experience into its own self-image and into its communications with consumers. Now indelibly linked to the middle class, the American Dream promised that every citizen—at least every white citizen—was entitled to his or her share of what Marling called "the standard consumer package"—a family, car, and suburban home full of modern appliances. Amazingly enough, much of this mythology would be realized during the postwar years, as market capitalism flourished and became integral to the American experience as never before. The 1950s, Kammen has posited, "marked the true beginning of mass consumption as we know it," as "mass markets swiftly became a 'real fixture' in national life." With Americans' self-confidence and exceptionalism renewed, the "old puritanism was drastically weakened," as Halberstam put it, ultimately creating an "an astonishing age of abundance." The American Dream, seeded in the 1920s, pruned in the 1930s and early 1940s, blossomed from the late 1940s through the early 1960s.

This major transformation of American identity occurred, not coincidentally, with the debut of commercial television. Commercial television, we all know, dovetailed perfectly with the domestic, family-oriented, consumption-based lifestyle that characterized American culture during the baby boom. In his book Time Passages, George Lipsitz has described the unique role that television assumed as a voice of consumerism during the postwar years. "In the midst of extraordinary social change," he writes, "television emerged as the most important discursive medium in American culture . . . charged with special responsibilities for making new economic and social relations credible and legitimate." These "special responsibilities" involved nothing less than the restoration of the American Dream, which had emerged in the prosperous 1920s, when a new broad middle class was offered and eagerly embraced the pleasures to be found in consumption and leisure. With the ideology of consumer capitalism damaged by the scarcities of the Depression and the rationing of the war, however, it was in both Corporate America's and the federal government's interest to revive Americans' faith and belief in an acquisition-based lifestyle. From an economic standpoint, the revival of the American Dream would result in greater corporate profits and a larger tax base. From a social standpoint, major national concerns—fears of another depression, militant labor, and ethnic, class, and racial divisions—could all be eased by a populist belief in "abundance and prosperity for all." From a political standpoint, a thriving, bountiful marketplace too was America's best strategy to combat threatening ideologies of socialism or communism.

Again, however, the impetus to embrace consumerism without restraint after the war's end ran counter to many Americans' experience over the previous decade and a half, when the values of indulgence, hedonism, and debt fell out of moral favor. The war might have got us out of the Depression from an economic standpoint, but it did a poor job in training Americans to part with their money on unnecessary things or go into debt, the keys to a thriving marketplace. With high-paying factory jobs, many homefronters were indeed flush with cash, but outside of basic needs and entertainment, there were few opportunities to spend this money. Going to the movies or to a nightclub with cash in one's pockets was one thing; buying a new house, a new car, and a set of new major appliances—all on time—was quite another. Intent on achieving this latter, more complex version of American-style capitalism, the federal government and business put a number of policies into place after the war to encourage consumerism and, as a by-product, long-term debt. Easier credit for consumers to purchase homes, autos, and appliances was made possible, a strong incentive for Americans to once again take on significant debt. Allowing low down payments on new homes via federal loans, combined with the income tax deduction for mortgage interest, essentially ensured that the millions of newly marrieds (already eager to move out of crowded apartments) would gobble up the ticky-tacky houses being built in the nation's suburbs soon after the war. The single-family house was, of course, the key to unlocking unchecked consumerism, a generic box requiring dedicated time, effort, and money to make it home sweet home. Connecting suburban developments to the jobs (and grandma) within their respective core city (and to each other) via new roads further encouraged young families to begin life on the new American frontier.

The realization of the new, improved American Dream, however, would not be possible without the presence of a clear, consistent, powerful voice encouraging citizens to occasionally leave their consumer paradises to actually buy things. Television, a broadcasting medium whose technology existed well before the war but would have to wait for a market to develop, was now in the right place at the right time. Recognizing its potential as the ideal advertising medium to spark a retooled American Dream by persuading citizens to abandon their frugality, the federal government and Corporate America each supported research and development of commercial television. "Conscious policy decisions by officials from both private and public sectors shaped the contours of the consumer economy and television's role within it," Lipsitz states. Antagonistic during the New Deal years, capital and the government had forged a happy alliance during the war in order to win the military war overseas and the economic war on the home front. This alliance would carry over into the postwar era, directly impacting the formation and flourishing of commercial television.

