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A Brief Overview of American Advertising and Posters during World War II



This study focuses on the extent to which American corporations developed "brag ads" during World War II. The researchers examined eight databases that included posters and ads produced during the war. From this collection, 397 corporate-produced ads and 104 corporate-produced posters were identified. The researchers then individually identified whether each ad or poster could be classified as a "brag ad." To this, they used the typology set forth by Fox (1975) to describe boastfulness and false patriotism and the description of blue-sky advertising given by then-Senator Harry Truman. In basic terms, ads and posters were judged to be brag ads if the main intent focused more on promoting the merits of a corporation, product, or service than on encouraging patriotism or support for the war effort. The researchers then grouped the brag ads into the six categories of patriotic advertising identified by the Office of War Information (the nature of our enemies, the nature of our allies, the need to work, the need to fight, the need to sacrifice, and principles America is fighting to defend). Results show that 192 ads could be classified as brag ads, mainly in the category of the need to work. This includes praise ads (where a company publicly celebrated an award it had been presented by either the government or the military in relation to its war production efforts) as well as 126 ads that erroneously asserted a company's product as being a direct factor in helping to win the war. In contrast, the researchers identified only eight brag posters. It must be noted that this study is subjective and has many limitations. However, we hope it provides some insights into the extent of brag advertising during World War II. At the same time, we believe the study has relevance to today, especially as advertising and public relations are increasingly used to persuade about such issues as war-related efforts.
To What Extent Did American Corporations Publish "Brag Ads" During World War II?
Ric Jensen (bio) and Christopher Thomas (bio)
This study focuses on the extent to which American corporations developed "brag ads" during
World War II. The researchers examined eight databases that included posters and ads produced
during the war. From this collection, 397 corporate-produced ads and 104 corporate-produced
posters were identified. The researchers then individually identified whether each ad or poster
could be classified as a "brag ad." To this, they used the typology set forth by Fox (1975) to
describe boastfulness and false patriotism and the description of blue-sky advertising given by
then-Senator Harry Truman. In basic terms, ads and posters were judged to be brag ads if the
main intent focused more on promoting the merits of a corporation, product, or service than on
encouraging patriotism or support for the war effort. The researchers then grouped the brag ads
into the six categories of patriotic advertising identified by the Office of War Information (the
nature of our enemies, the nature of our allies, the need to work, the need to fight, the need to
sacrifice, and principles America is fighting to defend). Results show that 192 ads could be
classified as brag ads, mainly in the category of the need to work. This includes praise ads
(where a company publicly celebrated an award it had been presented by either the government
or the military in relation to its war production efforts) as well as 126 ads that erroneously
asserted a company's product as being a direct factor in helping to win the war. In contrast, the
researchers identified only eight brag posters. It must be noted that this study is subjective and
has many limitations. However, we hope it provides some insights into the extent of brag
advertising during World War II. At the same time, we believe the study has relevance to today,
especially as advertising and public relations are increasingly used to persuade about such issues
as war-related efforts.
A Brief Overview of American Advertising
and Posters during World War II
The relationship between corporate advertising incentives and support for World War II has
already received a great deal of attention. Stole1 and Adams2 describe advertisers' concerns about
how the industry could survive during World War II at a time when consumer products were
scarce. The fear was that wartime advertising, if done incorrectly, could create a public
perception that it was wasteful and perhaps even unpatriotic. Ewen describes the advertising
industry response to these conditions that made product advertising "pointless" during World
War II by instead creating "public relations ads" that "highlighted corporate participation in the
war effort while presenting exuberant pictures of postwar America as a society where a
cornucopia of wondrous new appliances would be the birthright of all Americans."3
Horten4 and Shelley5 describe the framework that enabled the U.S. government to develop
programs that provided financial incentives to corporations producing patriotic advertisements
and posters. The government reasoned that because tax revenue by itself could not totally
support the war effort it was necessary to encourage the public to buy large numbers of bonds.
The Treasury Department and other government agencies believed that patriotic advertising had
the potential to sell the number of bonds needed to finance America's war effort.6 Horten
describes how changes to the federal tax code in 1942 allowed businesses to write off 80 percent
of the cost of their advertising campaigns if these ads "helped the war effort."7 In 1942, the War
Production Board published a pamphlet titled "Principles for Determination of Cost Under
Government Contracts" that provided an encouraging framework for corporations to publish
patriotic advertising during the war. It discussed conditions in which corporate advertisements
related to the war effort could be considered tax deductible. Later in 1942, the Internal Revenue
Service published the Helvering Statement, which ruled that "advertisements featuring the sale of
war bonds, conservation, nutrition or other government objectives and are clearly signed by their
corporation...will be considered as institutional or goodwill advertising by the manufacturer and
hence, deductible.8 As a result, many corporations published posters and advertisements intended
to support America's war effort.
The Role of the War Advertising Council
Despite concerns about the extent to which there might be a reduced need for corporate
advertising during the war, several industry leaders believed that the war provided an excellent
opportunity to prove the value of advertising to improve public morale. Ewen describes how Sun
Oil president J. Howard Pew asserted that ads developed in support of World War II may "lay
the foundation for a better understanding of American business."9 W.J. Weir of the Lord and
Thomas Advertising and Public Relations Agency boasted about the potential influence of
advertising agencies in winning support for the war, saying "Here we sit with the greatest force
for moving mass psychology that the world has ever seen. Nothing that Goebbels has can hold a
candle to it."10 Similarly, Stole quotes noted advertising leader James W. Young as saying, "We
have within our hands the greatest aggregate means of mass education and persuasion the world
has seen, namely the channels of advertising communication. We have the masters of the
techniques of using these channels. We have power. Why do we not use it?"11 Consequently,
advertising industry leaders met to develop a strategy to incorporate advertising into the war
effort and on January 5, 1942 they formed the War Advertising Council. The Council was
officially recognized by the U.S. government later in 1942. From that point on, the Council
worked closely with the Office of War Information (OWI) to develop the government's
advertising and public relations campaigns. Kimble describes the War Advertising Council as a
loose confederation of advertising companies that served as a private vehicle for both informing
and persuading.12 Work of the Council included creating advertising copy, organizing advertising
and public relations campaigns, and finding outlets in the mass media that would place
propaganda at little or no cost with the ultimate goal of arousing the reading public, dispelling
apathy and bringing the war into the life space of individual Americans.
Griffith details how the War Advertising Council worked with the OWI to serve as "a private
vehicle for public information and persuasion" by launching advertising campaigns on behalf of
war bonds, victory gardens, and other home front programs.13 Griffith suggests that advertisers
developed more than one hundred "public service" advertising campaigns valued at more than $1
billion over the duration of the war. Stole describes how OWI and the War Advertising Council
collaborated in 1942 and created advertising campaigns to encourage the public to salvage scrap
metals and to eat more nutritious foods.14
Fox describes the process through which the OWI worked with corporate advertisers to create
and execute patriotic war-related campaigns: first, a government agency contacted the War
Advertising Council and described the problem it wanted to address; second, the Council
selected the best advertising agency to undertake the writing and design; next, the Council and
the OWI sought a sponsor willing to underwrite the cost of the ads and posters; finally, the
sponsor contracted with an advertising agency to place the ad in the best newspaper or magazine,
or to identify the most effective location to place posters.15 The War Advertising Council, the
OWI, and other federal agencies worked to establish priorities for a series of public service
advertisements and posters and coordinated a series of aggressive propaganda and public
relations campaigns to rally people to support the war effort.
In 1942, the OWI identified six basic propaganda themes as suitable subjects for war posters:
1. 1. The nature of the enemy (which includes references to the physical appearance, work
ethic, governmental structure, and cultural norms of our enemies, as well as reminding
Americans to safeguard sensitive information).
2. 2. The nature of our allies (which emphasized positive traits about the physical
appearance, work ethic, governmental structure, and cultural norms of our allies).
3. 3. The need to work (which encouraged women to take up war-related jobs, urged
workers to work longer, stressed the need to take proper care of tools and machines, and
discouraged workers from being late or absent. This theme also covers praise ads as well
as feature ads where corporations explained their role in winning the war.
4. 4. The need to fight (which includes ads and posters that encouraged people to enlist in
the military, that equated work as fighting to win the war, and that reminded people of the
need to conquer our opponents.
5. 5. The need to sacrifice (which includes ads that encourage the public to fight inflation
by saving more and spending less, to buy war bonds, to recycle metals and food products,
and to correspond using v-mail).
6. 6. The principles America is fighting to defend (which includes ideals of what America
will look like and cherish once the war is finished).16
The Role of Corporate-Sponsored Posters
and Public Relations during the War
Many studies have examined how nations and government agencies used state-funded campaigns
to develop advertisements and posters during World War II. Zeman17 and Nelson18 focus on
posters developed by the American government.
In addition to coordinating the development of advertisements, the War Advertising Council and
the OWI also developed programs to coordinate the production of corporate-sponsored posters.
