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Endorsements in Advertising: A Social History

Endorsements in Advertising: A Social History

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Book DescriptionThe 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.