British Magazines The origins of magazines in Britain go back to the sixteenth century
when book publishers saw business opportunities in producing low cost
reading material which would have popular appeal and would attract the
interest of the wider public. With the advancement in printing
technologies and photography, single sheet pamphlets and cheaply bound
books evolved into the glossy magazines of today. The content of
magazines has changed (most noticeably in the last fifty years)
alongside the changes in society. Price (1998) points out
Women's magazines in the 1950's mainly focussed on articles about
maintaining the home and cooking. The birth of popular culture in the
1960's made fashion and music major topics in magazines aimed at youth
audiences and by the 1980's and 1990's, women's independence was more
represented in magazines such as Cosmopolitan.1
The mid 1990's saw the rise of the 'lads' magazine aimed at 16-25 year
old males, discussing subjects such as women, cars, music and movies.
Advertising has been around since the early magazines were produced as
publishers used the income generated from advertisers to supplement
production costs. The specialisation of magazines allowed advertisers
to target specific markets and similarly magazines with wider appeal
acted as vehicles for advertisers to reach a mass audience. The
acceptability of advertisements is determined by the Advertising
Standards Authority, a body established in 1962 to promote and enforce
high standards in advertising. The ASA ensures all advertisements
observe the British Code of Advertising which requires non-broadcast
advertisements to be "legal, decent, honest and truthful"2. The ASA is
independent and is funded by a small surcharge on all advertising
The main purpose of an advertisement is to sell a product or service.
Advertisements were initially basic in the sense that they were
informative and descriptive about the product they were selling.
Today, many advertisements try to appeal to our senses of lifestyle
and social acceptance when selling a product. The advertisement
becomes less focussed on what the product does in a practical sense
but more about how it improves the consumer's quality of life in
relation to friends, family, kudos and social status.
Whether this is actually the case or not is a matter of much debate.
The philosopher Epicurus maintained that aside from food, shelter and
clothes only friends, freedom and thought were essential for happiness
in life. It is interesting that many advertisers choose to use these
factors to sell a product which on its own may in fact be quite
unnecessary "we are enticed through the sly association of superfluous