Twenty Ads That Shook the World: The Century's Most Groundbreaking Advertising and How It Changed Us All

James B. Twitchell, Author
James B. Twitchell, Author Crown Publishers $25 (240p) ISBN 978-0-609-60563-9
Reviewed on: 04/03/2000
Release date: 04/01/2000
Paperback - 240 pages - 978-0-609-80723-1
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If Twitchell doesn't prove his thesis that these 20 advertisements became part of the lingua franca and changed the way we look at the world, his lavishly illustrated, breezily entertaining survey does score some solid points. The jolly old Santa Claus known from countless images did not spring from folklore, according to Twitchell, but was invented in the 1920s by the Coca-Cola Co. in its annual Christmas ads (pre-Coke Santas were severe-looking and sometimes wore multicolored suits). Ads for Pears's soap, aimed at Victorian England's upper classes, borrowed an artifact of high culture--a portrait painted by John Everett Millais called ""A Child's World""--thus forever blurring the boundary between art and advertising. De Beers Mines' half-century-long campaign helped make diamonds an instrument of romantic love. Twitchell, whose books on advertising include Adcult USA and Carnival Culture, serves up colorful slices of American advertising history, from a P.T. Barnum circus poster (1879) to turn-of-the-last-century patent medicine ads (peddling nonpatented potions heavily laced with alcohol, opium or cocaine) and Lyndon Johnson's 1964 attack ad against Barry Goldwater, ""the most compressed and noxious political ad ever made,"" which featured a little girl's face disappearing into an atomic mushroom cloud and never mentioned Goldwater at all. Still, it's hard to see how Apple's 1984 commercial, or Michael Jordan's Nike spots, or ads for the VW bug, Absolut vodka or Marlboros did much to change the perceptual universe. (Apr.)
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