Endorsements in Advertising

A Social History

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About the Book

The 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.

About the Author(s)

Cultural historian Kerry Segrave is the author of dozens of books on such diverse topics as drive-in theaters, lie detectors, jukeboxes, smoking, shoplifting and ticket-scalping. He lives in British Columbia.

Bibliographic Details

Kerry Segrave
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 239
Bibliographic Info: photos, appendices, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2005
pISBN: 978-0-7864-2043-8
eISBN: 978-1-4766-1080-1
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Preface      1

1. Testimonials Get Off to a Rocky Start: The Years to 1919      3

2. Testimonials Arrive, 1920s      14

3. The Ethics of Testimonials, 1929      34

4. The FTC Looks Askance: Hollywood Loves Lux Soap, 1930s      54

5. Endorsements Hit a Long Slow Period, 1940–1974      81

6. Testimonials Boom in the Modern Era, 1975–2003      109

7. Athletes Dominate the Field, 1975–2003      126

8. Legal Points, Government Agencies, Medical Men, and Scams, 1975–2003      146

9. Mistakes, Pitfalls, and Bad Boys, 1975–2003      159

10. Statistics, Money, and Effectiveness, 1975–2003      177

11. Conclusion      189

Appendix A. Prevalence of Endorsement Ads: Selected Years, Selected Publications, 1926–1998      193

Appendix B. Lux Soap Ads Endorsed by Hollywood Actors in Variety, 1932–1949      195

Appendix C. Endorsement Contracts of the Dionne Quintuplets through Early 1937      198

Appendix D. Highest Paid Athletes from Sports and Endorsements, 1990, Estimated      200

Appendix E. Celebrity Endorsers by Company, February 1996      202

Chapter Notes      207

Bibliography      217

Index      225