Rather than act as bystander and allow business alone to lead the televisual charge, the government thus actively took a number of steps to make the medium happen in order to serve national economic, social, and political interests. First, government scientists shared technological advances made in the medium for military purposes with their counterparts in the private sector. Second, the Internal Revenue Service extended its wartime policy of allowing corporations to write off media costs from their taxable income, a major incentive to take a chance with the new medium. This less-than-glamorous tax loophole proved to be instrumental in allowing the sponsor system to transfer from radio to television, as corporations were able to build up their cash reserves and concentrate their institutional power to ensure they—versus radio networks—would hold most of the programming cards. Third, the government's prosecution arm brought anti-trust charges against the major movie studios, breaking up the studio system and forever ending their leading role, so to speak, in American popular culture. Fourth, and perhaps most important, were a series of actions taken by the government's communication arm, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The FCC was awarded the power to oversee the network system in television, as it had with radio. The agency was also given the responsibility to license local television stations, a huge determinant in who would retain control of and profit from the new medium. The FCC's decision to suspend the issuing of new station licenses during the seminal years of 1948 to 1952 guaranteed that the radio-television networks would control broadcasting rights at a local level as well. The radio model, in which advertisers created and owned the programs, thus transferred neatly over to television, assuring that the medium would be, first and foremost, a commercial one. "Government decisions, not market forces, established the dominance of commercial television," Lipsitz concludes—so much so that it was "virtually the official state economic policy."

The ability of television advertising to spread the ideology of the American Dream resided in its roots as the first exclusively commercial medium in history. Print media—newspapers and magazines—grew out of a tradition of journalism and initially earned their sole revenues from direct sale to the reader. Radio too was in its early days advertising-free, its sole mission to serve the public's interest. Although television also had a legal mission to serve the public's interest, it was clearly and always intended to be a commercial medium, at least after World War II. This unique, innate, and unapologetic characteristic of television differentiated it from all other media, and quickly established it as the best marketing tool Corporate America ever had (and has, for now at least). Also unlike radio, of course, television delivered the then incredible dimension of sight, offering marketers the stuff of their wildest dreams—the chance to demonstrate their products in consumers' homes. The television quickly became a central appliance in the American living room or den (90 percent of households had at least one in 1960—a penetration rate it took radio thirty years to achieve), with the latter typically relegated to basements, attics, and garages. "Because of the incredibly swift ascent of television, radio became a supplementary source of entertainment by the late 1950s," Kammen observed. In less than a decade after its debut, in fact, commercial television would overtake radio, magazines, and newspapers as an advertising medium, and, in the process, it would play a vital role in extending the arc of consumer capitalism.

The sheer reach of television was enough to convince advertisers that God must also be a capitalist. With the co-axial cable linking coast to coast in 1951, advertisers could now show their products to 15 to 25 million Americans at once. Television was viewed as a surrogate salesman invited into the viewer's living rooms, an electronic display room filled with the cornucopia of the good life. "Never before had so many people heard so often that happiness and security rested in ceaseless acquisition," observed Douglas T. Miller and Marion Nowak in their book The Fifties: The Way We Really Were. The populist, egalitarian nature of television was in part due to its being "free," unlike other forms of entertainment such as the movies or theater. More than that, however, commercial television was, like many postwar institutions, designed entirely around middle class (or perhaps "classless") values. Also like other postwar institutions grounded in consensual values, television was authoritarian, monolithic, and paternalistic, interested only in a body of individuals versus individuals themselves. "The American people, indeed, were no longer regarded exactly as people," Miller and Nowak concluded, as "in the eyes of advertisers and network executives, they became . . . the audience." From a televisual perspective, at least, Americans were less citizens, more consumers, a huge transformation in the idea of national identity. Despite this "top-down" orientation of commercial television, it is important to keep in mind that each consumer, then and now, views any and all texts individually, and holds ultimate power in his or her acceptance or rejection. "It is precisely this relative freedom of television audiences," Ien Ang has written, "to use television in ways they choose to which has been conveniently repressed in the industry's imaginings of its consumers." Television advertising of the postwar era was thus a clear example of the paradoxical, often misunderstood nature of consumerism, that even the most "top-down" messages are instantly converted into "bottom-up" terms.

