- Editorial Introduction
How can advertising be a force for social and cultural good? This question is a significant theme in this issue of Advertising & Society Quarterly. Harsha Gangadharbatla (University of Colorado, Boulder) and Deb Morrison (University of Oregon) provide a playbook for how advertisers can engage in social and environmental activism. They question the traditional view of advertising's core purpose of maintaining continuous growth without consideration of sustainability and concern for the environment. Martha Reeves, Deepthi Chandra, and Katharine Kim (Duke University) examine practitioners' perspectives on how companies take on cultural, political, and social issues, especially at a time when society is significantly polarized. They found that industry professionals feel cause-related work to be important and worthwhile, but they must make sure that their work is conducted from a place of sincerity and a deep commitment to any issues taken up. Shalini Shankar (Northwestern University) looks carefully at the advertising industry's shift in focus and nomenclature—from multiculturalism to diversity—and how attempts to correct deep-seated racial biases have failed to hit the mark.
A group of advertising scholars and practitioners in this issue's roundtable examines how advertising has taken up taboo topics in various cultural and social contexts.1 Taboos are a fruitful area of discussion to demarcate the subjects that are not often talked about or seen in wider society. Taboo topics shed light on societal biases and anxieties and push advertisers and scholars to think about normalizing some everyday issues instead of frightening or threatening consumers.
Alice Andersen and Beryl Chung (Media.Monks) share their work on building empathy in the advertising workplace through an interactive website called the Empathy Experiment.2 Having faced backlash about diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) training, Andersen, Chung, and colleagues in a women's employee resource group developed the website as a way to disarm the DEI training experience while elevating the voices of women working in technology and digital media.
Continuing with the journal's increased focus on advertising's relationship to environmental and climate issues, a group of scholars met to discuss Jeffrey Stine's recent book Green Persuasion: Advertising, Voluntarism, and America's Public Lands (Smithsonian Scholarly Press, 2021).3 The discussion centers on the history of public service campaigns to encourage the general public to be concerned about and take action to address environmental and climate issues. In addition to detailing effective ways to teach and communicate about climate change and the environment, the group focused on the need for public service campaigns to push beyond the rhetoric of solutions based solely on individual action, a deflection used by government and industry to avoid the need for systemic solutions to widespread problems.
Two pedagogical articles provide professors and students with tools to make their work more relevant to the broader public. Tricia Farwell (Middle Tennessee State University), Richard Waters (University of San Francisco), and Zifei Fay Chen (University of San Francisco) take the common "SMART" approach (Specific, Measurable, Audience-focused, Realistic, and Time-bound) to strategic communication and show how to add equity and inclusion. Veteran podcaster Matthew Schwartz (Association of National Advertisers) gives an overview of how podcasts can be produced and distributed to share important information and stories about advertising and marketing.
The journal's second Advertising in Popular Culture discussion assembled scholars with expertise and interest in science fiction's representations of advertising.4 In closely analyzing a sci-fi story from 1945 about using stars in the night sky for advertising purposes, the group explores popular literature's frequent critiques of advertising's place in society, society's views of science and scientific experts, and questionable advertising tactics.5
A new Advertising in the Archives article features the John G. Zimmerman Archive located near Monterey, California. John G. Zimmerman, one of America's prolific sports photographers and photojournalists working from the 1950s through the 1990s, had a successful, innovative, and well documented career in advertising photography. Written in collaboration with Linda Zimmerman, John's daughter and director of the archive, this article provides insights into the work of photographers in creating advertisements. A call is made for more research into photography's significant place in...