Endorsements in Advertising: A Social History

Overview

The use of endorsements and testimonials to sell anything imaginable is a modern development, though the technique is centuries old. Before World War I, endorsement ads were tied to patent medicine, and were left with a bad reputation when that industry was exposed as quackery. The reputation was well earned: claims of a product’s curative powers sometimes ran opposite the endorser’s obituary, and Lillian Russell once testified that a certain compound had made her “feel like a new man.” Distrusted by the public, ...

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Overview

The use of endorsements and testimonials to sell anything imaginable is a modern development, though the technique is centuries old. Before World War I, endorsement ads were tied to patent medicine, and were left with a bad reputation when that industry was exposed as quackery. The reputation was well earned: claims of a product’s curative powers sometimes ran opposite the endorser’s obituary, and Lillian Russell once testified that a certain compound had made her “feel like a new man.” Distrusted by the public, banished from mainstream publications, endorsements languished until around 1920, but returned with a vengeance with the growth of consumerism and modern media. Despite its questionable effectiveness, endorsement advertising is now ubiquitous, costing advertisers (and consequently consumers) hundreds of millions of dollars annually.

This exploration of modern endorsement advertising—paid or unsolicited testimonials endorsing a product—follows its evolution from a marginalized, mistrusted technique to a multibillion-dollar industry. Chapters recount endorsement advertising’s changing form and fortunes, from Lux Soap’s co-opting of early Hollywood to today’s lucrative industry dependent largely on athletes. The social history of endorsement advertising is examined in terms of changing ethical and governmental views, shifting business trends, and its relationship to the growth of modern media, while the money involved and the question of effectiveness are scrutinized. The illustrated text includes five appendices that focus on companies, celebrities, athletes and celebrity endorsements.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780786420438
  • Publisher: McFarland & Company, Incorporated Publishers
  • Publication date: 3/22/2005
  • Pages: 239
  • Product dimensions: 9.00 (w) x 6.00 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Cultural historian Kerry Segrave is the author of dozens of books on such diverse topics as drive-in theaters, lie detectors, jukeboxes, smoking, shoplifting and ticket-scalping. He lives in British Columbia.

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Table of Contents

1 Testimonials get off to a rocky start : the years to 1919 3
2 Testimonials arrive, 1920s 14
3 The ethics of testimonials, 1929 34
4 The FTC looks askance : Hollywood loves lux soap, 1930s 54
5 Endorsements hit a long slow period, 1940-1974 81
6 Testimonials boom in the modern era, 1975-2003 109
7 Athletes dominate the field, 1975-2003 126
8 Legal points, government agencies, medical men, and scams, 1975-2003 146
9 Mistakes, pitfalls, and bad boys, 1975-2003 159
10 Statistics, money, and effectiveness, 1975-2003 177
11 Conclusion 189
App. A Prevalence of endorsement ads : selected years, selected publications, 1926-1998 193
App. B Lux soap ads endorsed by Hollywood actors in variety, 1932-1949 195
App. C Endorsement contracts of the Dionne Quintuplets through early 1937 198
App. D Highest paid athletes from sports and endorsements, 1990, estimated 200
App. E Celebrity endorsers by company, February 1996 202
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