Advertising at War: Business, Consumers, and Government in the 1940s

Research output: Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook


This book challenges the notion that advertising disappeared as a political issue in the United States in 1938 with the passage of the Wheeler-Lea Amendment to the Federal Trade Commission Act, the result of more than a decade of campaigning to regulate the advertising industry. The book suggests that the war experience (World War II), even more than the legislative battles of the 1930s, defined the role of advertising in U.S. postwar political economy and the nation’s cultural firmament. Using archival sources, newspapers accounts, and trade publications, the book demonstrates that the postwar climate of political intolerance and reverence for free enterprise quashed critical investigations into the advertising industry. While advertising could be criticized or lampooned, the institution itself became inviolable. During the war, there were ongoing tensions between advertisers, regulators, and consumer activists. It was advertisers who turned a situation, that should have been disadvantageous to them, into an opportunity to cement their place in a postwar society defined by advertising and the consumer products it promoted. The book aims to uncover the significant political and economic forces that shaped the industry and the use of advertising to bolster the corporate system behind the products.

Original languageEnglish (US)
PublisherUniversity of Illinois Press
Number of pages288
ISBN (Print)9780252037122
StatePublished - 2012

Publication series

NameThe History of Communication


  • advertising industry
  • United States
  • 1938
  • Wheeler-Lea Amendment
  • Federal Trade Commission Act
  • war experience

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)


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