Throughout the war, the War Advertising Council worked with corporations to develop privately
funded advertisements that, while supporting the war, also allowed advertisers to promote their
companies and product sales. The Council received input from the National Advisory Committee
on Government Posters. Binns describes the unique role that posters could play in molding
public opinion:
Posters were the ideal medium for the message that every bit of effort was a contribution to this
feat (winning the war), and that every sick day, every extra minute on a break, and every broken
tool was a boon to the enemy. Posters could be mounted at the factory itself as a reminder that
this, too, was a battlefield.19
Witkowski asserts that posters were the communications medium or tool used most often in
World War II advertising campaigns.20 The OWI made logos and clip art available to advertisers
who wanted to create posters and ads to support the war. Witkowski shows that more than 1.6
million posters were developed throughout the war, advocating such diverse causes as fire
prevention, prenatal care, noise abatement, better housing, literacy, preventing venereal disease,
and good nutrition.
Krutnik describes how "the government enlisted expertise from the advertising industry to
saturate the home front with slogans, posters, radio, newspaper and magazine ads, and countless
other plugs for the U.S. war effort."21 Krutnik suggests that posters were used more often and
more effectively than ads for the purpose of encouraging customers to limit their consumption of
consumer goods and follow rationing guidelines.
According to Hanc, "In 1942-45, some of our best and brightest writers, artists, filmmakers,
intellectuals, as well as advertising men were soldiers in the propaganda war, creating still
memorable works designed to persuade and motivate their fellow citizens to pick up a rifle or
buy a war bond."22 Hanc describes how advertising and public relations personnel created movies
to motivate troops. Tye discusses how Edward Bernays and public relations professionals
worked with the U.S. Information Agency and the State Department to develop public relations
messages. 23 Thussu and Freedman present strategies through which governments used a variety
of mass media (including movies, posters, advertising, and public relations) to mold a favorable
image of the causes for which they were fighting.24
A Literature Review of Corporate
Advertising and Poster Campaigns during
World War II
In a report titled Matters of Choice, the Advertising Council reports that a third of all American
corporate advertising was devoted to war-related themes in 1942-43 and that figure rose to half
of all ads at the height of the war (1944-45).25 The Advertising Council report describes several
advertising and public relations efforts that were developed to build support for the war. Thirty-
eight magazines dedicated their covers to the cause of helping recruit 2 million women in the
"Womanpower" effort to work in war-related industries. Other public relations efforts placed
messages on diapers, the side panels of trucks, and the ends of packaging for loaves of bread. In
total, the Advertising Council suggests that advertisers contributed more than $100 million a year
to the war effort from 1942 to 1945 and more than $1 billion over the course of the war.26 Binns
argues that businesses and private organizations (i.e., trade unions, manufacturers' groups, etc.)
were producing more posters than government agencies by the end of World War II.27
Bird and Rubenstein, in Design for Victory, identify several examples of corporate
advertisements and posters to support the war effort.28 Some of these included a General Electric
ad that suggested the Nazis could take over American factories and a series of ads by Seagram
Distillers that warned "loose lips sink ships." Some other examples cited by Bird and Rubenstein
include ads by Pontiac that reminded the public that the auto manufacturer was "building arms
for victory" and ads and posters by Oldsmobile entitled "Keep 'Em Firing!" that encouraged
workers to keep factories going and maximize production. Fischer Body placed images of rifles
and soldiers alongside factory workers in its "Keep 'Em Fighting!" campaign to link industrial
output with winning the war.
Nelson describes examples of corporate advertising to support America's World War II effort.29
Vought-Sikorsky Aircraft reminded workers that a lack of effort in the workplace could ground
American flyers. The United Aircraft Corporation warned workers that being absent from work
made you a Judas who betrayed American troops.
The Kittleson Collection at the Minneapolis Public Library houses a collection of posters
developed by corporations to support America's Word War II effort. Some of these include a
poster by the Owens-Corning Fiberglas that encouraged people to donate money and blood and a
poster by General Mills Company titled "United Nations in Victory." Other corporate posters in
this collection include work by Magill-Weinsheimer titled "Keep Well to Win" and a series of
posters created by Life titled "We Are United Nations."
The U.S. Merchant Marine Service houses a collection of corporate ads and posters developed to
support naval efforts. This collection includes a poster by the House of Seagram titled "Free
Speech Doesn't Mean Careless Talk" and a poster by Stetson Hats that encouraged people to
keep military secrets "Under Your Stetson." Bausch & Lomb encouraged people to donate
binoculars to help the Navy detect enemy ships and submarines, while Sun Oil asked the public
to donate scrap metal to help make ships and armaments.
The World War II Poster Collection at the Northwestern University Library houses a collection
of World War II posters, but few of them were created by corporations. Instead, most of their
posters were created by the U.S. government or organizations such as the Inventors Council.
Similarly, the New York State Museum collection includes posters supporting the U.S. war effort
and created by such organizations. The American Automobile Association developed a poster
with a pig-headed driver that encouraged people to conserve gas by driving their cars sparingly
and cautiously.
The John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising, and Marketing History at Duke University
houses an extensive collection of 397 advertisements created to support America's war program.
Duke groups these ads into the following categories: anti-inflation (25 ads), praise ads (39),
conservation (40), war bonds and fund-raising (264), using v-mail (11), postwar (9), and
miscellaneous (9).
Corporate anti-inflation ads featured in the Duke collection were developed under the theme of
"Help Us Keep Prices Down: Use It Up, Wear It Out, Make It Do, or Do Without." Accushnet
asked people to support the armed forces by fighting inflation. Several banks ran ads to
encourage the public to keep prices down. The Brian Fabrics Company ran an ad describing how
it manufactured smaller scarves to fight inflation.
Figure 1.
The Story of a Scarf that Fights Inflation. Brian Fabrics Company, 1943.
View full resolution
Praise ads featured in the Duke collection were published by corporations that acknowledge
awards they earned from government agencies. Some corporations that published praise ads
included Chevrolet, Boeing Aircraft, Standard Oil of California, and the Radio Corporation of
America. In a related manner, WGAR-AM radio in Cleveland, the Chicago and North Western
Rail Line, and the Owens-Corning Fiberglas Corporation took out ads to praise other groups that
had been honored for wartime production and that encouraged their employees to buy war bonds.
Figure 2.
Three Awards to Three Plants in One Day. Chevrolet Division of General Motors, 1943.
View full resolution
Ads to encourage conservation are also featured in the Duke collection. Knott Hotels and the
Narragansett Electric Company asked people to save and share foods and meals, while The Felt
& Tarrant Company and Climax Molybdenum, Inc. stressed the importance of recycling scrap
metals. The Visking Corporation asked consumers to buy skinless hot dogs to avoid wasting
meat, while the Wesson Oil & Snowdrift Sales Company asked people to recycle and conserve
cooking fats and grease. Consolidated Edison provided tips on how people could reduce energy
consumption in the home.
Figure 3.
Eat Skinless Frankfurters: The No-Waste Food. Visking Corporation, 1943.
View full resolution
Ads that urged the public to buy war bonds are prominently featured in the Duke collection.
These include ads that ask people to give to different war drives and to donate to other
government programs. In a few cases, these ads promoted the sponsoring company while
inviting the public to give. Some of the many sponsors of these ads include the National Biscuit
Company, the Studebaker Corporation, and the Bankers Trust Company.
Figure 4.
Let's Finish the Job and Bridge the Gap to Victory: Buy More War Bonds. The P. R. Mallory
Dry Battery Company, 1944.
View full resolution
Ads that asked the public to correspond with soldiers using v-mail. These ads encouraged
soldiers and citizens to communicate through "Victory Mail," a one-page sheet that was mailed
as a microfilm, thus conserving space for planes to carry more war material. These ads were
sponsored by such companies as the Pitney Bowes Postage Meter Company, the Drackett
Company, and Hiram Walker & Sons.
Figure 5.
How to Cheer Up Your Soldier. Drackett Company, 1945.
View full resolution
Other researchers have carried out content analysis of World War II-era publications to identify
advertising themes. Young studied advertisements related to the principles of sacrifices
consumers were asked to make that were published in The Saturday Evening Post in 1942-43 as
well as editorials in two trade magazines, Printers Ink and Industrial Marketing.30 Young's
analysis suggests that the most common themes in ads associated with the need to sacrifice
reminded consumers to cut back on transportation expenses. Adams examined the volume of
corporate advertisements published in four American magazinesTime, Newsweek, Fortune and
Parentsfrom 1942 to 1945 and identified the themes of wartime ads in those publications.
Results showed that ads urging the public to buy war bonds and stamps were most common (749
advertisements) followed by nutrition (285), rationing stamps (200), and the need to conserve
when maintaining cars and tires (196).31
Controversies Associated with "Brag Ads"
Although corporate advertising was generally praised for improving morale and encouraging the
public to support the war effort, some concerns were voiced about the ethics of some
In a 1943 article published in Printers Ink, then-Senator Harry S. Truman expressed his view of
some World War II ads.
There has been too much of what advertising agencies refer to as "blue sky" advertising. To read
their dramatically written messages and to see the highly colored photographs and drawings, one
would almost think our battles were not won by fighting men at all, but by our war industries.32
In that article, Truman spoke out against what he referred to as "improper ad uses."