In addition to its unsurpassed role in consumer culture, television advertising intersected with many other dimensions of postwar life, helping to redefine everything from how politicians got elected to the way we traveled. Even the civil rights movement intersected with the path of television advertising, as blacks fought for their share of the American Dream by demanding they see people who looked like themselves in commercials. Until 1963, in fact, sponsors, networks, and ad agencies essentially denied the existence of African Americans, as classic an example of institutional racism as one can imagine. The most enduring legacy of this era of television advertising, however, was its intimate relationship with children, which picked up where radio left off. The first era of American television advertising coincided precisely with the presence of more children in any one time or place in history. "I want my Maypo!" was just one of many demands echoing in kitchens across the country in the fifties and sixties, shouted out by millions of children who would one day be known as baby boomers. Research showed that kids as young as three were as drawn to television advertising as Tony the Tiger was to Sugar Frosted Flakes. Television advertising would ultimately teach the baby boom generation to be professional consumers, and bestow upon many of the Me Generation their shop-till-you-drop, I-go-go-go-because-I-owe-owe-owe philosophy of life. From 1946 to 1964, advertisers pounced on these 76 million mini-consumers, realizing they controlled much of the spending power of American households. And unlike radio advertising, television advertising to kids was often the driving force of huge national marketing campaigns aimed to sell licensed merchandise or cross-promote other media products. Lone Ranger, Howdy Doody, Davy Crockett, and Daniel Boone chatzkes flew off warehouse shelves faster than you could say "Heigh-ho Silver," incentives for kids to persuade their moms to buy a certain brand of breakfast cereal or snack. Until boomers go off to the big Peanut Gallery in the sky, they will continue to trace their consumption roots to their weaning on television commercials.

Post-boomers—Generations X and Y—may be surprised to learn that through the first decade or so of the postwar era, many television commercials, like the shows themselves, were presented live as part of the programs. Trained in the conventions of radio, show hosts such as Jack Benny, Arthur Godfrey, and Jack Paar delivered the sponsor's commercials from the stage, effortlessly weaving between showmanship and salesmanship. Guest stars ranging from Frank Sinatra to Jerry Lewis also integrated product plugs into their performances, sewing a seamless quilt of artistic creativity and advertising. Even respected journalists like John Cameron Swayze and Walter Cronkite personally endorsed products on their newscasts, blurring the lines of "truth" and opinion. This mixing and matching of entertainment and advertisement brought together the realms of popular culture (the cultural dynamics of leisure) and consumer culture (the cultural dynamics of consumption) in new and more powerful ways. Unlike radio, whose popularity peaked in an economic downturn, television flourished during an economic boom, multiplying its impact as an agent of consumerism. The sponsorship system of early commercial television, in which corporations and their advertising agencies dictated programming decisions, created a cultural soup of leisure and consumption during a pivotal point in the twentieth century. "Sponsors of television programs during the fifties swiftly began to exercise an increasing amount of control over not merely the kind of program they made possible, but its content as well as its manner of presentation," Kammen has noted. This concentration of power and synergy also served the principles of the American Dream, casting materialism with a heavy dose of entertainment and entertainment with an equivalent dose of materialism.

Although it was articulated most clearly in television, the sponsor system was, of course, not indigenous to the medium. Having thirty years of experience in broadcasting, the power triumvirate of media networks, advertisers, and ad agencies traded heavily upon the organizational structure and selling techniques already established in radio. Despite networks' attempts to the contrary, this structure—in which the networks sold fifteen-minute or more blocks of time to sponsors—was transferred from radio to television. Historians such as William Boddy and Michele Hilmes have documented the ways in which agencies quickly seized the reins of television programming as the medium became commercialized after World War II. "In network television," Hilmes notes, "economic stability rested on the carryover of the relationship among sponsor, agency, and network so successful during the previous three decades of radio." Agencies like Young & Rubicam and J. Walter Thompson wisely invested in program content for their clients, betting that television would someday be a viable advertising vehicle. Over the next decade, advertising agencies (on behalf of their client sponsors) would hold tight control over programming, a legacy of the power they had assumed during radio's heyday. Sponsors and agencies determined what shows would reach the air and wielded creative control over program content. Everyone involved in a show, from star to gaffer, worked for the sponsor, whom Erik Barnouw anointed a "modern potentate."

By the latter half of the fifties, however, the networks had taken much of this power away from agencies and sponsors, as a host of economic and legal factors redefined the nature of the industry. The trends toward multiple sponsorships, Hollywood production of filmed (versus live) shows, and sponsor "rating-itis" all chipped away at advertisers' virtual omnipotence during the first decade of commercial television. These forces, compounded by the quiz show scandals of 1959, spelled doom for sponsors' retaining the crown jewel of the industry, the "time franchise," in which a single advertiser commanded creative control over a particular scheduling slot. The sponsorship system would eventually give way to the "magazine concept," in which advertisers purchased time from networks based on audience demographics (as for magazines and newspapers). As editorial authority shifted from sponsors to networks, television shows were no longer created by advertisers, but rather, were carefully packaged media vehicles designed to reach a specific target market. Each network's broadcast schedule became, in Christopher Anderson's words, a "coherent, integrated text in which each component was designed to hold a viewer's attention." Ironically, however, advertisers' exit from the entertainment side of the business only served to strengthen their position in the marketplace by allowing them to focus on what they did best—selling products and services to consumers. With the networks now custom tailored for marketing efficiencies, television of the early sixties became what Michael Curtin has called "a display window for a national consumer culture." The rules of the game may have changed, but consumerism remained the heart of the American Dream, at least until many of the children weaned on it began to question its ethical and moral value.

