- Editorial Introduction
In 1928, Edward Bernays, the so-called “father of public relations,” made a bold statement about the power of people working in advertising and public relations: “There are invisible rulers who control the destinies of millions. It is not generally realized to what extent the words and actions of our most influential public men are dictated by shrewd persons operating behind the scenes.”1 Given advertising’s goal to connect with people in order to convince and persuade them to buy products, services, and ideas, advertisers have tremendous power in the world of business, politics, and culture. The influence of advertisers to convince, persuade, and mold perceptions is a common theme found across most of this issue’s content.
Tamara Piety presents a provocative think piece that defines advertising as the longest standing unregulated experiment in human research. She historicizes concerns about advertising’s use of trial-and-error research to persuade and convince human beings. Piety is concerned that such research practices are not regulated or supervised by oversight bodies found in other industries, such as academia and medicine. She connects an overview of academic research protocols involving human participants to concerns about advertising made by British author Aldous Huxley and American advertising critic Vance Packard. Piety ultimately makes a case for firmer oversight and regulation of advertising’s use of experimentation and research on the general public.
In their in-depth examination of Wire Plastic Products’ (WPP) Code of Business Conduct as well as how the Code is used by about 350 of WPP’s subsidiaries, Erin Schauster, Tara Walker, and Margaret Duffy discovered that WPP asserts that it behaves honestly and with integrity and respect. However, by applying Kantian ethics, and a form of rhetorical critique, Schauster, Walker, and Duffy find that WPP needs more work to tangibly ground its Code in practice. This article reveals that clear and non-contradictory ethical standards are needed to properly guide how advertisers work as persuaders around the world.
In Part I of the “Roundtable on Advertising and Identity,” participants discuss how advertising considers various social categories and their intersections, including but not limited to age, class, religion, gender, nationality, race, and sexuality. The conversation focused on how advertising has tremendous influence in shaping people’s understandings of identity through advertisements’ messages. Participants agreed that it is important for advertisers to foster inclusivity by building diverse workforces and improving the authenticity of representations of various identities in advertisements themselves.
Similarly, in an interview, Derek Robson, president and managing partner at Goodby Silverstein & Partners in San Francisco, advises advertisers to be more authentically inclusive. Additionally, Robson considers how advertising’s definitions have changed over time as well as how and why advertisers’ content needs to adhere to truths that resonate with people. In addition to explaining how agencies negotiate innovative ideas with their clients, Robson gives examples of how advertisers can use technology to approach social issues in creative ways. As a UK native, Derek explains what he sees as the key differences between American and British advertising before discussing the relationship between advertising and culture.
This issue’s “Author Meets Critics” and “Advertising in the Classroom” pieces take on an important area of persuasion: political advertising. In discussing David Blake’s book Liking Ike: Eisenhower, Advertising, and the Rise of Celebrity Politics (Oxford University Press, 2016), one learns how the convergence of television, advertising, and celebrity culture helped military leader Dwight “Ike” Eisenhower become the president of the United States in 1952 and again in 1956. Although Eisenhower was reluctant to engage in politics, participants in the book conversation discuss how Eisenhower’s advisors from political and advertising realms mainstreamed a new era of political campaigning that relied on highly visual and entertaining events broadcast through the media that linked politicians with the glamour of celebrity culture. Michael Franz’s “Advertising in the Classroom” article complements the Liking Ike conversation by providing a comprehensive teaching framework on how to deconstruct and analyze political ads’ messages, impact, and reach.
Included in this issue is Advertising & Society Quarterly’s first installment of a new occasional feature called “Advertising in the Archives,” which provides information about a prominent advertising archive in...