Some of these companies have even used advertising…to create false impressions or to
counteract criticism which has been legitimately directed at them…One corporation advertised
an airplane as the best dive-bomber in the world…without producing a single dive-bomber
which could be used in combat.33
Noted radio news reporter Eric Sevareid was also not amused by World War II brag ads. He said
"The cheap and shoddy, insulting presumptuous" advertising one encounters is "like hearing a
popcorn man's penny whistle jarring the climax of a mighty symphony."34
Along similar lines, Rovere criticized the practice of brag ads, writing that "The story told in
advertisements, too many times, attempts to convince the public that Purely Plastics is practically
winning the war single-handed and leaves no doubt that all industry together is giving us our
victories.35 This claiming of credit has reached such lengths that it has not only angered critics of
advertising; it has burned up the boys in the service." Rovere quotes C.R. Larrabee of the
National Association of Advertisers as summing up the logical extension of brag advertising this
way, "If this trend keeps up, the boys in the foxholes would, on their return, be forced to employ
a press agent to convince the public that soldiers, too, had something to do with our victory."
Rovere concludes by commenting that "bragging [in war ads] ranges from crude to subtle, all
contributing to a one-sided, overweighted picture of industry's contribution to the war."36
Fox provides a thorough discussion of some of the ethical issues that American corporate
advertisers were facing during World War II.37 Fox provides a useful framework for what he
refers to as "well-trodden areas of indecorum" associated with World War II advertising. These
areas fall into the following categories: 1) commercialism, 2) offensive trading upon human
tragedy, 3) false patriotism,4) emotional excess and vacuity, and 5) boastfulness.
Because Fox's typology is so important to this study, we will spend some time explaining each of
his categories, along with examples, some of which come from our sample, that best illustrate the
definition. "Commercialism" referred to instances where a company advertised goods that may
cause a shortage in an item needed for war production (e.g., selling canned goods could reduce
the supply of tin). Examples of "offensive trading upon human tragedy" cited by Fox include an
ad by General Electric that boasted its Mazda bulb survived the sinking of the USS Oklahoma
and a series of ads by Stromberg-Carlson in which anguish over lost loved ones was drowned out
by music played on its radio sets. Fox defined "false patriotism" in World War II ads as "blatant
attempts to exploit patriotic sentiment."38 He includes an ad by Royal Typewriters that cried
"What This War Is All About is hastening the day when you…can once more walk into any store
in the land and buy any product you want!" and an ad by Mead Papers that asked, "Will brand
names be covered with cobwebs or covered with glory?" Fox includes Truman's concern about
what the senator referred to as "blue-sky advertising" in this category. Fox frames ads that used
horror appeal and sentimentalism as cases of "emotional excess and vacuity." Fox places in this
category ads by American Locomotive that portrayed Nazis selecting American women for a
"high honor" (presumably, to be raped) and that showed slain American soldiers lying face down
in the mud. Fox also puts ads in this category that suggest that fighting in the war is pleasant and
Figure 6.
I Turned the Music Louder to Drown Out the Silence. Stromberg-Carlson Radio, 1943.
View full resolution
The category that most closely relates to this study is what Fox refers to as "boastfulness," which
he states "was at once the most prevalent and most detrimental of the war advertising abuses."39
Specific examples of boastfulness cited by Fox in World War II ads include the following:
The Florida Citrus Commission saying, "Just Ask a Jap what it feels like to be up
against men who are fortified with 'Victory Vitamin C.'"
An ad by Jeep that showed liberated Frenchmen shouting "Vive La France! Vive Le
An ad by Gillette that stated, "Use Gillette blades which last longer and thereby
conserve steel for national defense."
An ad by Simmons Mattress that asserted, "Proper rest is not only a basic right. It is
almost a duty."
An ad by Cast Iron Pipe in which a departing solider told his anxious girlfriend, "Don't
worry! I'm as tough as a Cast Iron Pipe."
An ad by the National Lead Company that told how it made the drilling compounds
that drilled the wells that produced the oil that made the gasoline that flew the bombers
home after an air raid.
An ad by the Russell, Burdsall and Ward Nut and Bolt Company that reminded readers
that a fighter airplane could be "downed by the 17,901st part" (one of its nuts and bolts).
An ad by Carilloy Steel about a ¼ inch stud it built that stated, "On this one ounce of
perfect steel hangs the fate of a 25-ton bomber."
In the Ad Council's 2006 Matters of Choice report, the Council presents its point of view about
the issues surrounding World War II brag ads. The report states, "In the early days of the war, the
Ad Council had to restrain certain businesses that created what had become known as brag ads.
These companies were prone to run political ads glorifying private enterprise and pie-in-the-sky
approaches rosily depicting the post-war world."40 For the purposes of this study, we chose not to
examine the ads that painted a promising postwar scenario unless in so doing the sponsoring
company tried to glorify its efforts to win the war.
The Ad Council report describes how some manufacturers credited their air conditioners with
sinking enemy ships and the water conditioners they produced with destroying German
Panzers.41 This report suggests that "a controversy erupted over brag ads when…the cigarette
package pigment [Lucky Strike Tobacco's] …copywriters christened: 'Lucky Strike Green' went
off to war with fanfare fit for a regiment of heroes."42
The report quotes noted advertising executive Raymond Rubicam as saying:
A ball bearing manufacturer informed us that the subject of ball bearings is on everyone's lips
nowadays, and sugar was an Axis-killer and castor beans had left the medicine cabinet for the
Still, the Ad Council downplayed the overall extent to which companies produced brag ads,
saying "Brag ads were the exceptions, but they prompted criticism because their sponsors took
advantage of the war to deduct the cost of war-related advertising…Shaming the sponsors away
from brag advertising became a priority of The War Advertising Council, and most of the
bombast was gone after about a year."44
Witkowski examines what can be described as "brag posters" produced by American
corporations that encouraged consumers to practice frugality to help the war effort by being
thrifty in how they use scarce materials, by recycling metals and plastics, by growing and storing
food at home and by buying war bonds and stamps.45 Witkowski comments that "Some of this
advertising was clearly-self serving" to the corporations that sponsored the posters.46 At the same
time, Witkowski defended most of the wartime posters, stating "They were sometimes
sentimental and melodramatic, but they were straightforward and not as wordy, manipulative, or,
in some cases, deceptive as the commercial advertising of the time."47 Specific examples of self-
serving ads identified by Witkowski include the following:
A poster by Soft-Lenses that asked a housewife who was throwing away a worn-out
iron, "Do the glasses you're wearing belong in the scrap heap, too?"48
A poster by Lucky Strike that proclaimed "Lucky Strike Green Has Gone to War!"
because they changed the color of their packs to Army green.49
Stole describes how some of the leaders of the War Advertising Council were concerned about
the extent to which some advertisers seemed to be "mixing patriotism with commercial
advantage or using war themes as attention-getters." Stole quotes advertising executive Stuart
Peabody as saying, "You will find that perhaps a third of the ads in half-page size or larger are
devoted to such slants as the use of the Little Giant Widget on a tank or a plane or another engine
of war…You will discover that not very many advertisers really get down to work on
conservation, or morale or nutrition or salvage or bonds or the other urgent needs the public
needs to be sold on…Such copy practices…would attract the wrong kind of attention to the
industry."50 Stole does not use the term "brag ads," but certainly the quotes by Peabody are in
line with the boastful ads identified by Fox.
Young described how some companies went to great lengths to equate their consumer products
with winning the war.51 Young notes how the American Playing Card Company suggested that
buying its cards to play poker would give consumers "the recreation you need…recharging your
strength for the tasks of victory."52 Young cites an Industrial Marketing article that reminded
advertisers that "Talking about how new products were winning the war often ran the risk of
appearing boastful…but explaining how your product is assisting the war effort is always
newsworthy if it is intelligently and not bombastically handled."53
Horten54 and Shull55 describe how the concept of "brag ads" also spread to radio broadcasting.
Shull describes how the OWI created a systematic schedule of rotating war messages into
commercial programming as part of "a master morale plan." These messages were often
sponsored by corporations.
Leff does not comment on brag ads specifically but addresses the broader issue of the extent to
which corporate advertising during World War II was meant not only to promote patriotism but
also to boost corporate profits.56 Leff suggests that "In the advertising industry, as in other
sectors of American life, patriotism and public relations, sacrifice and self-interest
intertwined."57 As a result, many advertising professionals believed that combining the company
name with a war-related public service announcement was a viable strategy to maintain the
corporate brand during the war years.
This study examined a wide range of corporate-produced advertisements and posters that were
intended to support American patriotism during World War II.
In the first phase of this study, the authors identified collections of corporate posters and
advertising to support the U.S. effort in World War II. The sample (totaling 397 corporate ads
and 104 corporate posters) came from the following sources:
Design for Victory
Madison Avenue Goes to War
The Advertising Council's "Matters of Choice" report
The World War II Collection at Northwestern University
The Kittleson Collection at the Minneapolis Public Library
The New York State Museum
The John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising, and Marketing History at Duke
The U.S. Merchant Marine Service.