In addition to documenting the cultural sweep of commercial television, revisiting the world of advertising of the postwar years is a prime opportunity to validate or debunk many of its mythologies. Our collective memory and our perception of this world have been heavily influenced by popular culture, with its images of three-martini or Gibson lunches and a less-than-completely full set of industry ethics. The figure of the Madison Avenue account executive, canonized in fiction (e.g., Sloan Wilson's 1955 The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit), nonfiction (e.g., Vance Packard's 1957 The Hidden Persuaders), film (e.g., The Hucksters, starring Clark Gable in 1947; Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? starring Jayne Mansfield and Tony Randall in 1957; Lover Come Back, starring Doris Day and Rock Hudson in 1961; and Good Neighbor Sam, starring Jack Lemmon in 1964), and television itself (e.g., Bewitched), is part truth, part fiction. The Madison Avenue account executive really was the man in the gray flannel suit, albeit a much less cartoonish figure than either of Bewitched's two Darren Stevenses. The client or sponsor of the postwar era also lingers as a cultural icon, as does the sponsor's wife, who, it was always revealed, really called the shots. There can be no denying that being an "ad man" in these heady times garnered a level of both admiration and vilification that law, finance, or other forms of business did not. "Advertising men became the new heroes, or antiheroes, of American life," observed Halberstam. Advertising remained an elite career destination, attracting many of the "best and brightest" from Ivy League schools, other businesses, and the Anglo-Saxon Protestant "old boy" network. It was television, with its promise of being a part of something new, unproven, and exciting, that drew a new breed of professionals to advertising after the war. Just as many of today's best and brightest are foregoing traditional professions in order to be a part of the information revolution because it is history (and potential fortune) in the making, so trailblazers of a half century ago passed on the "old media" of print and radio to break new ground in the new medium of commercial television.

Despite the pull of some of yesterday's best and brightest, it was this first era of television advertising that made us skeptical and cynical toward those responsible for commercials (current surveys show that we still trust people in the ad business just a little less than used car salespeople). As a symbol of lowest common denominator thought and a key target of FCC chair Newton Minow's 1961 "vast wasteland" speech, television commercials emerged as a passion point in this country as soon as they appeared on screens no bigger than a bread box. The commercialization of radio was much more gradual than that of television and was, of course, limited to sound. Most Americans were not quite prepared for the parade of talking cigars, dancing cigarettes, and marching beers that immediately populated their television screens. Often intrusive, loud, and inane, television commercials were viewed by many as the end of the world as we knew it. Advertisers routinely resorted to what was known in the trade as "puffery," the tweaking of reality to overcome the technical obstacles of the medium. Until the government agencies slapped their collective hand, advertisers and their agencies were not above sticking lit cigarettes in chickens, rubbing Vaseline on raw meat, or dropping Alka-Seltzers into glasses of cola to enhance the appearance of their products. Slowly, however, television commercials improved until they evolved into what some critics believed to be a legitimate art form, leading to the creation of a new industry award—the Clio—handed out to the cream of the crop. A decade and a half after the birth of television advertising, a true creative revolution began to bubble up, led by Doyle Dane Bernbach through the renegade agency's work for Volkswagen, Cracker Jack, and other lucky marketers. Other agencies would soon join Doyle Dane Bernbach in the creative revolution, ending the postwar age of television advertising but sparking the beginning of a new, radically different era in the history of commercials.

Brought to You By is organized chronologically, beginning with the rise of commercial television immediately after World War II and ending in the final year of the baby boom, 1964. This approach reveals the cultural arc of the formative years of television advertising and offers a trajectory by which to view the subject in historical context. Segments within each of the book's six chapters address the events, issues, people, and organizations and institutions that made television advertising such a compelling part of postwar American life. Part 1, "Home Sweet Home," traces the rise and development of television advertising over the decade following the war, showing how the new medium was instrumental in jumpstarting the American Dream grounded in domestic and family life. Part 2, "Keeping Up With the Joneses," equates competitive pressures within the television and advertising industries in the latter half of the 1950s with those of the proverbial average American trying to stay one socioeconomic step ahead of his or her neighbor. Part 3, "The New Society," examines the shifting dynamics of both television advertising and the American Dream as the nation became more youth oriented in the first half of the 1960s.

