Steven Heller and Allison Silver have co-authored a new book for Taschen, edited by Jim Heimann, which collects and analyses campaigns from an important – if controversial – sector of advertising. 20th Century Alcohol & Tobacco Ads is a compendium of the most recognisable and impactful adverts of the century, tracing the evolution of this most lavish of propaganda and its key players.
“A stiff shot, a cold brew, and an aromatic smoke have been staples of American life – and death,” state the authors in the book’s introduction. “Statutes restricting their use and abuse have not lessened these sometimes vices, and their ill effects seem not to have thwarted the habits of the masses, which are simply too ingrained. Alcohol and tobacco are huge industries that produce massive wealth for many, and one of the most profitable beneficiaries, the advertising industry, has made certain of that. Over the years, alcohol and tobacco have been white-shoe, blue-chip accounts. Despite government and self-regulatory restrictions, beer, wine, and spirits are among the most vigorously promoted products in the nation’s media today.”
Following the industry through the ages, the book is a fascinating reflection of shifts in popular culture, and with often the biggest budgets and agencies behind the campaigns, often represents the zenith of creativity in advertising at that time. From 1920s celebrity endorsements and a re-focus on female markets in the 1930s, to the iconic Marlboro Man and ads with doctors claiming liquor can bring social success, the book shows the breadth of techniques used by brands to attract consumers. With rules against tobacco branding ever tightening, and recent talk about alcohol advertising and branding going a similar direction, the book’s release now seems particularly pertinent.
20th Century Alcohol & Tobacco Ads is published by Taschen on 12 February.
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