The Roaring Twenties
Prohibition made liquor illegal and all the more fun to drink. Speakeasies, luxury cars, women`s liberation, bathtub gin and a booming economy kept the country`s mood on the up-and-up. Women sheared off their locks and taped their chests, donning flapper dresses and dancing the Charleston until their legs gave out. Gangsters flourished in big cities and gangster movies flourished in Hollywood. It was the roaring twenties in America: a singular time in history, a lull between two world wars and the last gasp before the nation`s descent into the Great Depression. Forging the way into the future like a modern ocean liner in a sea of antiquity, advertising in the 20s sought to bring avant-garde into the mainstream-which it did with great success.
Hard times, hard sells
At the dawn of the 1930s, modernism started to influence the American advertising industry as waves from the European avant-garde movement made their way across the Atlantic. The trend of literal, uninspired print ads was shaken up by new stylized, symbolic, and even abstract advertisements that relied more on aesthetics than copy. These techniques worked well at first, and ultimately paved the way for advertising as we know it today, but were overshadowed by the need of a country in depression for hard-sell, shirt-sleeve advertising. Subtlety and irony could hardly sell products to a nation struggling to feed itself. Surprisingly, however, the ads of the 1930s reveal nothing of the hard times, painting instead an optimistic picture of affluent American family life. Cheerful and colorful, these ads served an important role as morale boosters, promising happiness and success to a country in crisis.
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Both eclipsed and influenced by television, American print ads of the 1970s departed from the bold, graphic forms and subtle messages that were typical of their sixties counterparts. More literal, more in-your-face, 70s ads sought to capture the attention of a public accustomed to blaring, to-the-point TV commercials (even VW ads, known for their witty, ironic statements and minimalist designs, lost some of their punch in the 1970s).