In terms of sources, much of this book relies on the accounts of journalists documenting the development of television advertising as it happened. Writers such as Goodman Ace of the Saturday Review and Hal Humphrey of the Los Angeles Mirror were keen observers of commercial culture, directing their take on the sights and sounds of television advertising to a broad, general audience. Although occasionally sensationalist, these contemporary sources offer a fresh, vibrant, and generally objective, unbiased picture of the television advertising scene (far more unbiased, I believe, than agency, corporate, and network sources). Accounts from trade journals such as Printer's Ink and Advertising Age add an inside-the-industry perspective, highlighting the key issues of the day.

In addition to these secondary sources, my own readings of television advertising gleaned from hours (days? weeks? months?) viewing seminal commercials and programs of the era add a vital textural element to the work. Still, these readings represent just an inkling of the millions of images that were beamed coast to coast in the 1950s and early 1960s. Luckily, many of these trailblazers' efforts still survive, documented on film and videotape. Nick at Night's TV Land even broadcasts golden oldies as entertainment, resurrecting the White Tornado, Bert and Harry Piel, and Josephine the Plumber from their advertising graves. Taking a look back confirms that we have come a long way from the pre-cable, pre-VCR, pre-TiVo days, but maybe not as far as we may think. Is the "Got Milk?" campaign truly better than the "Let Hertz Put You in the Driver's Seat" spots? You decide. For the devoted fan or student of television advertising, I heartily recommend a visit to the Museum of Television and Radio in New York and Beverly Hills for full immersion in commercial heaven (and hell). The book's notes provide a guide to some of the many other works that address specific dimensions of televisual life in postwar America.

Finally, the story of the evolution of television advertising will no doubt bring to mind some very interesting parallels with the rise of the medium du jour, online technology. The current gold rush to cyberspace is in many ways repeating the developments of a bit more than half a century ago, as the infrastructure forms around a new system of communicating and advertising. People today are asking the same questions people asked fifty some years ago with regard to a relatively unknown medium. What is its commercial potential? How large is the audience? How long will it take to develop and how much will it cost? What are the legal and ethical implications? Who will be in control? As we plunge headfirst into the twenty-first century, looking back at the birth, adolescence, and maturity of the last "ultimate" commercial medium helps provide answers to these questions, and helps us envision the American Dream of our future.

By Lawrence R. Samuel

Lawrence R. Samuel writes, consults, and teaches in New York City. His other books include Pledging Allegiance: American Identity and the Bond Drive of World War II.

"If there was a book like Brought to You By when I came into the advertising business, it would have saved me ten years of hard knocks. I plan to buy it by the box load and hand it out as my gift to any young person who expresses interest in getting into the advertising business."
—Jerry Della Femina, President, Jerry Della Femina & Partners

"The most exciting and comprehensive explanation of how a single medium rose to be one of the most definitive forces in our culture."
—John Gerzema, Managing Director, Fallon NYC

"A fun-filled journey of reminiscences for those of us old enough to remember the early days of TV advertising. Samuel also provides a powerful analogy that puts the roles of regulation, freedom, and the profit motive of the Internet in perspective."
—Paul J. Groncki, Ph.D., VP, Director of Marketing Research, J.P. Morgan

"Incredibly thought-provoking for anyone interested in the shaping of our commercial culture."
—Megan Kent, Executive Director, Brand Planning, Bozell Worldwide

"All scholars interested in how and why advertisers used commercials to advance a triumphant and optimistic American Way will find Brought to You By an exciting read."
—Lary May, Professor of American Studies, University of Minnesota

"This important book examines and credits, warts and all, the undeniable engine behind our country's thirst for growth and belief in endless possibilities—the television commercial."
—Mark R. Morris, Chairman, Bates North America

"For the general reader or the specialist seeking to understand the commercial roots of our experience economy, I cannot imagine a more perceptive guide."
—John F. Sherry, Jr., Professor of Marketing, Northwestern University

"Fascinating reading, capturing a pivotal moment in the shaping of the most powerful generation in history, baby boomers."
—Benny Sommerfeld, Business Development Manager, Volvo Cars N.A.

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