From this sample, each researcher then identified if each of the corporate advertisements or
posters that was examined could be classified as a "brag ad." The researchers classified an ad or
poster as a brag ad if it met one of these criteria:
1. a. It met Fox's criteria for boastfulness. Specifically, did the ad go out of its way to
claim credit that a product or service of a specific corporation was responsible for
winning the war?
2. b. It met the criteria Senator Harry Truman described as blue-sky advertising and what
Fox included in his broader category of false patriotism. In other words, did a corporation
over-reach in making a claim about the role of its products in helping win the war.
Each brag ad and poster was then grouped into one of the six categories of patriotic WW II
advertising identified by OWI (shown below):
1. 1. The nature of the enemy.
2. 2. The nature of our allies.
3. 3. The need to work.
4. 4. The need to fight.
5. 5. The need to sacrifice (includes anti-inflation, buying war bonds, using v-mail).
6. 6. The principles America is fighting to defend.
In cases where the project leaders placed the ads in different categories the poster or ad was
excluded until the authors had discussed the ad and reached a mutual agreement on which
category best represented the theme of the advertisement.
Once the number of corporate ads and posters had been identified, each researcher then
determined if each item was a brag ad or poster using the criteria of boastfulness, false
patriotism, and blue-sky advertising. Again, cases of classification divergence were set aside
until the project leaders reached an agreement. Once the number of brag ads and posters was
identified, the researchers then placed the brag ads and posters into the appropriate OWI
Results of the tabulation of brag ads and posters and the appropriate OWI category into which
they best fit are shown in Table 1 and will be discussed in some detail. A detailed listing of the
ads in each category can be found in the Appendix.
Click for larger view
Table 1.
American Corporate Ads and Posters Developed to Support Patriotism during World War II,
Grouped According to OWI Categories
We found no brag ads or posters that fell under the OWI category, "The Nature of the Enemy."
We found only one brag ad and no brag posters that could be classified under the OWI theme,
"The Nature of Our Allies." This was an ad by Westinghouse that praised the role of its radio
technology in beaming the Voice of America across war-torn Europe.
Figure 7.
Scorched Earth by Radio…A New Weapon of War. Westinghouse Radio, 1944.
View full resolution
We found 158 brag ads and 3 brag posters that were classified under the OWI theme of "The
Need to Work." We grouped these into the following subsets: 31 praise ads, 126 work ads, and 3
brag posters. We judged Owens-Corning's ad, "Conversation in Iceland," to be bragging because
its main intent is to sell the virtues of the company's fiberglass. Similarly, we classified
Chevrolet's "Three Awards to Three Plants in One Day" as a brag ad because rather than merely
describe the awards the company earned, the gist of the ad was to boast about the Pratt &
Whitney aircraft engines they produced.
Figure 8.
Conversation in Iceland about a Flag of Honor at Home. Owens-Corning Fiberglas Corporation,
View full resolution
In a slightly different vein, we judged Mosler Safe's ad titled "4 Generations of Security" to be
associated with false patriotism because it connoted the safety of the world that was being
contested in the war was the same as the safety a consumer would get from using one of its safes.
Figure 9.
Four Generations of Security. Mosler Safe Company, 1943.
View full resolution
One of the largest categories of brag ads we found was placed under the broad umbrella of what
we call "Need to Work" ads. In this category, we placed ads that we felt boastfully told the story
of a particular product, service or company in winning the war effort. Some of the brag ads we
found in this category included an ad by Zenith that claimed the war was "Run by Radio" sets
they produced; a series of ads by PAX that asserted their telephone systems were "saving
production time in vital war industries," and an ad by Camel cigarettes that said its cigarettes "are
such a big favorite with fighting men in all the armed services" because they provide "a few
moments of relaxation." Other brag ads we cited in this "Need to Work" category include ads by
Jefferson-Travis that praised the capability of two-way radiotelephones in bombers and fighter
aircraft and an ad by Pullman that depicted how its railroad passenger cars provided wounded
soldiers with the best possible care.
Figure 10.
The Army Doctor's Call to Action. Camel Cigarettes, 1945.
View full resolution
Figure 11.
Buses Will Have 'Phones! Jefferson-Travis Radiotelephone Equipment, 1943.
View full resolution
We identified only one brag ad and one brag poster that could be classified under the OWI
category of "The Need to Fight." An ad by International Trucks titled "Bonds by the Billions"
tells readers the bonds they are buying are "fighting bonds," but it then goes on to describe how
their vehicles are the preferred vehicles used by Brinks to transport funds raised for bond efforts.
Figure 12.
Bonds by the Billions: The War Bonds You Hold are Fighting Bonds. International Trucks, 1944.
View full resolution
Under the OWI theme "The Need to Sacrifice" we identified 23 brag ads and 2 brag posters. We
divided this theme into three categoriesads for war bonds and sales, ads urging people to
conserve and/or stop inflation, and ads to encourage people to use v-mail. Under the subcategory
of war bonds, we judged ads as bragging if the sponsoring company seemed to be intent on
promoting itself. For example, an ad by Sonora Radio titled "Their Song" primarily told the story
of how a girlfriend missed her soldier and mentioned only in passing that people should buy war
bonds and stamps. Similarly, an ad for Coca-Cola titled "I'm Saving This for Uncle Sam!"
reminded readers that its products "speak for the pleasant, happy things in life" that we have less
of since there is a great need to buy war bonds and stamps.
Figure 13.
Their Song: Bring the Boys Home Sooner and Buy War Bonds. Sonora Radio Company, 1943.
View full resolution
Under the subtheme of asking people to conserve, we found instances where companies seemed
to be guilty of false patriotism in that they made what seemed to be a leap of faith in tying their
products to the success of the war effort. Some of the best examples include an ad by Visking,
reminding readers that their skinless frankfurters are a "no waste" food, an ad by Brian Fabrics
that proudly states how their manufacture of smaller scarves played a key role in fighting
inflation, and an ad by Stromberg-Carlson that promised the public that "Today war production
is our only job (but) tomorrow the things we've learned in war will come to you in as fine a radio
as you can buy." We found two brag ads in the category of encouraging the public to use v-mail.
An ad by Martin Aircraft touted how its "Mars-type" planes transported letters to troops in
distant places.
Figure 14.
The Next Best Thing to a Leave Is a Letter. Martin Aircraft, 1945.
View full resolution
We found 9 brag ads and 2 brag posters that we grouped under the OWI theme of "Principles
America Is Fighting to Defend." We judged Greyhound Bus Lines' ad, titled "Highways Will Be
Happy Ways Again" as bragging because it emphasized the company's bus routes and services as
much as the importance of keeping faith with the war effort. Similarly, we judged "Together
Again" (an ad by the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway) as bragging because it praised the railroad's
work at carrying troops home. We classified a poster by the Southern Pacific Railroad titled
"United We Stand" as bragging since war-related imagery in the poster was limited to a single
soldier waving at a massive passing train, with the American flag superimposed over the entire
Figure 15.
Highways Will Be Happy Ways Again If We Keep Faith with Our Fighting Men. Greyhound,
View full resolution
In World War I, combatant nations on all sides learned how to effectively develop and use
posters for the purpose of motivating public support for their war-related efforts. By the time of
World War II, America discovered that the private sector (especially advertising agencies and
corporate sponsors) could employ the same principles used in posters in wartime advertising.
A number of unique circumstances came together in America to foster the widespread use of
advertisements and posters to perform such needed tasks as encouraging people to conserve,
reminding them of the importance of maintaining high levels of production, and persuading them
to buy war bonds.
First, many advertising leaders who formed the War Advertising Council (see earlier references
to Young, Rubicam, and Weir) suggest that the United States possessed the greatest capability in
the world to plan, develop and execute effective advertising strategies. Additionally, not only did
advertising agencies have the skills to create and plan advertising strategies, they also knew how
to work with corporate America to obtain the funds needed to place and run the ads throughout
the mass media. In sum, the incredible role of the leadership of the American advertising
industry in shaping public opinion about the war effort cannot be overlooked. It can be argued
that one of the great blessings resulting from the World War II experience was the creation of the
War Advertising Council which later evolved into the Advertising Council. The World War II
advertising and public relations campaigns showed how the advertising industry could mobilize
its efforts and work with the government to create public service campaigns to educate and
inform about critical issues of the day. Today, the Ad Council is renowned for its outstanding
efforts to develop public information campaigns about the need to stop smoking, increase public
literacy, reduce litter, and a number of other topics.
Second, federal government programs offered financial incentives to corporations that chose to
develop patriotic advertising in one of the six categories identified by OWI. Government tax
breaks and other financial incentives played a major role in encouraging advertising agencies and
the private sector to develop, coordinate and implement a large-scale advertising, poster and
public relations program.
That being said, we must also keep in mind that advertising professionals and corporate leaders
did not have a free rein to develop and print any type of advertisement they desired, especially if
they wanted to qualify for IRS tax breaks. Elected officials, government agencies, advertising
industry leaders, and outside critics often voiced concerns about taxpayer-supported corporate
advertising that seemed to overreach the boundaries of good taste and instead cross the line into
blatant commercialism, boastfulness, false patriotism, blue-sky advertising, and offensive trading
upon human tragedy.
