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James Twitchell is the author of Adcult USA: The Triumph of Advertising in American Culture and Carnival Culture: the Trashing of Taste in America.
If Twitchell doesn't prove his thesis that these 20 advertisements became part of the lingua franca and changed the way we look at the world, his lavishly illustrated, breezily entertaining survey does score some solid points. The jolly old Santa Claus known from countless images did not spring from folklore, according to Twitchell, but was invented in the 1920s by the Coca-Cola Co. in its annual Christmas ads (pre-Coke Santas were severe-looking and sometimes wore multicolored suits). Ads for Pears's soap, aimed at Victorian England's upper classes, borrowed an artifact of high cultureÄa portrait painted by John Everett Millais called "A Child's World"Äthus forever blurring the boundary between art and advertising. De Beers Mines' half-century-long campaign helped make diamonds an instrument of romantic love. Twitchell, whose books on advertising include Adcult USA and Carnival Culture, serves up colorful slices of American advertising history, from a P.T. Barnum circus poster (1879) to turn-of-the-last-century patent medicine ads (peddling nonpatented potions heavily laced with alcohol, opium or cocaine) and Lyndon Johnson's 1964 attack ad against Barry Goldwater, "the most compressed and noxious political ad ever made," which featured a little girl's face disappearing into an atomic mushroom cloud and never mentioned Goldwater at all. Still, it's hard to see how Apple's 1984 commercial, or Michael Jordan's Nike spots, or ads for the VW bug, Absolut vodka or Marlboros did much to change the perceptual universe. (Apr.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
"Succinct and informative, a ... deep look into a deceptively complex subject." --Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, New York Times "Easily the Best Book on Advertising" -- Philip Sawyer, director, Starch Advertising Research "Not a single page is without a cleverly turned sentence, thought-provoking remark, or outrageous conclusion." --Wired "An immensely entertaining and seriously provocative piece of work . . . As wise as it is witty, this is a must for anybody really interested in brand marketing--or hooked on nostalgia." --Baltimore Sun "Twenty Ads That Shook the World is a triumph. . . . James Twitchell not only recognizes and appreciates the many ways that ads shape our culture, but he also writes about advertising in ways unmatched by any other author." --Creativity magazine "This book is on fire with ideas. Far more than a history of great advertising, this invaluable and highly entertaining guide to the power of simple ideas is brimming with insights for anybody who's ever wanted to buy or sell something."--Steve Hayden, president, Worldwide Brand Services, Ogilvy & Mather "A thoroughly enjoyable read that will have you humming more than a few jingles you thought you'd forgotten." --Entrepreneur "As eerily comforting as a family photo album." --Esquire "This book is a treat. . . . Full of surprises and, as the only essential change in the advertising business through the years is the way one manipulates new technology, it is also a rich tapestry of stimulating thinking." --Mary Wells Lawrence, founding partner, Wells, Rich, & Greene