Stuart Ewen

  • The Gulf War: a Report from the Couch

    Just as there have grown up in America experts in merchandising and experts in selling and advertising—so our complex democracy has developed this expert in appraising public opinion and in developing a technique for changing it. Press agents they were called in Barnum days, when through one spectacular device after another . . . they regimented the public mind to a box office. . . . And propagandists they developed into during the [First World] war, with a regimentation of the human mind that availed itself of every primitive desire and instinct of the individual and the group.

    —Edward L.

  • Desublimated Advertising

    IN THE LATE 1950s a market researcher named James M. Vicary unveiled the tachistoscope, a device that could repeatedly project succinct verbal messages onto movie theater screens for an imponderable moment. Though unnoticed, he contended, these messages would speak to people’s unconscious minds and influence consumer behavior. Legend has it that an evanescent suggestion, “Hungry? Eat popcorn,” drove zombielike audiences of the ’50s on sudden expeditions to the candy counter.

    Since that time, there has been an enormous and stubborn popular fascination with the subject of subliminal advertising.

  • Barneys' Ads

    A fellow will remember a lot of things you wouldn’t think he’d remember. You take me. One day back in 1896 I was crossing over to Jersey on the ferry, and as we pulled out there was another ferry pulling in. And on it there was a girl waiting to get off. A white dress she had on, and she was carrying a white parasol. And I only saw her for one second. She didn’t see me at all. But I’ll bet a month hasn’t gone by since, that I haven’t thought of that girl

    —Mr. Bernstein, recalling his youth, in Orson Welles’ film Citizen Kane

    One of the most unusual print advertising campaigns of the past year

  • Seeing and Nothingness

    Style is a unity of principle animating all the works of an epoch, the result of a state of mind which has its own special character.

    —Le Corbusier, Towards a New Architecture, 1927

    There are no realities anymore, there is only apparatus. . . . Neither are there goods any more, . . . but only advertisement. . . . We call all this Americanism.

    —Egon Friedell, A Cultural History of the Modern Age: The Crisis of the European Soul from the Black Death to the World War, 1931

    THE NEW EVEREADY ENERGIZER–BATTERY mascot, a pink mechanical rabbit—in cool shades and bright blue flip-flops—pounds loudly