It needs to be noted that this study has several limitations: First, online collections of World War
II posters and ads served as the primary sources of data because they are easily accessible and
searchable. Certainly, there are many more ads and posters that we could not examine. Second, it
needs to be emphasized that this study by its very nature is subjective in nature. There is no hard
and fast rule that can be applied to empirically judge if an ad or poster may be guilty of bragging.
Realizing this, the researchers applied this general rule: if the intent of an advertisement or poster
seemed to be promoting products or services of the sponsoring company or if it seemed to be
exaggerating the contributions of that firm to winning the war, it was judged to be a case of
bragging. Third, we decided to group each ad or poster into only one category and thus had to
make quite a few difficult decisions. For example, an ad to sell war bonds could also present
messages about the need to fight, the nature of the enemy, and the need to sacrifice. A more
detailed study allowing posters and ads to be in more than one category can only further
illuminate our results.
This study also suggests that there are several possibilities for related research. For example, one
might want to study World War II advertising as a means of selling the war and promoting the
reputation of specific corporations. Little has been done to examine corporate public relations
campaigns developed during World War II. More extensive research is needed to delve into the
ethical issues related to corporate advertising, public relations, and propaganda during the war
period and other wartime situations.
Despite these limitations, we believe this study provides important insights. First, we found the
most brag ads associated with the category titled "The Need to Work" (which category, of
course, is most closely related to business interests. Few big businesses would focus on the
principles America is fighting to defend if those principles included the right to unionize). We
argue that the companies that sponsored these work ads and posters could have been less self-
serving and more in line with OWI guidelines, while still being able to promote their products, if
they had focused on increasing patriotism rather than merely promoting themselves. Second, we
identified the second-most brag ads as belonging to the category "The Need to Sacrifice." In
some cases, companies tried to self-promote their corporate image while encouraging the public
to buy war bonds. In other instances, the advertisements seemed to make arguments that defied
reasonhow can a company honestly claim it was helping to win the war by manufacturing
smaller scarves or selling skinless frankfurters? Frugality was an important theme of home front
propaganda, but these ads took the issue too far.
The experience of World War II brag ads and posters presents a cautionary tale about the role of
advertising and public relations in today's society. Some critics still charge that some
corporations use advertising and public relations to increase their reputations and profits from
their war-related efforts. Stauber & Rampton describe how advertising and public relations
efforts were developed on behalf of American corporations to sell the American public about the
need to go to war against Iraq in "Operation Desert Storm."58
Perhaps we ought to turn back to the words of Senator Harry Truman to get an idea about the
possible benefits of corporate advertising to support war efforts. In that same speech where
Truman blasted corporations for developing brag ads, he also said:
Good advertising in war times is that which renders a service, not alone to the company's
immediate self-interest but to its customerspast, present and future. There are some notable
examples where advertisers have adopted some appropriate government campaign or war theme,
and I am told this has been productive of the best results for the companies and their products,
for industry as a whole and for the nation. Advertising that profits all around is good advertising.
Let us have more good advertising of that sort.59
Ric Jensen
Ric Jensen is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Contemporary Media and Journalism
at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion, SD. He teaches Advertising and Public
Relations Strategy and Tactics, Public Relations Writing, and Public Relations Principles. Ric
has recently published journal articles about public relations, advertising, and marketing issues
related to Mitt Romney's presidential campaign, controversies associated with corporate
sponsorship of sports stadiums, and how communications research methods may be used to
develop environmental histories. He is a member of The Public Relations Society of America
and The International Academy of Business Disciplines. He advises the USD chapter of the
Public Relations Student Society of America. Ric earned a Ph.D. in Educational Administration
and Human Resources from Texas A&M University in 2003, a Master of Education from Texas
A&M University in 1985, and a B.A. in Journalism from Brigham Young University in 1981.
Christopher Thomas
Chris Thomas is a doctoral candidate in the Department of History at Texas A&M University.
His studies focus on modern Germany; modern United States; and history and film. His
publications include numerous encyclopedia articles on various aspects of the Second World
War; a chapter in Jonathan Friedman's Performing Difference: Representing the "Other" in Film
and Theatre (University Press of America, 2008) on the influence of American films on the
postwar construction of German identity; and his MA thesis, "A Thousand Words: Poster
Propaganda of World War II." Currently he is working on his dissertation, "Compass, Square
and Swastika: Freemasonry in the Third Reich." Chris earned his M.A. in history from Texas
A&M University in 2007 and his B.A. in history from Arizona State University in 2004.
Brag Ads and Posters, Grouped by OWI
1. 1. The Nature of the Enemy (includes safeguarding sensitive information)0 brag
ads and posters found.
2. 2. The Nature of Our Allies1 brag ad, 0 brag posters
1. 1. Scorched Earth by Radio…A New Weapon of War. Westinghouse Radio,
3. 3. The Need to Work (includes praise ads)148 brag ads, 1 brag poster
1. Praise Ads (Cited in the Duke University Collection)
1. 1. High Achievement in Wartime Production. American Machine and
Metals Company, 1942
2. 2. Maritime Award Given to the Bethlehem Steel Naval Yards. Bethlehem
Steel Company, 1943
3. 3. A Salute to Those Who Fly the Army and Navy 'E'. Chicago and North
West ern Line, 1943.
4. 4. Building for Lasting Peace. Consolidated Shipbuilding Company,
5. 5. We've Worked Together to Earn This E. Detroit Broach Company,
6. 6. For Aiding America on Many Fronts. Foote Brothers, 1943.
7. 7. A Tribute from the Armed Forces. Mack Molding, 1943.
8. 8. Third Award to McCord. McCord Radiator and Manufacturing
Company, 1943.
9. 9. Four Generations of Security. Mosler Safe Company, 1943.
10. 10. Sports Equipment Honored As War Equipment. Wilson Sporting
Goods, 1943.
11. 11. Can Do! Reichhold Chemicals Inc., 1943.
12. 12. This Flag Flies for the Fortress. Boeing, 1943.
13. 13. To the Armed Forces. Sperry Gyroscope Company, 1942.
14. 14. Southern Flight. Hamilton Standard Propellers, 1943.
15. 15. He'd Be Wearing an 'E' Pin Too if He Were Home! The Adams &
Westlake Company, 1943.
16. 16. An 'E' for Making Valves. Crane Valve Company, 1943.
17. 17. To Norwich Workers for Excellence. The Norwich Pharmacal
Company, 1943.
18. 18. Conversation in Iceland about a Flag of Honor at Home. Owens-
Corning Fiberglas Corporation, 1943.
19. 19. Now the 'E' Flag Flies at Unitcast. Unitcast Corporation, 1943.
20. 20. Full Speed on Maritime Equipment. Webster Brinkley Company,
21. 21. Ours…and Yours. American Locomotive, 1942.
22. 22. The Winning of the West. Standard Oil of California, 1943.
23. 23. A Shock for Mr. Hitler. General Cable Corporation, 1943.
24. 24. Three Awards to Three Plants in One Day. Chevrolet Division of
General Motors, 1943.
25. 25. Now Unfurled above Our Plant to Mark the Achievement of Those
Who Work Behind the Lines. Acme Pattern and Tool Company, 1942.
26. 26. Design for Victory, North American Aviation, Inc., 1942.
27. 27. A Pat on the Back. Vultee Aircraft Inc., 1942.
28. 28. For Hands that Rock the Axis! Atlas Imperial Diesel Engine
Company, 1943.
29. 29. We Men and Women of Gillette Are Proud of Our Army-Navy 'E.'
Gillette Safety Razor Company, 1943.
30. 30. We're Mighty Proud, Uncle Sam! National Supply Company, 1943.
31. 31. These, Too, Are Fighting Flags of Freedom. Radio Corporation of
America, 1943.
2. The Need to Work Ads in the Duke University Collection
1. 1. It Also Stands for Volume! Philco Corporation, 1943.
2. 2. Enemy Radio! Here's What We Had to Meet and Beat! Admiral Radio
Company, 1944.
3. 3. The Army Doctor's Call to Action. Camel Cigarettes, 1945.
4. 4. Utah is Radio's Un-silent Partner. Utah Radio Products Company,
5. 5. From Here to There (Ireland). Ken-Rad Radio Tubes, 1943.
6. 6. From Here to There (Aleutian Islands, Alaska). Ken-Rad Radio Tubes,
7. 7. From Here to There (Warships). Ken-Rad Radio Tubes, 1943.
8. 8. From Here to There (India). Ken-Rad Radio Tubes, 1943.
9. 9. From Here to There (Saudi Arabia). Ken-Rad Radio Tubes, 1943.
10. 10. I Weigh A Ton, Adolph! Tobe Company, 1943.
11. 11. The Electrical Brain In Its Sandbag Pit. Western Electric, 1945.
12. 12. The Giant of Military Radio. Hallicrafters Communications
Company, 1944.
13. 13. Hallicrafters Was Ready! Hallicrafters Communications Company,
14. 14. Bloody Welcome for Hitler! Edwards Electronics. 1944.
15. 15. The Radio That Helped Revolutionize Our Tank Tactics. Western
Electric, 1944.
16. 16. Nine-Inch Hawser on an Urgent Mission. TWA, 1943.
