Culture And The Ad: Exploring Otherness In The World Of Advertising

William M. O’Barr

If, through the years, American advertising has offered a clean and simple approach to getting out the word on new products or services, it has also made a complex, disturbing, and fascinating statement about American ideals and ideologies. This book, accessible to all readers, provides the necessary tools to interpret and understand in historical perspective how the American advertising industry portrays anyone other than the white American mainstream—African Americans, women, Native Americans, tourists of many nationalities, all of whom have come to be known as “the other’’—in its print media.With more than one hundred carefully selected illustrations, Professor O’Barr takes us on an enlightening excursion from two early American travel manuals (which so subtly and perhaps even unconsciously delineated a hegemonic ideology to the amateur American tourist-photographer), to advertisements in the 1929 National Geographic magazine, to Dennis O’Rourke’s disturbing 1987 film Cannibal Tours, to images of blackness across the twentieth century, and on to the representation of the Japanese (and, conversely, their representation of white Americans) in contemporary times.Though the author writes in a witty and readable style for the student and general reader, the argument he develops is one of profound seriousness: that the representation of foreigners and other categories of outsiders who appear in advertisements provides paradigms for relations between members of advertising’s intended audience and those defined as outside of it. These paradigms constitute an ideological guide for relations—of hierarchy, dominance, and subordination—between self and others, between “us” and “them.”