- Editor’s Introduction
The fourth issue of the 2005 Advertising and Society Review is an inaugural one. Though I began as editor in time to help prepare issue three, I have planned this number as an opening statement of editorship. Under the leadership of William O’Barr, this journal has had a solid beginning as a unique resource in the academic discourse on advertising. The journal has dedicated itself to examining a variety of social issues related to advertising and has done so in a manner that is consistently independent, rigorous, and critical. The focus, theories, and methods, have been drawn mostly from the more humanistic of the social sciences—anthropology, history, interpretive sociology. My intention, as the new editor, is to continue to follow the basic path established by O’Barr: to focus on social questions in an independent, critical way and to base most of the work in the interpretive social sciences.
My mission as editor is also, however, to expand that base of work in two ways. First, I plan to add an artistic interest to the scope of Advertising & Society Review. I wish to encourage more work on advertising that is in the tradition of arts criticism; that is, work that analyzes and interprets advertising as a cultural form, as a unique artistic genre, much as literary critics may focus on novels or poetry and art critics may focus on painting. Since the analysis of cultural form falls easily into any notion about study of ‘the social,’ this new stream of work is consistent with Advertising & Society Review’s mission, but it would draw on slightly different sources—literature and the other arts, for instance—and might have somewhat different concerns—building a theory of genre, for example. The second area in which I hope to expand Advertising & Society Review’s scope is to widen the purview to a more global perspective. Over the past few years, the number of articles that have been submitted about advertising outside the United States has been increasing. And, of course, advertising is a basic structural element in the increasingly planetary economy. So, though the journal has already become broadly international in scope, I will be trying to stimulate that trend further.
This inaugural issue is designed to advance the first part of this agenda: the investigation of advertising as a cultural form. To my mind, this aspect of advertising presents two initial avenues of inquiry: the question of whether advertising is an art in the same sense that novels, symphonies, and paintings claim to be, and the related question of whether the formal features developing in advertising have come to represent a new sign system for communication. I have chosen the material for this issue for the specific purpose of staking out the ground on these two questions. Most of these works focus, one way or another, on the peculiarly postmodern aspects of advertising in the last two decades of the twentieth century, as well as the controversy surrounding postmodern forms (especially advertising) at that time.
Book chapters from two important texts of advertising are reprinted: Robert Goldman’s ‘This is Not an Ad,’ from Reading Ads Socially and James Twitchell’s ‘Halo Everybody, Highlow,’ from Adcult, USA. Goldman’s chapter documents a phenomenon now well recognized by observers of advertising in both the academy and in industry: a sea change in the look, tone, and style of advertisements near the end of the 20th century. Goldman performs a nice exegesis of several examples and offers social commentary on each. Twitchell’s chapter looks at the intersection and overlap between ‘high art’ and advertising, and provides a surprising historical context by recasting the art of the Renaissance.
Two articles are also included. One of the them, Barbara Phillips and Edward McQuarrie’s piece called, ‘The Development, Change, and Transformation of Rhetorical Style in Magazine Advertisements 1954–1999,’ includes a painstaking content analysis of print ads over the past fifty years. What Phillips and McQuarrie are counting is the incidence of complex tropes and, especially, the degree to which these ads rely on visual signs without verbal cues for interpretation. The findings of this article tend...