17. 17. Along the Route to Tokyo. Santa Fe Railroad System Lines, 1945.
18. 18. Buses Will Have Phones! Jefferson-Travis Radiotelephone
Equipment, 1943.
19. 19. From Music on the Road, A Clearer Voice for War. Delco Radio
Company, 1943.
20. 20. Your Plane Will Have a Phone! Jefferson-Travis Radiotelephone
Equipment, 1943.
21. 21. The Torpedo Man. Western Electric, 1943.
22. 22. Circuits of Victory! Western Electric, 1943.
23. 23. Traffic Cop of Invasion. Western Electric, 1943.
24. 24. The Signal Corps Does It Again: Newest Development in Military
Headsets. Consolidated Radio, 1943.
25. 25. These Planes Grew Out of An Electronic Tube. Westinghouse, 1944.
26. 26. This Tiny Dot in the Pacific Has More Communications Equipment
than a City of 190,000 People! Western Electric, 1945.
27. 27. One Battleship Needs As Many Telephones as A City of 10,000.
Western Electric, 1944.
28. 28. To the Finish. Western Pacific Railroad, 1945.
29. 29. Total War Outgrew Napoleon's Carrier Pigeons. Sentinel Radio
Corporation, 1944.
30. 30. Voices for Victory, Supplied by Western Electric War Workers.
Western Electric, 1943.
31. 31. Every Man Aboard Simultaneously Hears the CommandAbandon
Ship! Remler Communication Equipment, 1943.
32. 32. On to Victory! Consolidated Radio Products Company, 1943.
33. 33. The Voice with a Thousand Tongues Calling All Hands on Deck.
Remler Communication Equipment, 1943.
34. 34. On His Own but Never Alone! Bendix Radio Division, 1943.
35. 35. Wartime Inventions with Peaceful Intentions. Dumont Electronics,
36. 36. Radar Precision by DuMont. DuMont Electronics, 1943.
37. 37. A Second May Mean A Lifetime… DuMont Electronics, 1943.
38. 38. How Fast Is an Explosion? Dumont Electronics, 1943.
39. 39. All Our Planes Returned. American Propeller Corporation, 1943.
40. 40. Westinghouse Research Accepts Every Wartime Challenge.
Westinghouse Corporation, 1943.
41. 41. One of Our Boys Helps Pry the Lid Off Truk. Thompson Products,
Inc., 1944.
42. 42. The First Shot at Truk Was Aimed in Saint Paul. Northwest Airlines,
43. 43. Radar Eyes That See Through the Clouds. Admiral Radio
Corporation, 1943.
44. 44. Roger! Place Your Faith In the FADA Radio of the Future. FADA
Radio and Electric Company, 1945.
45. 45. Well Done, U.S. Navy, Well Done! Republic Aviation, 1945.
46. 46. Wings to Victory. TWA, 1942.
47. 47. Ride 'Em Sailor! Tung-Sol Electronic Tubes, 1943.
48. 48. Primitive Communications. Universal Microphone Company, 1944.
49. 49. Universal Microphones in Military Applications. Universal
Microphone Company, 1944.
50. 50. Where They're Made, Where They're Fired, PAX Means Action! PAX
Telephone Company, 1943.
51. 51. Performance In War Makes Perfect for Peace. TWA Airlines, 1944.
52. 52. For Fighting Men, Too, PAX Spells Action. PAX Telephone
Company, 1943.
53. 53. Action in a Straight Line. PAX Telephone Company, 1943.
54. 54. How a PAX in Pittsburgh Helped Repair a Truck in Tunis. PAX
Telephone Company, 1943.
55. 55. Now It Can Be Told! Radio Flashed the Signal to Blast Tojo's Home
Town. Admiral Radio, 1944.
56. 56. No Noise Please. Torpedo Boat Receiving Radio Instructions! Tobe
Deutschmann Corporation, 1942.
57. 57. Where a Speck of Dust Could Hide a Nazi Airdrome. Westinghouse,
58. 58. What Weapon Are They All Using? Telephones! Western Electric,
59. 59. How to Hit An Enemy Plane at Five Miles! Western Electric, 1944.
60. 60. What Has Become of the Stratoliners? TWA, 1943.
61. 61. Enemy Ship Approaching! Western Electric, 1943.
62. 62. The Toughest Balancing Act in the WorldPerformed by
Electronics. Westinghouse, 1944.
63. 63. The Best Care for the Wounded In the World. Pullman Railroad
Corporation, 1945.
64. 64. Sweet Music for Mom! Sonora Radio Corporation, 1943.
65. 65. Hats Off to Baltimore Women Who Have Freed Baltimore Boys to
Fight! Western Electric, 1943.
66. 66. FM Radio by Western Electric Helped Revolutionize Tank Tactics.
Western Electric, 1944.
67. 67. How Communications Helped Tighten the Ring Around Tokyo.
Western Electric, 1945.
68. 68. FirstsA Zenith Habit. Zenith Radio, 1943.
69. 69. Wartime AnnouncementFor All Hard of Hearing. Zenith Radio,
70. 70. 1917 War Run by Telephone! 1943 Radio Run by Radio. Zenith
Radio, 1943.
71. 71. A Thousand Letters Which Break Our Hearts! Zenith Radio
Corporation, 1944.
72. 72. Radionics: Aye, Aye Sir! Zenith Radio Corporation, 1943.
73. 73. Fighting the Wolf Pack! The U.S. Coast Guard. Western Electric,
74. 74. Bombs Away! Western Electric, 1943.
75. 75. Styron: Extending the Range of Sight and Sound. Dow Chemicals,
76. 76. Every Minute Counts! Northwest Airlines, 1943.
77. 77. Shh! Post-War Planners at Work, with an Arvin Radio in Every
Room. Arvin Radio Company, 1944.
78. 78. Six Mitsubishis Going Over for a One-Way Ride! Westinghouse
Radio Division, 1943.
79. 79. Equipped for High Flying. Eimac Tubes, 1943.
80. 80. Lighthouse for Aircraft. Eimac Tubes, 1943.
81. 81. One Very Good Reason Why U.S. Transportation Has Stood Up
Under the Test of War. Greyhound, 1945.
82. 82. Amazingly, Shipboard Radio Receivers Tattled to Enemy Subs. Scott
Radio Laboratories, 1943.
83. 83. Sailor…If We Were Passing Out the Medals, We'd Pin A Handful On
You! Scott Radio Laboratories, 1943.
84. 84. Listening Ears of Lurking U-Boats Can Hear the Radiation of an
Ordinary Radio Almost 100 Miles Away. Scott Radio Laboratories, 1943.
85. 85. Electronics at Work: Synthetic Rubber from an Atom Trap.
Westinghouse Corporation, 1943.
86. 86. Electronics at Work: Where Metal Shivers to Death. Westinghouse
Corporation, 1943.
87. 87. Electronics at Work: Airships from Sea Water. Westinghouse
Corporation, 1943.
88. 88. Electronics at Work: Saving Tin to Preserve Food for Fighters.
Westinghouse Corporation, 1943.
89. 89. Arkansas Mud to U.S. Air Power. Westinghouse Corporation, 1943.
90. 90. Don't Let Down: Serve America Now, See America Later. Greyhound
Bus Lines, 1945.
91. 91. Battle-Proven Even Before War Started! Delco Radio Company,
92. 92. Communications for Victory. Argus Radio Industry Company, 1944.
93. 93. What Goes On Under a Nazi Pilot's Cap? Westinghouse Corporation,
94. 94. Chalk Up Another Dead Duck, Jim! It's RCA Aircraft Radio for Split-
Second Battle Talk, Radio Corporation of America, 1943.
95. 95. Bull In A China Shop, and How He Was Tamed. Delco Radio, 1943.
96. 96. Battle-Plans for Post-War Construction. Edwards Communications
Equipment, 1943.
97. 97. Battle Talk Is Our Business! Western Electric, 1944.
98. 98. The Landing Signal Officer. Western Electric, 1943.
99. 99. At Field Headquarters Staff Sits a Staff Officer, Telephoning.
Western Electric, 1944.
100. 100. Nerve Systems for Battle Weapons. Western Electric, 1944.
101. 101. At Broadcasting Stations and Battle Stations, Gates Serves
Well! Gates Radio and Supply, Company, 1943.
102. 102. A Sidelight on the Atomic Bomb. The Milwaukee Railroad,
103. 103. Fortress of Democracy. TWA Airlines, 1941.
104. 104. No Discharge Button for This Veteran. Greyhound Bus
Lines, 1945.
105. 105. In the Arctic, In the Tropics, Admiral Radio Gets the
Message Through. Admiral Radio Corporation, 1943.
106. 106. It Took A War to Prove the Railroad is Still the King of
Transportation. Southern Pacific Railroad, 1945.
107. 107. Keeping the Voice of Freedom on the Air. Federal Telephone
and Radio Corporation, 1943.
108. 108. Less Noise, Please, I'm Telephoning. Western Electric, 1943.
109. 109. This is the Reason They Called the Tube Klystron. Sperry
Gyroscope Company, 1944.
110. 110. LumberThe Growing Natural Resource for War and
Peace. The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, 1945.
