In the early twentieth century advertisements had just begun to capture the imagination and attention of early consumers. One of the key tactics used during this time period was to pull the stresses and social limitations felt by consumers into the ads they viewed. Advertisers knew that consumers would place themselves inside of the ad and actually feel as though the ad is speaking directly to them if they showed a culturally perceived conception of the “ideal life.” They chose to focus on elements of wealth, style, gender, appearance, and the new technological advances of the modern life, by incorporating these idealized views into their ads with their products. In this paper, I will argue advertisers took full advantage of consumers by playing upon their fears and daily life stresses when it came to issues of class, appearance, gender, and the unknown and fast paced lifestyle of the modern world.
People in the early twentieth century were not just working as a way of sustaining life. Gone were the times where people worked to just place food on the table, and clothes on their families’ backs. Now, men were working hard to be able to purchase items that showed how much they were worth. A spoon was no longer just a spoon. It needed to have the appeal of elegance and wealth, so when your guests sat down for a dinner party or Sunday meal they knew that you had really made it in the world by just the simple look of that lavish dinner spoon. Ads played upon consumers fears of others thinking they were “low class” by highlighting their products as indicators of wealth. According to advertisers, “consumers were voting in the marketplace every day for style, beauty, “extravagance,” and the installment plan (Marchand 157).” People wanted to show others that they were worth something. People wanted others to know them based not on their character, but by the items they owned. Advertisers molded their products to fit the description and picture of what consumers wanted.
Advertisers did not force the implement the fear of being known as a poorer class into society. They merely played upon the insecurities of the public. They highlighted that you cannot just have a plain white towel. (Marchand 124) You need to impress others with your sense of style and success. It seems silly to think that a blue towel signifies success in the world over a plain white towel, but during this time period it was an indicator of wealth. Consumers did not want to be behind on the times and advertisers made sure they kept consumers up to date on all the newest style trends (notably their products).
Many people would have seen being told of one’s failures or imperfections as a resentful act, however they appreciated being told of these problems by advertisements (Marchand 344). Advertisers took advantage of consumers’ insecurities by placing them in ads. To consumers, ads for products were seen as a helpful companion there to ease...