Advertising that Shaped Culture

Over the years there have been iconic advertising campaigns. These campaigns have shaped the advertising world but have also helped in shaping the world and people around us. Cultural shifts are prompted through many avenues of life, but today I will be focusing on the ripples of change that have been started from advertising campaigns. 

I am not a coffee drinker by any means. When it comes to working, I much prefer to be accompanied by a cup of English breakfast tea. However I have coffee to thank for the fact I have a ‘Coffee Break’. In 1952 Pan-American Coffee Bureau ran a $2 million advertising campaign, stating that the average worker needed a ‘coffee break’ and a quick little caffeine fix to be able to work coherently. In doing so they coined the term ‘coffee break’. Using the catchphrase ‘Give yourself a coffee break’ heavily suggesting this was a necessary indulgent. After the success of the campaign, morning and afternoon breaks became a common occurrence and even protected by laws at times. In 1964 the United Auto Workers Union threatened to go on strike if the ‘coffee break’ was not written into their contract.

From one morning to another, the common fruity beverage, orange juice. The orange we know today was created through the power of advertisement. In 1880 in California citrus growers came together in cooperatives to further expand their business and better their bargaining skills with packers etc. In 1893, P.J. Dreher and his son, the ‘father of the California citrus industry’ Edward L. Dreher, and several other prominent citrus farmers and landowners formed the Southern California Fruit Exchange. The business expanded however they came across an issue in the early 1900s. The over growing and harvesting of oranges without the right amount of customers to buy the produce. So with this issue, the newly formed coop went to Albert Lasker at the Lord & Thomas advertising agency who created for them a solution. He proposed they rebranded to be called Sunkist, to identify the fruit as being special and healthy. But most impactful was his popularising of a new use for the fruit: juice! Soon Sunkisty were able to sell their produce and their juicers with it. Their advertisements were seen in magazines and on radio, on billboards, streetcars and railroad cars, on the sides of speedboats, in school curricula and essay contests, and in pamphlets distributed in doctors’ offices. The beverage is now a staple of every morning. By 1914, Americans were consuming about forty oranges per person every year, up 80% from 1885.

On the 1st September 1939, the Second World War commenced. This terrible conflict saw many people suffer and many male soldiers sent away to fight for their countries. While these men were away, this summoned a new age of female workers. They had to take roles that for centuries had been taken by men. Some people needed encouragement to take up these positions. Westinghouse Electric’s ‘We Can Do It!’ ad featuring an iconic image of a strong, muscular woman in the workplace. The poster was only meant to encourage women at Westinghouse, however it grew traction in the 1970s and 80s, at the birth of the civil rights movements, and feminism. The poster became a symbol of female empowerment, used by Beyonce, Clorax and seen on posters at female rights demonstrations, even today. 

As humans we have started to discover and move into different realism of our world, once thought impossible. In 1957 we sent the first mammal into space, Laika, a samoyed mix stray, from Moscow, Russia. Sent up in Sputnik 2. In 1961 the first man who went into space, aboard the spacecraft Vostok 1, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin. Then on 21 July 1969, Neil Armstrong became the first person to step onto the Moon. On October 14th 2012 we had an advertising campaign that showed the first person to break the sound barrier without any vehicular help. For promotion, Red Bull sent Felix Baumgartner, an Austrian Skydiver, to jump to the Earth from 24 miles into space. Named Red Bull ; Stratos, Baumgartner was adorned in astronaut gear featuring the brand’s bull logo. Three world records were broken and the live stream broke the internet, with 8 million people watching live. The advertisement for Red Bull did not interrupt or play over the clip, the advertisement was the promotion itself. What an amazing piece of history and a true testament to the power of advertising campaigns.

As I come to the end of my blog, I stop and consider what I am wearing. A casual Ralph Lauren polo and some blue denim jeans. In 1992, Levi Strauss. Co set out to redefine the business wear market, with the introduction of their ‘A Guide to Casual Businesswear’. Wearing casual clothing instead of suits has been an increasing trend since the 1950s, seen most typically in the 1980s. There was a particular surge in ‘casual days’ during this time as it was believed it created more happier and productive employees. However employers soon came to regret this when workers started showing up in slouchy and unkempt clothing. So Levi launched an ad campaign which was sent to HR directors around the country. It was a pamphlet illustrating clean and professional looks that subtly featured Levi’s jeans. So, through the early 1990s, Levi’s was getting asked by companies for dress code consultation. This meant that by 1995, it had record sales of $6.2 billion. 

Stewart Russell-Moya

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