111. 111. MH Electronics in the Air! Minneapolis Honeywell Control
Systems, 1943.
112. 112. MH Electrons Are Coming! Minneapolis Honeywell Control
Systems, 1943.
113. 113. Multiply This Crystal by 9,000,000 to Keep Fighting Radios
on the Beam! Western Electric, 1944.
114. 114. Navy Dive Bombers About to Strike. Western Electric, 1944.
115. 115. Mission Accomplished! Westinghouse Corporation, 1943.
116. 116. Mr. President: We Give You Speed and Speed Now! Douglas
Aircraft Corporation, 1941.
117. 117. Mother! Come Quick, It's Our Jim on the Radio from
Naples! Admiral Radio Corporation, 1944.
118. 118. 'Taint Funny McGee! But It Is Funny, McGee, to Lonely
Sailors on the Long Haul to Murmansk. Scott Radio Laboratories, 1945.
119. 119. Motorola Radio Delivers! Motorola Radio Corporation,
120. 120. Electronics, Sure! We've Had It in Our Home for 20 Years!
Motorola Radio, 1943.
121. 121. Fibers of War, The Santa Fe Railroad, 1942.
122. 122. Vegetables of War. The Santa Fe Railroad, 1942.
123. 123. Tough-Whiskered Yanks in Heavy Tanks Have Jaws As
Smooth As Guys in Banks! Burma-Shave, 1944.
124. 124. Help RCA Help the USAYou and I Beat the Promise,
RCA, 1942.
125. 125. USA & RCA: Linked Together for Safety and DefenseBeat
the Promise, RCA, 1942.
126. 126. Wear Your Identification Badge Proudly: The Badge of the
Production Soldier Protects Your Job From Sabotage!, Magill-
Weinsheimer Company, 1942.
3. The Need to Work (Posters in the Miscellaneous Man collection)
1. 1. Look Out BelowAlcoa's in this Man's Fight. Whether It's Planes,
Tanks, Ships, Guns or Shells, Aluminum Is Vital to them All. Aluminum
Corporation of America, 1943.
4. 4. The Need to Fight1 brag advertisement, 1 brag poster
1. Posters Cited in the Miscellaneous Man Collection
1. 1. Walt Disney's Victory through Air PowerThe Most Fascinating
Story Disney's Ever Told! Walt Disney Company, 1943.
2. Ads Cited in the Duke University Collection
1. 1. Bonds by the Billions: The War Bonds You Hold are Fighting Bonds.
International Trucks, 1944.
5. 5. The Need to Sacrifice (includes anti-inflation, buying war bonds, using v-mail)
16 brag ads, 0 brag posters
1. War Bond Ads Cited in the Duke University Collection
1. 1. Buy an Extra War Bond for You and Me! Eureka Vacuum Cleaner
Company, 1944.
2. 2. Keep the War Bonds You Have Bought. Bowery Savings Bank, 1944.
3. 3. Let's Finish the Job and Bridge the Gap to Victory: Buy More War
Bonds. The P. R. Mallory Dry Battery Company, 1944.
4. 4. Their Song: Bring the Boys Home Sooner and Buy War Bonds. Sonora
Radio Company, 1943.
5. 5. I'm Saving This (a coin) for Uncle Sam! Buy War Bonds. The Coca-
Cola Bottling Co., 1943.
6. 6. Beyond the Call of Duty: Buy War Bonds. Aluminum Corporation of
America, 1944.
7. 7. No Place Like Home. Back Our Boys by Buying Bonds! Delco Radio
Company, 1943.
8. 8. I Turned the Music Louder to Drown Out the Silence. Stromberg-
Carlson Radio, 1943.
9. 9. Will You Help Him Come Back Alive? Keep On Buying War Bonds.
Vimms Pharmaceuticals, 1943.
10. 10. Putting on the Heat! Buy War Bonds. Wolvertine Tube Division,
11. 11. Plan to Own an Espey Radio…But Now Buy War Bonds! Espey
Manufacturing Company, Inc., 1945.
12. 12. Brewing Trouble for Hitler. Krause Milling Company, 1943.
13. 13. Four Things You Should Buy (Before You Buy Four Roses). Four
Roses Whiskey,
14. 14. Give Her a War Bond and Anything Else by Charles of the Ritz.
Charles of the Ritz,
15. 15. Victory Gardens Will Help Us Win but Don't Grow Spinach on Your
Chin. Burma Shave, 1944.
16. 16. You've Earned This Celebration! Greyhound, 1945.
2. Anti-Inflation and Conservation Ads in the Duke University Collection
1. 1. Weapons Against Inflation, Carteret Savings Association, 1943.
2. 2. The Story of a Scarf that Fights Inflation. Brian Fabrics Company,
3. 3. Eat Skinless Frankfurters: The No-Waste Food. Visking Corporation,
4. 4. FoodTake Your Battle Stations! Squire's New England Pork
Company, 1945.
5. 5. What to Do with a Victory Garden. Pepsodent. 1943.
3. V-Mail Ads in the Duke University Collection
1. 1. The Next Best Thing to a Leave Is a Letter. Martin Aircraft, 1945.
2. 2. When Someone You Love Goes to War. Westinghouse, 1942.
6. 6. The Principles America is Fighting to Defend
1. Posters Cited in the Miscellaneous Man collection
1. 1. United We Stand. Southern Pacific Railroad, 1942.
2. 2. Stand by the Stars and Stripes and the Stars and Stripes Will Stand by
You! The Gerlach-Barklow Company, 1943.
2. Ads Cited in the Duke University Collection
1. 1. Some Day Soon After the War Is Over! Temple Radio, 1944.
2. 2. The Most Watched-For Ship in the World (The Clipper). Pan
American Airways, 1941.
3. 3. The Record that Money Can't Buy. Sonora Radio, 1943.
4. 4. Thunder before Dawn. Chicago and Southern Air Lines, 1943.
5. 5. Wings of Mercy. TWA, 1944.
6. 6. Highways Will Be Happy Ways Again If We Keep Faith with Our
Fighting Men. Greyhound, 1945.
7. 7. Look Up, Young Man, Look Up! Chicago and Southern Air Lines,
8. 8. The Airplane: Shadow of Death or Symbol of Peace. Chicago and
Southern Air Lines, 1942.
9. 9. Together Again! The Chesapeake and Ohio Railway, 1945.
Adams, Edward. 1997. Combating Advertising Decline in Magazines during WW II: Image Ads
Promoting Wartime Themes and the War Loan Drives. Online in The Web Journal of Mass
Communication Research. Retrieved Nov. 1, 2008 on the World Wide Web at
Advertising Council. 2006. Matters of Choice: Advertising in the Public Interest. Report
published by the Advertising Council. Chicago, Illinois.
ANA, Treasury Clarify Deductibility of Ads. 1942. Editor and Publisher, August 29, 1942, page
Binns, Stephen. 2007. World War II on the Home Front: Civic Responsibility. Smithsonian in
Your Classroom, Smithsonian Institute, Washington, D.C., Fall 2007.
Bird, William, & Harry Rubenstein. 1998. Design for Victory: World War II Posters on the
American Home Front. Princeton Architectural Press, Princeton, New Jersey.
Ewen, Stuart. 1996. PR! A Social History of Spin. New York: Basic Books.
Fox, Frank. 1975. Madison Avenue Goes to War: The Strange Military Career of American
Advertising. Merrill Monograph Series in the Humanities and Social Sciences, Brigham Young
University, Provo, Utah.
Griffith, Robert. 1983. The Selling of America: The Advertising Council and American Politics.
Business History Review, 57: 41112.
Hanc, John. 2001. Rallying the Public: A Look Back at Government's Efforts to Spin a War.
Newsday, December 5, 2001.
Horten, Gerd. 2002. Radio Goes to War: The Cultural Politics of Propaganda during World War
II. Los Angeles: The University of California Press.
Internal Revenue Service States Tax Policy on Ad Expenses," Editor & Publisher (October 3,
1942), p. 4.
Kimble, James. 2006. Mobilizing the Home Front: War Bonds and Domestic Propaganda.
College Station, Texas: Texas A&M University Press.
Krutnik, Frank. 2007. Critical Accommodations: Washington, Hollywood, and the World War II
Housing Shortage. The Journal of American Culture, 30: 417433. [CrossRef]
Leff, Mark. 1991. The Politics of Sacrifice on the American Home Front in World War II.
Journal of American History, 1991. 1296-1317.
Nelson, Derek. 1992. The Ads That Won the War. Osceola, Wisconsin: Motorbooks
Nelson, Derek. 1991. The Posters That Won the War. Osceola, Wisconsin: Motorbooks
Rovere, Richard. 1944. Advertising in Wartime. The New Republic, February 21, 1944, p. 233
Saunders, Alta, & Herbert LeSourd Creek, 1946 (ed.). Senator Truman's Credo: I Believe in
Advertising. In The Literature of Business: Contemporary. New York: Harper & Brothers
Publishers, 91-99.
Shelly, Tracy. 1942. Advertising of War Bonds Can Avert Forced Investment. Editor and
Publisher, October 3, 1942, page 3.
