Advertising on Trial: Consumer Activism and Corporate Public Relations in the 1930s

By Bernt, Joseph | Journalism History, Winter 2007 | Go to article overview

Advertising on Trial: Consumer Activism and Corporate Public Relations in the 1930s


Bernt, Joseph, Journalism History


Stole, Inger L. Advertising on Trial: Consumer Activism and Corporate Public Relations in the 1930s. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2006. 290 pp. $25.

In Advertising on Trial: Consumer Activism and Corporate Public Relations in the 1930s, Inger Stole begins from the standpoint of a contemporary United States in which few citizens question commercialization of the public sphere; omnipresence of advertising messages; or political dominance by U.S. business institutions. She looks back to a time in the late 1920s through the 1930s when a second-wave consumer movement challenged the condescension, puffery, and misrepresentation then endemic to print and radio advertising.

Before addressing the consumer critique of advertising and the advertising industry's successful counterattack, which is the focus of Advertising on Trial, Stole begins by describing the transformation of the U.S. economy from local production and distribution by many manufacturers to national mass production and distribution by a few oligopolistic industries following the Civil War, an economy that matured after a decade of mergers around 1900. This shift fueled the first-wave consumer movement of the Progressive Era, with its focus on regulating the quality of foods and drugs manufactured in distant cities. That movement led to the passage of the federal Pure Food and Drugs Act of 1906; but Stole, an assistant professor at Illinois' Institute of Communications Research, argues these activists largely ignored the emerging field of advertising.

In the 1920s, following the success of propagandistic advertising during World War I, advertising became the chief means by which manufacturers communicated with consumers. As the depression began, the second-wave consumer movement criticized advertising as wasteful and deceptive. The leading consumer group seeking advertising regulation was Consumers' Research, Inc., the main focus of the book. Founded in 1929 by Stuart Chase and Frederick Schlink, who co-authored the bestseiling YourMoney's Worth: A Study in the Waste of the Consumer's Dollars in 1927, Consumers' Research soon became a testing laboratory for consumer products with results distributed via the Consumers' Research Bulletin. Chase left Consumers' Research in 1932 to continue his writing career, and Schlink, an engineer, became director and was joined by Arthur Kallet, another engineer from the American Standards Association.

Stole notes that the advertising critique was gaining popularity at the same time when companies were cutting advertising budgets as the economy collapsed. Of equal concern, the new Roosevelt administration-especially Assistant secretary of Agriculture Rexford Tugwell-clearly sympathized with consumer interests. The advertising industry realized it must defend itself against the growing consumer movement and the introduction of the Tugwell bill (S1944) in 1933. Its passage would treat false and ambiguous advertising claims for foods, drugs, and cosmetics as misbranded and subject the advertised products to confiscation by the Department of Agriculture.

Although the advertising trade press earlier attacked Consumers' Research for misleading consumers with unscientific claims and scare tactics, and advertisers pressed magazines to refuse Consumer Research advertisements, the introduction of the Tugwell bill captured the industry's full attention. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Advertising on Trial: Consumer Activism and Corporate Public Relations in the 1930s
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.