Classic Campaign: From Consumers of Food to Participants in the “Modern” Consumer Marketplace: How Cream of Wheat Approached Children, 1900-1935.
Abstract

Abstract:

This article examines how national food producers approached children in the early twentieth century and how this conceptualization shifted during the late 1920s. I argue that during the first two decades of the twentieth century, food producers used children as a kind of bait to secure the purchases of adults. During those two decades, food ads acknowledged children as consumers (that is to say, eaters) of food and celebrated their idyllic innocence, but the ads did not consider children to be active participants in the marketplace or the audience toward which advertising was directed. This perspective changed when food producers began to communicate with children directly and hailed them as active consuming subjects in a “modern” brand-laden marketplace. Drawing upon primary research from archival sources, including ad agency archives and the trade press, I focus on the advertising efforts of Cream of Wheat as a case study to trace the food industry’s paradigm shift. Cream of Wheat advertisements formerly “educated” mothers about raising healthy children with the “right” foods. In 1928, Cream of Wheat successfully developed a strategy to directly engage children. Representing a shift in perspective, the new strategy was a pre-cursor to intensive food advertising efforts during the radio and television eras.