Shull, Michael. 2005. Radio Goes to War (book review). Film & History, 35: 8788.
Stauber, John, and Sheldon Rampton. 1995. Toxic Sludge Is Good for You! Lies, Damned Lies
and the Public Relations Industry. Monroe, Maine: Common Courage Press.
Stole, Inger. 2006. Advertising on Trial: Consumer Activism and Corporate Public Relations in
the 1930s. Chicago: University of Illinois Press.
Stole, Inger. 2001. The Salesmanship of Sacrifice: The Advertising Industry's Use of Public
Relations During the Second World War. Advertising and Society Review, Vol. 2, No. 2.
Accessed on March 7, 2009 on the Internet at
Tye, Larry. 1998. The Father of Spin: Edward L. Bernays and the Birth of Public Relations. New
York: Owl Books.
Witkowski, Terrence. 2003. World War II Poster Campaigns. Journal of Advertising, 32: 6982.
Young, Dannagal. 2005. Sacrifice, Consumption, and the American Way of Life: Advertising
and Domestic Propaganda during World War II. The Communication Review, 8: 2752.
Zeman, Zbynek. 1978. Selling the War:Art and Propaganda in World War II. New York: Exeter
1. Stole, "The Salesmanship of Sacrifice" and Advertising on Trial.
2. Adams, Combating Advertising Decline in Magazines During World War II.
3. Ewen, PR! A Social History of Spin, 343.
4. Horten, Radio Goes to War.
5. Shelly, "Advertising of War Bonds Can Avert Forced Investment."
6. Ibid.
7. Horten, Radio Goes to War.
8. ANA, "Treasury Clarify Deductibility of Ads," 3.
9. Ewen, PR! A Social History of Spin, 340.
10. Ibid., 341.
11. Stole, Advertising on Trial, 6.
12. Kimble, Mobilizing the Home Front.
13. Griffith, "The Selling of America."
14. Stole, "The Salesmanship of Sacrifice."
15. Fox, Madison Avenue Goes to War.
16. Advertising Council, "Matters of Choice."
17. Zeman, Selling the War.
18. Nelson, The Posters that Won the War.
19. Binns, "World War II on the Home Front," 5.
20. Witkowski, "World War II Poster Campaigns."
21. Krutnik, "Critical Accommodations," 421.
22. Hanc, "Rallying the Public," B03.
23. Tye, The Father of Spin.
24. Thussu and Freedman, War and the Media.
25. Advertising Council, "Matters of Choice."
26. Ibid.
27. Binns, "World War II on the Home Front."
28. Bird and Rubenstein, Design for Victory.
29. Nelson, The Posters that Won the War.
30. Young, "Sacrifice, Consumption, and the American Way of Life."
31. Adams, "Combating Advertising Decline in Magazines during World War II."
32. Cited in Saunders and LeSourd Creek (eds.), "Senator Truman's Credo."
33. Ibid.
34. Fox, Madison Avenue Goes to War, 37.
35. Rovere, "Advertising in Wartime," 233.
36. Ibid., 236.
37. Fox, Madison Avenue Goes to War, 34-38.
38. Ibid., 34.
39. Ibid., 36.
40. Advertising Council, Matters of Choice, 6.
41. Ibid.
42. Ibid.
43. Ibid.
44. Ibid., 7.
45. Witkowski, "World War II Poster Campaigns."
46. Ibid., 79.
47. Ibid., 80.
48. Ibid., 79.
49. Ibid.
50. Stole, Advertising on Trial, 11.
51. Young, "Sacrifice, Consumption, and the American Way of Life."
52. Ibid., 37.
53. Ibid., 33.
54. Horton, Radio Goes to War.
55. Shull, "Radio Goes to War (book review)."
56. Leff, "The Politics of Sacrifice."
57. Ibid., 1310.
58. Stauber and Rampton, Toxic Sludge is Good for You.
59. Saunders and LeSourd Creek (eds.), "Senator Truman's Credo," 99.
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A core value throughout much of American history, frugality received official sanction during World War II when the U.S. government, to mobilize the home front, launched poster campaigns that preached being thrifty with goods and services, recycling metals and other materials, growing and storing food at home, obeying price and ration controls, and buying war bonds. This paper examines the consumption context, implementation, creative execution, and impact of government-sponsored poster advertising during this important turning point in the history of American consumer culture. The final section considers the significance of these campaigns in consumption and poster history, as well as some implications for reinspiring frugal values and behaviors.
From its inception in the 1940s the Advertising Council was part of a broad, loosely coordinated campaign by American business leaders to contain the anticorporate liberalism of the 1930s and to refashion the character of the New Deal State. In this campaign the Council generally aligned itself with the more liberal wing of the business community, usually identified with the newly organized Committee for Economic Development (CED), rather than with the older and more conservative National Association of Manufacturers (NAM). Like the CED, the Advertising Council often espoused a “corporatist” ideology which emphasized cooperation between business and government; and like the Business Advisory Council, the National Petroleum Council, and other quasi-public corporatist bodies, it sought to establish close, reciprocal relationships with the executive branch. The Council enthusiastically supported the new foreign and national security policies of the Truman Administration, but strongly opposed its domestic programs. By contrast, the Council supported both the foreign and domestic policies of the Eisenhower Administration, and helped promote the administration's economic programs in a series of major advertising campaigns. Through its millions of “public service” advertisements, the Council sought to promote an image of advertising as a responsible and civic-spirited industry, of the U.S. economy as a uniquely productive system of free enterprise, and of America as a dynamic, classless, and benignly consensual society.
Film & History: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Film and Television Studies 35.1 (2005) 87-88 Academic scholarship of American radio has been rapidly accelerating over the past decade or so, particularly regarding the "Golden Age" of the late 1920s through the late 1940s. Yet the propaganda aspects of WWII commercial broadcasting have been singularly neglected—except for a topically limited chapter in Michelle Hilmes' seminal Radio Voices, Barbara Divine Savage's book that focuses on race and radio during the war and the first part of Howard Blue's Words At War. Considering that by 1941 ninety percent of the American public listened to the radio an average of four hours a day, this represents a major gap in the understanding of the contribution to the U.S. war effort made by broadcast media. Although Gerd Horten's book is still in no way a comprehensive analysis of the propagandistic content in wartime American radio, it nonetheless is an impressive addition to the subject that deserves kudos for being the first monograph to deal exclusively with this important topic in mass media history. Gerd Horten's study concentrates on the interrelationship between the commercial radio industry and U.S. government regulatory agencies, describing radio's enthusiastic participation as a "privatized war." An important point made by the author is that although there were a few didactic government—produced propaganda shows to explain to the public what the war was about during the first critical months after Pearl Harbor, the majority of wartime radio messages were incorporated, "integrated," almost seamlessly into established commercial programming. In fact, the Network Allocation Plan (NAP) of the Radio Bureau of the Office of War Information (OWI) created a systematic rotating schedule for integrating war messages into commercial programming—their so-called "master morale plan"—often made more palatable for listeners by the familiar voices of America's most beloved radio personalities. A 1944 government survey indicated that Jack Benny's voice was more recognized than FDR's! Horten highlights the intimate relationship between the public and popular radio personalities, increasingly closely associated with their sponsor's products—Jack Benny and Jell-O, Bob Hope and Pepsodent toothpaste, for example. The prewar trend of merging ads with the show smoothly transitioned into war programming, particlularly the standard mid—show ad, which often made it difficult for audiences to distinguish between ads and shows. As in other mass media, radio advertising was also quickly linked to the war effort. Government tax breaks for informational ads accellerated this trend in radio—including so-called "brag ads" that touted the product and/or a company's contribution to the war effort. Horten is keen to point out the public's acceptance of these integrated war messages, but acknowledges that by December 1943 many listeners were wearied by round-the-clock war appeals. The latter portion of the book concentrates on the content of selective programs by America's three major radio comics, Jack Benny, Bob Hope and Fred Allen. As in war films, rationing was a major source of humor, serving an obvious cathartic purpose. Something this reader had previously been unaware of was military restrictions upon radio weather reports—creating a unique reference point for many wartime gags. But there is little discussion by Horten of those techniques used by this non-visual medium to create mental pictures and to enhance emotive responses for listeners, such as Bob Hope's famous sizzling steak with Lana Turner routine over Armed Forces Radio. The prewar pro-interventionist slant of most national radio news broadcasters, such as H. V. Kaltenborn and Raymond Gram Swing is noted, but there is no indication by Horten of the incorporation of pro-war messages into commercial broadcasts prior to Pearl Harbor. Surely themes of spies and sabotage were making it into action serials, such as Superman and Dick Tracy, paralleling the increasing war content in contemporary Hollywood productions. Nor does Horten make any serious intertextual linkages re radio programming before or during the war with Hollywood...
This paper explores the themes of sacrifice and consumption in World War II advertising, including content analyses of advertisements and editorials in the Saturday Evening Post as well as a textual analysis of articles in the advertising trade publications Printer’s Ink and Industrial Marketing in 1942 and 1943. Results are discussed in terms of Cohen’s (2003) concepts of “citizen consumer,” “purchaser consumer,” and the ultimate American postwar dual-identity: “purchaser as citizen.”