I N THE FACTORY we make cosmetics," Charles Revson of Revlon, Inc. said, "in the store we sell hope."l An advertising executive told me, "We've convinced the mothers of America that they're not good mothers if they don't serve Minute Maid." Another executive, referring to AT&T's "Reach Out and Touch Someone" campaign said, "Advertising turned that instrument, a physical inanimate object, into an instrument of the heart." These are the sorts of statements, no matter how hyperbolic or selfserving, that critics of advertising seize on as the inner worm of truth in the apple of the ad industry. As I have argued, advertising as a business tool is more complicated than such claims suggest and people are more simple, and sturdy, than these visions imply. If one is to arrive at an understanding of the modern passion for goods, an examination of advertising is an essential step but it is not the first step-as marketers know very well and as social critics should learn. The first step, it seems to me, is to gain an understanding of the role material possessions play in human
lives not just in advertising-saturated societies but in any society. The next step is to try to understand the social forces that gathered in the past one hundred years to produce both the advertising industry itself and the infrastructure of a consumer society that called for and supported new attitudes toward goods and a new receptivity to advertising. Only then can advertising's role as a specific goad to sales and a general cultural encouragement toward materialism be viewed in its proper context.